Garden and Chaga Update

My seedlings that I started indoors in the spring in my mini-greenhouse didn’t make a smooth transition to life outdoors. The tomato plants that survived were tall and skinny and produced only a few tomatoes. The cucumbers were even worse – short and stubby. The beets and yellow beans were a bit more successful, but they would not win any prizes at the local agricultural show.

What a terrible garden!

What a terrible garden!

In general, it was not a great summer for local gardens and the lack of attention given to mine definitely contributed to the poor results. Although I was too busy to plant a vegetable garden at my new place this year I planted a small herb garden that did much better than the garden at the cabin. (Below are some close-ups of the plants.)

Although I spent hours last winter scouring the forest on skis searching for chaga I came up empty-handed. Then my brother, who was not looking, stumbled across a ridge with a lot and he harvested some for me. Here are a couple of huge chunks that I cut them into smaller pieces and placed in tin cans to keep dry.

I should have enough for a few months. I also set aside  a big chunk for one of my neighbors who mentioned that he is getting low on his supply.

Good-bye Clutter

It has been months since my last blog post because my life got busier than expected. I landed a short-term position for the summer which involved working shifts, long drives, and an agreement promising not to write anything about the job on any form of social media. Consequently, I decided to avoid blogging for the duration of the job to be on the safe side. In addition, at the end of August I signed an oath promising never to discuss the gig after the completion of the contract. There is nothing to say other than I am happy that it is finished.

In the spring, we bought a new house and spent the month of May slowly moving from the cabin to the house. It is a three bedroom bungalow with a full basement. It was gutted and completely rebuilt five years ago, so it only needed some cosmetic touch-ups like new paint, window screens and a few minor repairs, except for the kitchen cabinets which required a new updated look. We used Rust-Oleum cabinet coating system to redo the cabinets. I am pleased with the end result, but I would not recommend this to anyone who does not have tons of free time on their hands. The whole process, starting with cleaning and deglossing, applying two bond coats, adding a decorative glaze, and applying a protective top coat to protect against stains and scratches, is extremely time-consuming. Here is a before and after photo of one section of the cabinets.

The new house has a wood and oil furnace in the basement. I don’t plan on using oil because it is too expensive. Last March I met a man when I was skiing on his property in my quest to find chaga. We started chatting and he ended up giving me enough wood for the winter. It was already cut and scattered over his lot. My brother helped gather it up and brought it to my place with his truck and trailer. Then Florian and I split it and piled it up to dry.

As for the cabin, we still go there two or three times a week to feed the stray cat and look after the garden boxes. I have no idea what I am going to do with this place. Even after I moved, the garage is full of stuff.

For example, I have a beautiful antique organ and a new exercise twister, but I have absolutely no use for them. I tried to give them away on kijiji, but there were no takers. Actually, that is not true. Two or three people would take the organ if I would deliver it. The Ab-Doer twister has only been used two or three times and it  costs over $300 on Amazon, but I couldn’t give it away for free!

In the end, these items and most of the other junk will have to find a new home in the local landfill. Although I hate to throw away things I have decided if I have no use for something in the foreseeable future then I am eliminating it from my life.  Otherwise, the garage will never be free of clutter.  I am determined to declutter the garage before I start my next job in a couple of days, so that means I better get started now.

Daily Prompt: Shelf

Today’s one-word prompt: shelf  was the motivation that I needed to assemble my mini-indoor green house that I purchased on the spur of the moment on Monday. It was reduced by 50% and at $34.99 it seemed like a good investment and a way to start seedlings indoors instead of buying them at the local market.

This will be a gren house in a few minutes.

This will be a green house in a few minutes.

After bringing it home I put it on a shelf in the garage to avoid clutter in the cabin. After all who needs more clutter? Then again what is the point of getting a greenhouse if I am not going to assemble and use it?

It only took about ten minutes to assemble the parts and it is much sturdier than I expected. The most difficult part is putting the plastic cover on because it needs to be snug and you have to be careful not to tear or damage it.

The seeds, soil, bedding trays and pots are on the shelves waiting the arrival of spring on the 19th, two days earlier than normal.  Then, I can start my seedlings and begin the countdown to summer.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons

Winter is my least favorite season, but it is a long, cold reality in Canada. I find fresh snow beautiful when it covers the trees and landscape around me, but I still struggle to enjoy this season.

It is snowing again!

It is snowing again!

This winter I have made an effort to appreciate it by cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. When I force myself out the door to go for a walk, a run or go skiing my mood immediately improves. However, when it doesn’t snow and the temperatures dip below zero I look out the window and see the dull, dirty snow in the yard I simply want to hibernate in my cabin and wait for spring. Golden Tips also likes lounging in the cabin rather than going out with his new scarf to enjoy the winter.

Tips wearing his new scarf.

Tips wearing his new scarf.

The positive news is that the deer are hanging out around our place and this is a sign that spring is just around the corner.

I spotted these deer yesterday.

I spotted these deer yesterday.

Another deer going for a stroll in the afternoon.

Another deer going for a stroll in the afternoon.

This is my take on the weekly photo challenge, and now Golden Tips is going out with me for a walk in the snow before it changes to rain – another sign that spring is on its way. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

There is never enough time to do all the things that I set out to do some days. Yesterday was a prime example. I wanted to post something for the weekly photo challenge, but I didn’t find the time in my busy day of shoveling snow, grooming a cross-country ski trail, and skiing.

Today, I have time to share photos of how I used my time yesterday. During the night, we got a fresh snowfall of about 20 centimeters (8 inches). Here is a view of the snow in my driveway at 7 in the morning.

View from the veranda.

View from the veranda.

It took a little over an hour to clean off the vehicles, and clear the snow out of the driveway.

After the clean up.

After the clean up.

Fresh, clean snow.

Fresh, clean snow.

While I was shoveling  I asked my brother to use his snowmobile and sled to make a path for skiing on a road that is not used during the winter. All he had to do was ride to the end of the road, make a loop and come back through the woods. I figured this would take him about ten minutes, but save me a ton of time. (This is my new method to groom a cross-country ski trail.)

Previously, this winter I spent two or three days making a trail with my skis and very little time actually skiing. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? Anyhow, I started from my yard and broke a path to the start of the trail.

Where is the groomed trail?

Where is the groomed trail?

Fifteen minutes later, I reached the groomed section and I was able to enjoy the winter wonderland of rural Canada.

Finally, the groomed trail, straight ahead.

Finally, the groomed trail, straight ahead.

The route continues.

The route continues.

I love zooming down this little hill.

I love zooming down this little hill.

Turn around point.

Turn-around point.

Through the woods and eventually back to the starting pint.

Through the woods and eventually back to the starting point.

After two hours of cross-country skiing, I returned home  and used the rest of my time yesterday to recover.

Enough exercise for today!

Time to call it a day!

Now, it is time for me to go skiing!

 

Frozen Pants

I have too much free time on my hands again. The temperatures this week dipped to minus 20º C and this put a damper on my quest to find a chaga source. Most days my cross-country ski outings lasted about 60 to 90 minutes before I scrambled back to the cabin to get warm in front of the fire.

However, I heard an interesting interview on the CBC Radio program As It Happens on Friday evening with a man from Minnesota, USA who suggested Canadians suffering from winter boredom, could get involved in a fun activity called “frozen pants”. The man believes that Canada, with its frigid temperatures, should be a mecca for “frozen pants”.

Now, I am not sure that there is any point to this silly activity, but I have no pressing chores or anything else on the agenda this weekend, so why not take a stab at “frozen pants”.

It is easy – just take a pair of pants, soak them in water, put them outside, watch them freeze, and then put them on display for your neighbors to enjoy. Since it was too cold for me to go skiing this morning I sent my jeans skiing instead. Here they are enjoying the winter in Canada.

Frozen Pants out skiing.

Frozen Pants out skiing.

Frozen Pants

Frozen Pants

 

 

From the Cubicle to the Cabin

I packed up my cubicle in July and returned to Canada. Although I don’t miss my tiny cubicle I sometimes long for all the free time I had there. In my cubicle I often struggled to fill my day with tasks and activities whereas now I strive to find the time to do all the things I want to do. There is always something that needs to be done at my cabin and I find little time for blogging.

During the summer I finally completed the abandoned building that I started renovating in the  summer of 2014 to use as a mini-gym. I used pine boards for the walls and ceiling and then painted them with a clear veneer. I painted the floor with some leftover gray paint that someone gave me instead of putting down a new laminate floor as I originally planned. Then I put a fold-up tatami matt that I got in South Korea about fifteen years ago in the center of the room as a rug. Then I decided to transform it into a mini-yoga studio and a place to practice my hobbies instead of a room for my treadmill.

The building is a bit bare, but eventually I hope to furnish and decorate it. For starters, I restored an old table that I discovered abandoned in the woods last summer. It had several layers of paint and many rough spots. It took a few hours to remove the paint with a scraper, plain the top of the table and then sand it off as smooth as possible before staining it dark brown. Now, I am on the lookout for a chair to match my table.

In addition, I stained an old bookshelf to match the table. I am using it for ornaments. As soon as I find some cheap material or old curtains at a yard or rummage sale I will make some curtains. I stored the patio table and chairs along with my soap making equipment in the corner for now.

This brings me to my first batch of homemade soap. Let’s just say the end result is not very attractive – not exactly something to show off on your blog. Actually, the goal was to make some chemical free soap using natural ingredients, so even though it looks a bit rough it has a nice texture and it keeps my skin from drying out, especially in the winter months. Before I make my next batch I am going to make a wooden mold to place the silicon baking pans in so that the soap will be square instead of curved.

After my failed garden in Nizwa I was determined to have a successful one in Canada. Before I arrived Florian was in charge of preparing the soil, sowing the seeds and transplanting seedlings and protecting them from late frost. He did a fantastic job. The garden was ready and waiting for me to take care of it. The garden flourished thanks to the long, hot summer and we enjoyed fresh vegetables from the beginning of August through to mid-September. The cucumber, beans and tomatoes were abundant. We couldn’t eat them all, so I made pickled beans, relish, bread n’ butter pickles and salsa. Now, I am getting tired of eating this stuff.

I rearranged the garage and found a suitable place for the treadmill in a section of the garage that I use for storage. I only plan on using this machine when the weather is rainy, snowy or extremely cold, so it is not necessary to have a special building for it. Yet, I keep pondering the idea of converting part of the garage into a rec room.

The winter is in full force with plenty of snow for cross-country skiing. Santa Claus dropped off a new set of skis at my house and I am discovering new muscles aches as I venture out in the woods on my skis in search of chaga. So far I have come home empty-handed, but I have not given up on finding my own source and eventually I will stumble across or ski into a birch covered in chaga. I am also busy knitting a scarf for my cat with some left over yarn.

I will be back soon with a photo of my cat with his new scarf and hopefully some chaga.