Friday, November 30, 2012


It's pouring today.

What else is new?

But I have found a bit of brightness and beauty: berries!

Snow berries and holly berries.

The berry-like non-berries that are really crocosmia seed pods.

The berries from the mystery shrub (could it be a kind of dogwood?) that looked like this just a short while ago...

...and after two nights of hard frost now look like this.

When I think of "berries" and "Mucky Boots" simultaneously what comes to mind are all the edible berries we grow: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, red currants, blackberries, huckleberries, Saskatoon berries. They're lovely, but they're long gone, and their memory (and even their jam) isn't enough to brighten a day like today. So it's nice to know their non-edible cousins have got this late season covered.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I haven't wanted to write much about this because I don't imagine the world is very interested in the state of my sinuses, but I had surgery on my shnozz a couple of weeks ago. No reconstruction - just a good scraping out of my sinus cavities. And now, after about a dozen years of chronic sinus congestion, I am happy to tell you I can smell!

This is taking some getting used to.

Some things stink. It turns out Frankie has really smelly farts. (At least Kim tells me it's Frankie.) And I had forgotten the distinctive smell of an orange growing green fur in the fruit drawer.

Some things smell marvellous, like Petunia's fur when she comes in smelling of wood smoke. A t-shirt fresh from a cedar-lined drawer. Hot water hitting coffee grounds first thing in the morning. I knew this intellectually, but there's a huge difference between knowing it, and remembering it, and actually smelling it.

If it wasn't late fall, and consequently cold and miserable outside, I would be spending the day taking my nose from plant to plant, sniffing up all the smells I haven't smelled for years. But it is late fall, and the nice smelling plants are asleep for the winter, so instead I have celebrated with a Smell-O-Rama Festival in the kitchen.

French onion soup, loaded with home grown onions and garlic.

Chicken pot pie, with my first attempt at gluten-free pastry.

Roast vegetables - an entire pan full, most grown right here at Mucky Boots. Amazing - the taste, as well as the smell. Did you know that sweet potatoes, squash, beets, carrots and rutabagas all actually taste different?

Apple crumble - apples, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar baking in the oven and filling the house with their aroma.

My heart is happy, but my poor nose is feeling just a little overwhelmed. I think I overdosed on lavender yesterday when I was making sachets, and even stepping into the room where I am storing all my (naturally scented) Christmas soaps makes my head hurt. It feels like there is a direct electrical connection between my nose and my brain and I keep getting zapped. But I keep sniffing and smelling, restocking my mental catalogue of smells.

I can't wait to smell the lilacs in the spring.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reading in the dark

We had our first power outage of the winter season last night. It didn't last long - only about an hour - but it was a good reminder that we need to be stocking up on batteries and candles, not to mention making sure we know where the matches are.

The biggest inconvenience was our CO2 detector, which started chirping at about 100 decibels as soon as the power went  - and we could not figure out how to shut it up. We read the instructions and followed them carefully, to no avail. Of course we thought about simply removing the batteries, but that required a screwdriver we were too lazy to go out to the workshop in the pouring rain and dark to get. So we buried the thing beneath a stack of towels in the laundry room, shut the door, and let it chirp.

I wasn't worried about water - we still have some stocked from our water adventures a few weeks ago. And a fire had been burning all day in the wood stove, thanks to Kim the Lumberjack, so we had plenty of warmth. There would be time to sort things out in the morning, in the light, if it came to that. My laissez-faire attitude was probably influenced by the fact that I'm just back from sinus surgery in Vancouver (not entirely pleasant, but enough about that) and wasn't feeling very ambitious about power outage problem solving. But the one thing that absolutely had to get sorted out was how to keep reading, in spite of the dark.

We don't have any oil lamps - I don't have any experience with them, and I confess they make me a little nervous, especially with animals in the house. So our first anti-dark measure was to light candles. Fortunately our friend Linda loves candles, and loves gifting her friends with them, so we had more than enough to give us light to see by. But not to read by, unless we were willing to hunker down over the flames.

So we gathered up all the assorted battery-powered lighting devices we have accumulated since we've been here and power outages have become a more regular fact of life.

My preference has always been the headlight on a stretchy band, even though Kim laughs at me every time I put it on. It's perfect when I need to be moving around doing things, but it's not at the best downward angle for reading. And need I say it's not the most comfortable thing for someone with a sinus headache?

Kim's first choice was the light she uses on her music stand, and I have to agree it's pretty much perfect. The gooseneck allows it to be angled just so, and the light is really bright. The only disadvantage is that the clip is quite heavy, and it can be tiring to keep your book upright.

We also have a hook-over-your ear reading light, but its batteries were dead. Finally I scrounged through both bedside table drawers and found the nifty little lights we picked up at Home Depot, of all places. They are small and very light, and clip onto the arms of your eyeglasses. Plus, they swivel so you can choose the perfect angle for reading.

By the time we had that all sorted out we got about ten minutes of reading in before the lights came back on again. So we kept them off for a while, just for the pleasure of reading in the dark.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Old dog, first snow

Frankie may be a little too stiff to go bounding through the first snow of the year the way he used to, and the flakes may blend a little more into his ears-turned-grey. But this morning's brief snowfall was still reason for our aging guard dog to assume his favourite position on the verandah steps to keep watch over the weather.

Our sweet boy is now on anti-inflammatories, which are helping what was troubling him in his lower back, but he is showing his age in other ways: he is quite deaf now, and sleeps much of the day. The time has come when I need to be sure I'm not letting worry over what lies ahead for him interfere with the joy that is still to be had every day.

Our dude. Our handsome boy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Big eggs are awe-inspiring. Big eggs make you feel the pain of the chicken who laid them.

Big eggs make you feel like a farmer.

And then there are little eggs. Especially the little eggs produced by a pullet just beginning the laying stage of her life. Little eggs make you want to go "oooh" and "aaaah". Little eggs make you want to snuggle up the pullet who laid them. 

Little eggs make you feel like a mother.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

That's why they call it a big leaf maple

Big leaf: check. Maple: check. They got this one right.

Big leaf maples are generally considered to be junk trees, at least around here. Not good for much, with a talent for volunteering themselves to grow wherever the heck they want (which is usually where you would prefer they didn't).

But there are a few folks in our neighbourhood who tap their big leaf maples like our eastern cousins do sugar maples. The resulting syrup isn't the same - my one taste of it made me think of molasses, rather than maple syrup - but still, how cool is that? It might be a good project for the winter months when not much else is happening on the home front.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The fine art of Hosta Clean Up

We have an awful lot of hostas here at Mucky Boots. Many different shades of green, several different colours of flower, in every size from small to huge. They like the damp spring and fall, they tolerate the dry heat of the summer, and they're forgiving of wildly fluctuating light levels as the sun and shade-giving trees go through their seasonal patterns.

They're a workhorse of the perennial garden - they don't require fussing or attention, and once they're established they do a pretty good job of keeping my arch-nemesis the creeping bellflower in check. They really only require input from me twice a year: in the spring, when they get divided, and in the late fall, when they get cleaned up.

And since we have so many hostas, and since I have now cleaned them all up five falls in a row, I have learned an important fact about Hosta Clean Up: timing is everything.

If you attempt Clean Up too soon, you have to work your clippers through dense stands of stems. Especially if my arthritis is acting up, it doesn't take long before my hands start to cramp. On the other hand, if you wait too long, the foliage will have disintegrated into a mass of slime that makes Clean Up a wet mess.

But if you time it just right, it's a breeze. If your timing is perfect, all you will need to do is run your hand through the limp, floppy dead leaves...

...and they will pull away from the roots with virtually no effort on your part...

 leaving only the spent flower stems to cut down.

The only potential downside is that the dry flower stems are very tough and stick-like, and if you're not paying attention you could poke yourself in the eye bending down to get the last few bits. (Does it sound like I am speaking from experience?)

There. That's my little contribution to making the world of hostas a better place.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Water, inside and out

It seems like only yesterday I was complaining about how dry the garden was, and already we're getting tired of the rain. Drizzles, deluges, steady soaking downpours. But compared with everyone in Sandy's path it's nothing, so maybe I will merely say it has been raining every day. We're a little soggy, the chickens are a little muddy, but the garden is happy. That's the outside part of this post.

Which leaves the inside part. That story began on Tuesday evening when I came home and realized there was water dripping from a light fixture in the family room. Within minutes a long line of damp began to materialize along a seam in the drywall ceiling.

We turned off the water to the house, turned off the power to the family room, moved anything in danger of being dripped on to safer locations, and then began to search for the cause of the leak. Three days later, we still have no idea.

The insurance adjuster has come, the restoration company appraiser has come, the ceiling has been opened, water has been run and pipes inspected, and we are still clueless. So we're going to live with holes in the ceiling over the weekend, using water in the house as we normally would, and (strangely) hope for another leak to tell us what the problem is.

In other words, first there was water, then too much water, then no water, then water, and now we're hoping for too much water again.

It was interesting living without water for a couple of days. That's overstating it, because we could still get water from a tap at the pump house. We used our big emergency water supply jugs and a wheelbarrow to schlep enough water into the house to let us flush an occasional toilet, wash our hands and faces, and perform basic cooking in the kitchen. So it was an emergency preparedness test-run-with-training-wheels kind of experience, but even so, it was enough to convince me that we need to increase the volume we put aside for real emergencies.

It's also interesting living in a construction zone again. It made me think of my wise friend Jean, who, when I was crowing about painting The Last Wall, commented "The thing about painting is that you aren't EVER finished!

Oh, Jean, I wish I had paid more attention.
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