31 December 2007

...or maybe not!

Snowy woodsWrote too soon. The woods are looking very Narnia-like this morning.

29 December 2007

A green New Year

Meltwaters turn the path into a streamA few mildish days have melted much of the snow and created some fast-flowing streams. The picture to the left shows what used to be a dry path leading past the barns, while the one below shows the current state of my vegetable plots: a bit soggy! The water is running down the hill so fast that Mike is beginning to wonder whether we couldn't channel it more effectively and use it to generate some electricity during the damper months of the year.

I suppose I'd thought that once we got snow and ice, it would stay on the ground and it would continue to be bitterly cold until the Spring arrived. I wasn't really expecting to have a month of snow and ice followed by a slightly warmer spell. Mind you, this is reportedly the worst winter in Canada for 15 years, so this has probably not been a typical December.

Waterlogged vegetable garden

24 December 2007

Happy Yule

Kids tobogganing on Christmas EveYesterday's weather was atrocious: 32mm of rain and up to 7°C, so most of the snow and ice melted, causing torrents of water to pour down the hill into our ditch. We escaped by going to Belleville to see Enchanted, which was formulaic and predictable, but which the kids enjoyed. Overnight we had gale-force winds and the temperature dropped again, turning the rain back to snow and creating a more festive scene for Christmas Eve.

We're getting lake-effect snow showers today, which is getting us all into the mood nicely. The official definition of a white Christmas here is having two centimetres of snow on the ground on Christmas Day - which seems a bit more sensible than the UK equivalent of a few flakes falling on the London Weather Centre.

So far today I've made the bread sauce and stuffing and some sausage rolls (plus pancakes for the kids' breakfast). I found a good-looking recipe for cranberry relish and used another one of my historic appliances to make it. I know the mincer is historic as, like the cream-maker, it proudly proclaims itself to have been made in England. This also belonged to my grandmother (and quite possibly her mother, too).

The Christmas drink of choice round here seems to be egg nog, which I can't quite bring myself to make, but Mike managed to track down some ginger wine in the LCBO in Belleville, so I'm not short of festive alcohol. Cheers!

21 December 2007

Finishing touches

Living room, June 2007
Our curtains arrived yesterday, so at last the living room looks finished. Seems like a very long time ago now that we only had folding chairs and a toy box for furniture.
Living room, December 2007
Here's a picture I've been trying to take for ages, but every time I show up with the camera the dog moves, or uncrosses his legs. Mike managed to snap him last night:
Toby with crossed legs

20 December 2007

All white now

Frozen Lake ConseconOn Tuesday the surface water of lake finally froze over. There was one small patch of water further up from us which was surrounded by swans and ducks, but otherwise it was all icy. Yesterday we had another inch or so of snow, so it's all white now, instead of the glassy sheen of Tuesday. We're due for a brief warm snap this weekend (our white Christmas may not be assured!), so it may well melt again before re-freezing for the winter.

17 December 2007

Christmas comes early

SnowblowerMike finally got to try the tractor's snowblower this morning. As a gadget, it's not that well named, as it really gobbles up the snow and regurgitates it. I suspect that the marketing people decided that a snow-spewer wouldn't sell. He was out there for an hour, so I think he was enjoying himself.

16 December 2007

White stuff

2007 Christmas CakeYesterday was the coldest we've seen yet - it didn't get above -13°C all day. At the end of the day we decided we should have lit the second wood-burning stove. Today we've had a tremendous snow-storm all day and the snow is piling up in drifts around the house (it's still -10°C). I had to use one of the kid's toboggans instead of the wheelbarrow to bring a few more logs down from the barn this afternoon. So mostly I've been in the kitchen, making paella and cheesecake and icing the Christmas cake to commemorate our first Canadian Christmas.

10 December 2007

Making mincemeat (and antojitos)

Home-made mincemeatDoesn't this look Christmassy? I haven't quite got around to making it into mince pies yet, but hope to do so in the next week or so.

Cooking-wise I find I'm mostly making the same sorts of things that I made in the UK, although we are eating more tortilla wraps than we used to there, either as a replacement for bread in sandwiches or cooked in quesadillas. One really good way of using them that I tried for the first time this weekend is a dish called antojitos. We had them in a restaurant as a starter a couple of weeks ago. You mix up cream cheese with chopped peppers, onion, grated cheddar and jalapeños (in the case of fussy Child #1 I left out all the veg) and then spread it over tortillas. I did one each, which would have been fine for a starter, but you'd need two for a lunch or supper, I think. Then you roll up each tortilla, score the top to mark it into 8 sections and cook it at 400°F (200°C) for just 5 minutes. Slice them up and serve them on a hot plate. We had them with two dips: a sour cream and yoghurt mixture and a coriander and crushed tomato salsa. I've made myself so hungry by writing this up that I think I might just have to make them again for lunch.

06 December 2007

Crystal clear

Partly-frozen Lake Consecon looking west
At lunch-time I took a break from marking an apparently self-regenerating pile of essays by walking the dog down to the lake, as it was a relatively mild -2°C. Part of the lake was frozen, part still water, creating an interesting boundary between the two parts where the wind was pushing the water into the ice. It looked like broken glass, as the photo below shows. What the pictures can't show is the sound that the ice made, which was also like broken glass - or like the clinking of cutlery you hear when a lot of people are dining together in a large, echoing hall. But without the background buzz of conversation. So maybe more like a big gathering of Trappist monks.

Partly-frozen Lake Consecon looking east

04 December 2007


Icy branchThe snow was followed by freezing rain on Monday, which made the kids' toboggan-run very fast and the snow very crispy. The school buses didn't run, so the children had a fun day whizzing down the hill again. Much to their disappointment, the buses were running again today so it was back to normal, except that we all thought it was Monday and will probably be out of synch for the rest of the week.

bird footprintsI took the dog for a walk up to the field this afternoon. There were lots of big bird footprints by the spring, probably wild turkeys or grouse. Plenty of signs of the coyotes too, which look like they've been resting or sleeping behind the big barn. I like the extra layer of information that you get when there's snow on the ground.

02 December 2007

Getting colder

The temperature reached a high of -10.7°C yesterday afternoon: I wore my 'long janes' for the first time under my jeans. They're fantastic - even my feet stayed warm for once. The big puddles behind the house are now solid ice, so the children had a fun afternoon skidding about playing ice-football on them. The stream coming down from the pond has nearly frozen over too - the boundary between the water and the ice makes lovely ice-bubble patterns. I've gone into full-on comfort-food mode, with lots of stews and steamed puddings on the menu.

Canadians seem to put up their Christmas decorations very early, but then I suppose it makes sense to put up outside lights in November, so that your fingers don't freeze trying to do it in December.We bought some lights in Canadian Tire last week and put them up, but I waited until yesterday to actually light them, as it seems a bit indecent to have them on in November, somehow. We saw an advert in the local paper for a 'cut your own Christmas tree' farm today, so we might have a go at that in a week or two.

Today we've got snow, so the children are busily tobogganing down the front garden. They've been out there for ages, as it's the first time they've ever had a chance to try their toboggans. I remember that being able to go tobogganing was a very rare treat during my childhood winters, but I suspect that the novelty will soon wear off for them here.

26 November 2007

Big sporting event

Last night Mike watched the Canadian equivalent of the Superbowl, the Grey Cup. The teams involved were the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. One's a province, the other's a city. Seems a bit unbalanced to me, but then I know nothing about Canadian football. I watched bits of it but since I've never understood the game, it just seemed boring - even more stop-start than rugby, and I've never been able to sit through a whole game of that either.

It definitely seemed to be a bit of a blokefest. There were only two types of women involved: cheerleaders with big busts and ridiculously skimpy outfits and two Mounties whose job was to carry the enormous Grey Cup down to wherever it was presented. I think the RCMP officers were roped in to balance out the cheerleaders. It didn't work.

The advertisements in between the stretches of football were the most telling part of the whole thing: they were either for Viagra or for really big trucks. Hmm.

23 November 2007


Hairy and Downy WoodpeckersWe get two types of woodpecker here, the Hairy Woodpecker and the Downy Woodpecker. They are identical in colouring, but different in size (rather like the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies). Unless you see them together, it can be difficult to know which one you're looking at - so I was pleased to find a female Hairy Woodpecker and a male Downy Woodpecker both hunting for insects on the front of the garage this morning.

22 November 2007

Snow Day

Yesterday's persistent rain turned into freezing rain this morning and then into snow. The school bus board took the sensible decision to cancel the buses, so we had the children at home all day. We see three school buses going past the front of the house at around 7am every school day, so we had early notice of the cancellations when they didn't go past today.

The anemometer part of our weather station froze solid, so it looks as though we have no wind, but that isn't the case! The snow isn't very deep, but enough to entice the children outside. We took the dog up to the field for a walk earlier and I finally got one of the pictures I'd been waiting for - I knew that the gnarled tree root fences would look good once they had a coating of white stuff on them. Our pond is overflowing for the first time since we moved in, creating a small but fast-flowing stream down the track. I imagine that will freeze over fairly soon though, as the forecast high temperature for tomorrow is a rather fresh -6°C.

Stew and dumplings for tea tonight, I think.

17 November 2007

Another historic appliance

Bel Cream MakerI mentioned the lack of double cream in Canada in an earlier post. Since then I've discovered a lot of other voices on the Internet asking why this is. It's not an ingredient I use a lot, but the fact that I can't get it makes it suddenly the most desirable thing in the world. I keep having flashbacks to trips to Tesco where the shelves were laden with not just one but twenty different types of double cream.

Then the other day I remembered a gadget that my parents gave me a few years back. It's called a Bel Cream Maker and is designed to make cream from butter and milk. Very unusually, for my family, it is still in its original box. It belonged to my grandmother (or perhaps her mother - they lived together) and I presume was bought just after the War, when cream was hard to come by. When I acquired it, it was as a piece of family history and I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever need to use such a device.

But now, I can understand perfectly and I liberated the gadget from its box on Thursday to see whether it would actually work. I gave it a good wash and sterilised it in Milton fluid first, to be on the safe side, then melted butter (must be unsalted) and full-fat milk together and poured it into the Bakelite top. The handle forces the mixture through small nozzles and into the glass jar at the bottom. It works! The cream firms up a bit once it's refrigerated and the more butter you use, the thicker the cream. So now I don't need to worry about finding a source of double cream so much. Which means I'll probably come across one, of course.

Postscript: The cream maker is a Jubilee Model - which dates it to George V's silver jubilee in 1935. As my grandmother would have been 21 then, I doubt she bought it. Great-Gran would have been 51, so I think it must have been hers.

Instructions for Bel Cream MakerPost postscript: I've scanned in the instructions for the cream maker, as they've already proved useful for one reader and might be handy for others to have access to. Click on the image for the larger version (warning: it's a big file!). Oh, and there's one missing figure in the instructions for whipping cream which should read "4 ozs. of UNSALTED butter to 4 ozs. of milk".

15 November 2007


We've had a very mild autumn so far, with only a few mornings where there's been frost on the ground. We keep an eye on the Weather Network to see what's likely to be coming up next. The 14-day graph for our area changes on an almost daily basis, so isn't really a good indicator of what will actually happen, but the current chart (a screenshot of which is reproduced below) was enough to make me go and find the thermal underwear that my colleagues at Mimas bought me when I left. The white line is the average daily high temperature for the time of year and the yellow one is the highest temperature expected on those days.

11 November 2007

Remember, Remember

I knew that Hallowe'en would be different here, but it was only when driving home on the 31st that I realised quite how important it is to Canadians. The CBC traffic reporter said that the traffic was equivalent to that the day before a holiday weekend, as parents left work early to get home in time to get the kids dressed up. The costumes seem more varied than those we saw in the UK - not all scary things like witches or Dracula. At the school party there were aliens, hippies and princesses too. The two families who tried particularly hard went as the Incredibles and the Cat in the Hat (accompanied by Thing 1 and Thing 2). I felt those particular families had been competing for a number of years to win the Best Adult Costume prize.

Ironically, this is the first year that the kids haven't been trick-or-treating (or 'trickle treating', as one of them thought it was), as there aren't any other kids in the area and I didn't want to hassle the neighbours. One of the women at work reported that she had 150 sets of kids round and explained that she used to make candies for them herself. But now you have to give out wrapped sweets, so she doesn't do that anymore. We didn't have any kids round at all (despite the pumpkin), so I'm glad we don't live in a town or I would have been completely unprepared for so many little visitors.

Oh, and I've discovered where I went wrong with the pumpkin pie and soup - you're supposed to use smaller pie pumpkins, rather than the standard Connecticut Field Pumpkin. So maybe I'll grow some next year and try again. The catalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds arrived on Friday and is a fascinating read. I can't wait to order a whole bunch of weird and wonderful varieties of squash and tomatoes.

poppyI must admit that I haven't missed Bonfire Night at all - it always sounded like World War III in Manchester in early November. Today's weather is the type I associate with Bonfire Night and Remembrance Day - cold, sunny and crisp. The poppies here are quite different from those sold in the UK - and they still have pins, so health and safety madness hasn't taken hold here quite as much.

frozen pondThe pond had a layer of ice over it this morning. The floating weed now looks like islands in a satellite image taken from space. We'll have to get a bird-bath for the birds soon - apparently you can get heated ones, although metal ones aren't recommended, as the birds can freeze to them. Might make it easier to take pictures of them, though.

30 October 2007

Perfect Pictures

Frosty bittersweet nightshade berriesWe had our first frost yesterday morning, which made for some pretty pictures.

On Sunday we took the dog down to the Sandbanks Provincial Park for a walk along the Cedar Sands Trail. He didn't like the stairs much, but got the hang of them on the way back. This was a bit of a worry, as he doesn't like the stairs at home either, and so far hasn't been upstairs or down to the basement, which suits us fine. We were worried that his new confidence with stairs at Sandbanks would translate into stair use at home, but so far that hasn't happened.

In the evening we took the kids into Picton to see Underdog at the Regent Theatre. This turned out to be an unexpected treat. Not the movie, which was as formulaic as I thought it would be (but bearable), but the cinematic experience itself. To start with we were confused by the fact that the box office was shut, so we asked another parent and she explained that the family movie on the last Sunday of the month was sponsored by a local funeral home and was always free.Frosty nettles I'm not quite sure what the funeral home hopes to gain by this, but who cares, what a fantastic idea! The concession stand was open, so the theatre was making some money there.

So we settled down to watch the film and I was expecting to at least see the name of the funeral home in one of the adverts, but to my amazement there were no adverts at all, nor any trailers. We just sat and watched the movie. It was like stepping back in time. OK, that meant no surround-sound but that's a fairly small price to pay for a really refreshing trip to the pictures.

27 October 2007

Historic appliance (complete with provenance)

DishwasherI thought the dishwasher was old, but this evening we found the original brochure and discovered that it was purchased by Gerry and Mary in 1981. There are people with PhDs who are younger than this thing. The brochure notes that:

Beautiful styling add elegance to any kitchen decor - you'll be proud to show your Maytag to your friends.

I'm just glad they didn't go for the Fresh Avocado or Coffee 'fashionable standard colors' for the front panel, or that sentence would definitely be untrue.

The dishwasher is a portable model (WC300, for you dishwasher spotters - I know you're out there), which means you have to wheel it to the sink every time you want to use it - not desperately convenient. The brochure does give the water usage for the washes, which is useful to have. The 'low energy regular' wash we used tonight takes 32 litres of water (7 imperial gallons). I think that is probably similar to what we'd use in three lots of washing-up at the sink during the day, but obviously a new dishwasher would probably use less water (and less electricity too). This one cost $780 and the equivalent Maytag washer today costs $499 (US), which is probably about a quarter of the price in real terms. A new dishwasher will have to wait for a new kitchen, which will be a 2008 project - but I probably won't be going for a portable one!

Full tanks

downpipe divertersThe guttering guys came back on Tuesday evening and connected the eavestroughs to the cistern. There are diverters on the end of them which will switch the water away from the cistern when/if it gets full. One of today's jobs is to get some piping so that that spare water is deposited a bit further away from the house than it would be with the current arrangement.

Over the last 24 hours we've had 16mm of rain and that has given us over 30 inches of water in the cistern. full water tanksThe tanks up in the barn are full, too, and the wells are steadily filling up, so now we've decided that we are no longer suffering from a shortage of water.

We celebrated by loading our breakfast dishes into the dishwasher for the first time since we've been here. It looks like it is about 20 years old, mind you, so whether it will work is another matter entirely!

26 October 2007


Leaf-mould makerThe job of the week has been raking up leaves and filling the leaf-mould-generating contraption that I constructed on Sunday. I've never had enough of a garden to merit building one before and somehow all those bin bags I've filled with leaves over the years have never generated any leaf-mould. Although that's probably because I forget about them from one year to the next and, being disguised as rubbish, they get accidentally thrown out. The large white boulder to the left of the leaf mould maker is, I think, a glacial erratic. It's a handy place to put a cup of tea whilst gardening.

Manure spreaderWhile I was collecting the leaves up from under the ash in the front garden, our neighbour, Matthew, arrived to ask where we wanted the manure. He brought his muck spreader round and deposited a handsome heap of last-year's muck in the barnyard.
Manure heap
We offered to pay him (as they would otherwise have used the manure on some of their 500 acres (!)), but he said he was just happy to have neighbours who didn't mind the cows. What a very nice man.

22 October 2007

Ogres' eyeballs

Ogres' eyeballsThese are part of my contribution to the school's Halloween Bash on Friday night. They're basically peppermint creams, with part of the icing mixture coloured green and plonked on top of circles of the white icing. Then I added an upside-down chocolate chip for the pupils and some red food colouring, applied with a cocktail stick, to make the eyes look bloodshot. I added a wash of green and red food colouring to the irises as the green was a bit too pastel to be scary. I'm rather proud of them, as (as far as I know), they're all my own invention!*

I had to leave my peppermint essence behind when we moved, but was fairly confident that Bulk Barn would carry it. Bulk Barn is my favourite Canadian store. The first one I noticed was in the Belleville mall, but as its storefront display was entirely made up of pick'n'mix-style bins of sweets, I didn't go inside for ages. When I did, I discovered aisles of loose goods like nuts, dried fruit, grains, pastas, flours and spices. It's like a cross between a health-food shop and Woolworths (with a correspondingly varied clientele). Wholewheat pasta and cous-cous are hard to find in the supermarkets (at least in decent sized packages), so Bulk Barn is great for that kind of thing. I thought they were letting me down today though, as there was vanilla essence, almond extract and even brandy essence (what?), but no peppermint. Then at the till I found a little display of various oils, including both spearmint and peppermint, so I used peppermint oil instead of essence. I love you, Bulk Barn.

*Now I come to think of it, the phrase 'Ogre's eyeballs' appears in an episode in Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs, so that isn't particularly original. It's a brilliant book - and I think the only children's book I've come across where a (very) passing knowledge of Latin and Greek actually adds to the enjoyment of the story.

19 October 2007

Rain Fall

EavestroughsMost of the guttering went up yesterday: just waiting for the last downpipes and the diverter that will stop the cistern overflowing (although that seems like a distant possibility at the moment!). We've had 9.2mm of rain so far today, so the water collected from barn roof has been replenishing the cistern in the house, which is up to 8 inches of water again. Mike fixed the leaky loo today too.

The Toyota garage fitted a new tyre to the car yesterday and Mike took a taxi into Belleville this morning to pick it up, so we're mobile again.

Autumn ash treeThe nature columnist in the local papers was explaining this week that the Fall colours have been disappointing this Autumn mapleyear due to the dry and hot conditions during September. The big ash tree in our front garden (dubbed 'Giganto' by the kids) turned yellow very suddenly just this week, but many of the trees lost their leaves early because of the drought conditions. The maples have been pretty magnificent though, so if this is a disappointing year, I can imagine that a good one will be breathtaking.

18 October 2007

Tired out

Flat tire on AudiYesterday was always going to be a bit hectic: work at Deseronto, picking up child #1 from karate, taking both kids to the inaugural meeting of the Consecon cub group, taking Mike to a meeting on renewable energy in Bloomfield, picking up the kids, picking up Mike. All went more-or-less according to plan, even with time for a meal and a cup of tea in between ferrying jobs, until the last journey of the day. A couple of kilometres out from Bloomfield we got a puncture in one of the car tires. Turns out that this Audi has a cover over the wheel nuts that you need a special tool to remove. And we didn't have the tool.

So we phoned the CAA at 9.45pm. The guy got to us at 11.00pm and he couldn't take the cover off either, so he towed the car back to our house and we finally got home just after midnight. I was somewhat surprised that the car didn't turn into a pumpkin at that point. This morning we spoke to the Toyota dealership that sold us the car and they're going to get it off for us, once the CAA take it over to Belleville.

New fascia boardsIn the meantime, work is continuing on the roof, with the fascia boards going up yesterday. Mike also worked out why our water situation had deteriorated so much over the last week - there's a leaky seal in the bathroom toilet, and Mike reckons that it had been consuming about 17 litres of water an hour. So something else to fix, but at least there's a stopcock next to the toilet which means that its water supply can easily be turned off and the cistern just re-filled as necessary.

16 October 2007


Kilometrestones just doesn't sound the same, does it? Well, anyway, two big milestones today. First of all, we finally ran out of water in the house - both wells and the cistern were effectively dry. So Mike went off to get a 12-volt pump to attach to the plumbing he's set up to the big tanks in the barns (and the tractor). Then he was able to pump the couple of hundred gallons down the hill and into the cistern this afternoon. There is some rain forecast for the rest of the week, but if it doesn't appear then we'll have to buy a tankload of water from a water firm.

New roofThe other big event, a slightly more positive one, was the completion of our new roof. It looks very smart and includes a sunlight tunnel which connects the landing (which has no windows) to the sky through a hole in the ceiling and the roof. The landing is now a lot brighter, especially when all the upstairs doors are shut. The guys who worked on the roof did a really good job and worked incredibly long hours. They had to pack up early on Saturday because the wind became dangerously strong, but otherwise they've been starting at 8am and finishing when it gets dark. They all wander around quite happily on the roof - no scaffolding or obvious safety measures at all. The next job is for the other team of this firm to turn up and fix the new guttering to the house.

Gwen the curtain (draperies) lady came around this afternoon and we chose more fabrics. I feel very decadent, having an interior designer, but I'm hopeless at making curtains and blinds (shades) and haven't found anything half-decent of the ready-made variety. She seems fairly snowed under with work, so I'm not sure when any of the window coverings will actually get made, but at least we're making some progress.

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Prince Edward Historical Society, which was very interesting. They look after the archives of the County, in conjunction with the library service (a fairly recent union). There was a talk by a speaker from the Archives of Ontario, who seemed to have trouble working his PowerPoint presentation, which was a bit cringe-making. He also claimed that all their copying services were on a cost-recovery basis only, which seems an outrageous assertion given that their digital images cost $20 each, even if the image already exists! Anyway, I joined the society, so might get more involved with the local archives through that route too, eventually.

12 October 2007

Gawd's truth

First fireI knew we wouldn't be able to resist. And it did go down to five degrees centigrade last night, so we didn't feel too bad, lighting it. It's been pretty chilly today, too, so we relit it this morning and it's keeping the living room cosy: 21 degrees in there compared to only 18 in the study. Mmm, might have to move into there with the laptop soon.

Old roofToday work is due to start on replacing our roof with new asphalt shingles, so I thought I'd better do a 'before' picture. I've also had a particular request for a picture of the front of the house, so here it is (well, about half of it, anyway). So far the only sign of activity is the arrival of a big trailer to take away the old shingles, but apparently they'll work through the weekend, so by Monday we should have a water-tight roof that'll last for 30 years.

The guttering will have to be removed, which means that our water situation will temporarily get even worse, until the next gang of men come to put the new gutters on. Those will be bigger than the existing eavestroughs, and less leaky, so in the longer term we'll get more water through into the cistern.

11 October 2007

Water and (predictably) fire

Dawn mist over the hayfieldThe mornings are becoming very autumnal now - stout shoes are required to avoid having soaking wet feet from the dew. Twice now there's been a coyote lurking in the hay field in the mornings when Mike has taken Toby for his morning walk. As we've found a couple of skulls of small carnivores - possibly foxes - in the field, Mike decided that the wisest thing to do was to put Toby back on the lead and take him home.

Pipes to water tankWe still have a water shortage in the house, so Mike ordered two huge tanks (they hold around 6,000 litres (1550 US gallons) each) with the aim of filling them from the roof of the big barn. The tanks arrived when I was in the UK, so Mike had to roll them up to the barn by himself. He says he looked and felt like a dung beetle. The barn already has guttering on the south side of the roof which is about 4000 square feet (370 square metres), but some of the guttering was blocked and they all emptied onto a patch of concrete, which wasn't much use. So on Tuesday Mike unblocked the gutters and attached the ends to one of the big tanks . It's a bit jury-rigged at the moment, while we make sure it works.

Big water tankThen we had to wait for some rain (a familiar activity by now), which finally arrived around midnight yesterday. We only had 2.6mm (a tenth of an inch), but that has given us 200 gallons in the first tank, which is great. Now we've just got to work out how to get the water from the barn down to the cistern in the house...

Wood-burning stoveOur new wood-burning stove was installed today in the living room, where before we'd just had a fireplace with glass doors. It looks great and we're both keen to test it out, although the temperature doesn't really warrant lighting a fire yet. I wonder who will crack first.

07 October 2007

First Thanksgiving

Well, for our family anyway. I went with the pumpkin pie in the end - and we had pumpkin soup for tea yesterday. There's still more than half a pumpkin in the fridge - any suggestions for using it up very welcome! Double cream proved to be the problematic ingredient for the meal. Why is that, when every recipe for pumpkin pie seems to call for it? I ended up buying Devon Double Cream that had come all the way from England in two tiny bottles costing $4.89 each. So about five quid for 10 fluid ounces of cream. Don't Canadian cows produce cream? The nearest Canadian alternative was whipping cream which contained a load of unnecessary additional ingredients, and which probably would have separated when heated. Maybe nobody actually makes pumpkin pie here...

The pumpkin soup was OK, and the pumpkin pie was fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make either again. Pumpkins look very jolly as decorations, and are obviously essential in that role for Hallowe'en, but I can't help feeling that the early settlers ate them because they had little choice. I don't often make puddings, so next year I think I'd rather have a lemon tart or something else that I'd really enjoy for Thanksgiving, rather than keeping to tradition with the pumpkin option.

Pumpkin update: the BBC reports that the UK pumpkin crop suffered due to the poor weather this year. Perhaps I should send Mike over with a suitcase-full to sell at a ridiculous profit when he takes his mum home later in the month...

03 October 2007

Brief respite

Landed back in Toronto on Sunday afternoon and have been frantically catching up with everything since then. The bat man had been back while I was away and installed a one-way door in the roof so that the squirrels won't be able to get back in. Haven't heard any scampering in the roof space since.

Another man had been round to quote for replacing our roof and guttering (eavestroughs), leaving me with the tricky task of deciding which colour we would have for the roof. Hm, Weathered Wood, Colonial Slate, Driftwood or Georgetown Gray?

Last night I accompanied Mike and Toby to the Puppy Kindergarten class. It was a bit boring, to be honest, but some of the dog training theory was mildly interesting. The tutor commented on how much the dogs had grown since last week and I agreed with her - Toby seemed huge when I got back on Sunday. When we got back I remembered to turn off the ring under the steamer so that we didn't have a re-run of the earlier Christmas Pudding fiasco.

Today I'm back in Deseronto. It's really hard only being here one day a week - feels like I make little progress. Although, looking on the bright side, I did manage to create an accessions register and a donations form for the archives today. Technically it's only my fourth day of work here, so I suppose I'm not doing too badly. The display of school-related materials at the weekend went down well and I scanned in some of the photos for a caller today who'd found pictures of herself and her siblings when she visited on Saturday. I met one of the library cleaners just now who told me that she'd enjoyed the exhibit too.

I'm now killing time a bit (I've got time to blog, for goodness sake) while I wait for the Archives Board meeting to start at 7.00pm. Last time we met in the Town Hall, but today we're meeting in the home of two of the Board members, which was once the Anglican church of St. Mark in the town, so that'll be interesting. It's going to be another very long day, though.

This coming weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada - they're much more sensible (as always) than the Americans, having it in October rather than late November (far too close to Christmas) and making it a long weekend instead of having the main event on a Thursday. Whichever American decided that a Thursday was a great idea for the holiday definitely wasn't responsible for cooking the meal.

So I've been looking up Thanksgiving recipes. I think, as we've got Mike's mum here, I'll just make the meal an early Christmas dinner, but with pumpkins involved, either as a soup or as pumpkin pie, haven't quite decided yet. I somehow don't think Mum would go for Marshmallow Sweet Potato Bake. Though I suppose it might get the kids to eat sweet potatoes, which they normally scorn.

25 September 2007

Chewing the fat

vegetable suetIt's been lovely to be back in the UK and catch up with everyone: family and colleagues. I spent Sunday with my aunt and brother and his friend which was great fun. On Monday I stayed with my father and stepmother and I met my step-niece, Isabelle (Bella) for the first time. Today I drove up to Manchester and spent the afternoon catching up with colleagues (thanks for the suet Paddy!). In many ways it felt like I'd just been off on a long holiday.

I popped in to the old house in the morning. The vegetable garden has become a bit of a jungle, but otherwise everything seemed OK and I chatted with two sets of neighbours who were very interested to hear how we've been getting on. Still hoping to complete the house sale in the next week or two, despite the lack of news from the solicitors. Somehow the fig plant that we'd left behind in June (through lack of space for it in our hire car) had survived, so I'll take that down to Mike's mum's on Friday for her to adopt, which had been our original plan. That was another wedding present - amazing how resilient our gifts have proved to be!

The flight over on Saturday/Sunday was fine and seemed to go fairly quickly, mainly because I was reading Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, which was very absorbing. Just as well, because none of the films they were showing appealed to me at all.

Ah, there are police sirens wailing outside. Definitely back in Manchester!

22 September 2007

Snakes alive

Garter snakeWe've seen quite a few of these Eastern garter snakes around the garden and barnyards. They're not venomous (in fact there are no venomous snakes in this area) and they're not very big - about 18 inches (45cm) long. This one seems to have taken up residence on our mosquito-killing light in the back garden. We turned the light off in case it electrocuted itself (a frog had already managed to kill itself on the light earlier in the summer).

Squirrel-damaged peanut feederI finally got around to buying a squirrel-proof bird feeder (a Squirrel-Be-Gone, to be precise). It certainly seems to work - the squirrels have had a good look at it but they haven't cracked it yet (unlike my peanut feeder). There is an outer sleeve which comes down over the seed openings if something heavier than a bird tries to get into them. We mostly get Black-capped Chickadees on it at the moment. They are a bit like Great Tits and are named for their alarm call which goes 'chicka-dee-dee-dee'. Blue Jays tend to come along and clear up the seeds that the chickadees drop underneath the feeder.Squirrel-be-gone feeder and chickadee

I'm heading off for the UK later today for a week and have very mixed feelings about the trip. I'm really looking forward to catching up with family and friends, but leaving here is a real wrench and I feel like I'm abandoning Mike, the kids and the dog. I did a lot of travelling in my old job, but was rarely away for more than a day or two at a time. After three months of being constant companions it is going to be horrible to be leaving them. I'm packing a lot into the week, so I'm sure it'll go very quickly.

The trees are really beginning to turn now, the maples in particular, so I think that after a week away I'll really notice the difference in the landscape. I'll be bringing my mother-in-law back with me and I'm looking forward to her reactions to our new home and lifestyle. She's never been out of Europe before, so it's quite an adventure for her.

Fall starts