Sunday, June 07, 2015

Warm Hands Equals A Warm Heart

As cold as we get sometimes here in the bush, it's good to remember that there are others who get colder than us. Over the last couple of years, I've done some charity knitting for women's shelters, preemies who have to start their lives in hospital, homeless folks here in the north, and for local folks struggling through chemo treatments.
Last year my charity knitting went to two groups; scarves for our local homeless and chemo caps for folks in Sault Ste. Marie.
This year, I'm going to add knitting for folks in the FAR north. Like Rankin Inlet and Resolute.

I stumbled across Warms Hands Network, a group that collects, packages, ships and distributes knitted and crocheted items that communities in the north have expressed a need for. Sweaters, socks, vests, blankets, hats, shawls, mittens and neck-warmers are just some of the items commonly made and donated. I think this is a great idea, so I'm in! Mom has decided she's going to donate as well, I think it will be interesting to see what we can come up with between the two of us.
WHN also has a Ravelry group, which is how I found them. The group has been going for a few years now and is an inspiration with conversations about donations, photos, where the items are shipped and sometimes even responses from the receiving community.

If you knit or crochet, take a look at the Warm Hands Network website, and/or their Ravelry group and consider jumping in with us. It's a great feeling to do something nice for our fellow human beings.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Our Regional Bird

Life in the woods, or bush as we call it out here, is more often than not, great!
Private, beautiful scenery, clean air, and if you hear any sounds of other people it's chainsaws or trucks driving by. If we're really lucky, we'll hear the occasional owl or maybe coyotes. We were fortunate enough to hear both those last week, mere hours apart.
This spring we were spared a much-dreaded flood, and it didn't really rain much until yesterday. We live across from a beaver pond and I'm happy to see a beaver back in in it. (I was a tad concerned the beaver lodge was empty last fall when we moved here)

But there is a price to pay for watching the beaver or being able to take stunning sunrise shots with my camera.
With a beaver pond comes mosquitoes.
Hoards of them! There is a reason we northerners call them our regional bird!
They may not be very big this spring but they make up for it with sheer numbers!
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I tried to stop and take pictures this morning and got swarmed!
It was lovely...the sun slicing through the tall pine and spruce trees...sound of birdsong...Before I could even get the zoom focused, my hands were covered and the bugs were flying up my nose!

Usually, mosquito numbers peak like this for a couple of weeks and then drop off. We get a few days reprieve and then the black flies pick up.
I keep trying to remember the perks of living out here...

It's great as long as the bugs don't carry you off!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Anatomy Socks and Why I Need To Knit More Socks

Many of you know I like to knit, and some of my friends look at me knitting and scratch their heads. Apparently, I'm not 'what folks think of when they think of knitting'.
Or so I've been told.
Good! Just goes to prove you shouldn't judge by first impressions.

Anyway, since I know a few of my readers are also knitters, I thought I'd share a bit of my knitting passion.
I finally finished my Anatomy Socks. (See left, above) Plain tube socks that I knit while watching television or surfing the web, Mindless, easy knitting.

  I'm also pleased  to have finished the Dark Cable Socks
It was a new pattern for me, and really very easy. The socks even turned out to be the size ordered! Yay! Mens size 11.

I'm getting ready to cast on another pair of socks, this time in special sock yarn we picked up years ago, tucked away and promptly forgot about.
(More on that later)
I've been asked why I make so many socks, and my first answer is, why not? But once we get past the knee-jerk response, here's the best answer in the words of the Yarn Harlot herself;

"Hand knit socks are 100% better than store bought.They feel so fabulous on your feet that there's almost nobody who doesn't want to only wear hand-knit socks from the first time he or she slips them on."

Time to go smoosh some yarn. Next post, another very good reason to knit socks, the life and times of Buttercrunch lettuce and the secret life of basil.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Moose, Lettuce and Spinach, Oh My!

I've written before on how relieved I am that spring is finally here, as evidenced by the warmer temperatures, more birds and the moose coming out of the bush.
Speaking of moose, a friend of mine (Sara Mealey) got some great photos of that same moose I shared with you the other day.
Apparently the moose likes paparazzi. Or should that be people-razzi?

I tell you, spring couldn't get here fast enough for me. 
Okay, I should amend that...
I want spring, but I really don't want it to arrive with a body slam that will flood my little town. I mean, let's be reasonable, very few of us are ready to be cut off from our main city an hour away.
I know we aren't.

We've started our plants with lettuce and spinach first. I'm very pleased with how they're thriving in their little south-facing window.

On the left is Buttercrunch lettuce and on the right, though looking less vigorous, is spinach.

It's not a huge start, but it is a start. This morning I started some more lettuce and spinach, because, hey, we'll want more. I also started some basil.

So why do all this when I can get it in town? 

  • Because veggies aren't cheap, and neither is the gas required to get them
  • Because nothing beats the taste of homegrown veggies and spices
  • Because it satisfies my green thumb and there is an undercurrent of hope in growing things yourself
What about you? Are you growing anything at home, whatever form that takes?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring: Not Just For The Birds! For Moose Too!

Sometimes we forget that with the spring sunshine and birds, come the wild animals.
Like the moose.
They come out looking for food, warmth and salt. The warmth and salt they find on the roads, dangerous though it may be.

Have you ever seen a wild moose? Ever seen one up close?

They are much bigger than we think, being mostly leg, and frequently moose vs vehicle encounters have catastrophic results for both vehicles and moose.

Fortunately this one lived to wander another day.

This photo was taken by Tanner Davieaux on the Searchmont Highway (#556) near the Ranger Lake road cut-off while he was staying at a delightful local B&B, Austin's Wilderness B&B
Our thanks to Tanner and Austin's for the photo!

We'd love to hear about your encounters with all things wild. Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Friday, March 06, 2015

50 Birds Can't Be Wrong

For all the complaining I do about winter and cold and how tired I am of splitting wood, I have been lucky enough to watch our local bird population grow slowly.
This past week I've seen an increasing number of grosbeaks, purple finches, doves and an assortment of swallows. It helps that a neighbour a kilometer down the road has a cluster of bird feeders.
Spring is on it's way, slowly but surely.
All those birds can't be wrong, can they?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

So Ready For Spring

Like everyone else here in Ontario, I'm so over winter, I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated we are.
It's been a season of inconsistent firewood, a smoky house, beyond bone-numbing cold temperatures, a chimney fire, and now a broken chimney tile.
Last year, we had more snow than this winter but this is absolutely the winter of cold.
An acquaintance shared a theory with me yesterday at breakfast that Northern Ontario is on it's way to becoming a miniature Arctic, and apparently there is historical evidence to back it up.
While you ponder that, I leave you with this shot after the road-grader went by our house yesterday.
Yeah, I'd say he pushed the snowbanks back fairly successfully.
Right up to our house.

In fact, if they go by again, that snowbank will end up on my side of the bed.

Spring is coming, right?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

On The Needles

I've not forgotten about  my promised series of posts on how to take back control of our lives, lately,I've been on a bit of a knitting kick.
What's on the needles? "Dark Cable Socks". If you're a knitter, or just curious, the pattern and picture of the finished socks can be found here.
In all honesty, I was getting a handle on my WIPs (works in progress) when a sock order landed and I had to shift gears a little.
So now I'm working on 3 different knitting projects while planning my next post in the aforementioned series. That one will deal with sunday dinner left-overs.
It's not as boring as it sounds.
There's a carcass involved.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How To Get Ahead In The Kitchen

Back a couple of weeks ago, I stressed the importance of taking back control over our lives, and I said we could have a realistic discussion of how to do that.

I talked about eating at home more, but what if you have a busy life or you don’t want to spend hours over the stove every week?
One way to get the best of both home-cooked meals and frozen dinners is to do both!
Instead of settling for frozen cardboard meals, plan ahead, make one or two extra meals while you have the groceries and the time, and freeze them!
Label carefully and think ahead. Either write on the package what’s inside and how to cook it, or include written instructions on paper or cardstock, or whatever you have. If you have teenagers, lazy people or people that just don’t know how to cook in your home, think of them and make it as easy as possible. Or perhaps you live alone, perhaps you foresee a lifestyle change coming, just a new baby that’s due soon.
Either way, take into account what you, or the rest of your family, likes to eat. Make that.
Don’t make something no one will want to eat, because then it’ll just sit in the freezer getting old, becoming unrecognizable and in time, someone is just going to throw it out.
Nothing gained that way.

So step one is to honestly go over what you and/or your family like to eat. If it’s spaghetti, then brainstorm ways that the sauce can be made ahead and frozen or canned, or whatever preservation method works for you. If the family has a meatball lover, like we do, make some ahead of time and freeze them.
We can get up in the morning with the intent to make a dozen meatballs, but if we have no energy by 3 pm, then we’re having a meatball-less dinner.
Plan ahead. Make the meatballs some evening when there’s nothing on television and you’re bored. (Told you this would be a realistic discussion)
You found ground beef on sale. You can afford to get twice the amount you normally do, so make those meatballs because the price of beef may go up again by the time you have the energy!

Spaghetti and meatballs with sauce is just one example. Feel free to substitute whatever dish strikes your fancy.

The point is to think ahead, plan and execute the plan.

Be realistic. Plan for laziness or power failures or heaven-forbid the illness of your family’s cook.

Survey your situation.
Execute that plan, one step at a time.
Rinse. Repeat.

Oh look, you’re one step ahead of where you were last friday.
Good for you!

Next time, de-mystifying the art of the homemade bread loaf.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Retail Is Crumbling And Our Future

The world around us can be an inspiring place or a frightening one.
These past few months it has become an increasingly scary place to live.
Mass kidnappings, a wavering economy on a good day, mass lay-offs, terrorist shootings, rising grocery costs, beheadings and the ever present unemployment numbers.
As if all that weren't enough, the economies of other countries impact our own in a world economy. Just last night I read about how the faltering U.S economy can spell trouble for many, even if they aren't in the retail field. The post is worth a read.
Then get yourself something to drink and read it again.

Ponder your future and use this new year to change your future.
I am.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

How To Stop Being A Sheeple. Seriously!

I've gone on record before and said that we all need to take a little more control of our lives, prepare for whatever life throws at us and not be victims.
My next few blog posts will be addressing exactly how we can do this.
Now, for anyone new to my blog, I don't want you to get the wrong idea, I'm not going around hollering that the world will end.
But I do believe things have changed a whole lot from when we were kids, and it's not going back to the 'good old days', folks.

We hear a lot of people talk about how things were simpler when they were younger. I think nostalgia is one part hazy memory and one part wishful thinking.
Things weren't simpler, they were different.
Some of us were kids. We didn't have to worry about money for payments, rent, groceries, how we would stay warm and so on. Someone one did that for us.
We didn't have to worry about how we were going to get from point A to point B.
Someone else did that for us.
We didn't have to worry about what we were going to eat.
Someone else figured it out, got the food and made it into meals for us.
Welcome to adult-hood.

Now all that is up to us. And some days, it's bloody terrifying figuring all that out for ourselves, and in some cases, being responsible for others.
Our dollars don't stretch as far as we need them to, no matter where we live.
Some of us have examined going out to eat less and learned how to cook more often at home. I've been on both sides of this line.
I remember when I was a kid, we ate out a lot. But I also remember the pies my mother made. Sometimes three at a time. I remember she made bread by hand, back before bread machines.
Now that I am an adult with a family of my own, I'm fortunate enough to say that we eat at home more often than out. Because my partner enjoys cooking, because I enjoy cooking (most of the time) and because we live out in the bush where restaurants are scarce.
But even when we lived in a city, we ate at home more often than not.

There are folks who will tell you this is more expensive than eating out. There is no way that a home-made roast chicken dinner with vegetables and rolls is more expensive than Swiss Chalet! Eating at home with your family, even one night a week for busy families, has more benefits than many spare a thought for.
Increased connections with your family. Increased opportunities to talk. Better food that is prepared, we hope, with a good heart, instead of with thoughts of money. A better understanding of food itself. If you buy ground beef/chicken/turkey/pork and make patties for burgers, you will know what's in your burger won't you? The same cannot be said for burgers from a fast food place that really isn't all that fast. If we were to make up a pro/con list for eating at home more often, you might be surprised when the pro list ends up being longer than the con list.
Then again, perhaps you already know this.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be talking about taking back control over our lives. It can start with as simple a step as cooking more often at home. We'll talk about how you can change your grocery shopping habits to start developing even a small safety net in case you want to eat more often at home but find yourself out of time, the grocery store short of something, or heaven forbid, if you suddenly find you have no choice. (I once had to pawn some jewelry to make sure my kids had food, so I understand being desperate.)
We'll talk about emergencies and what might happen where you are, and who to come through them as comfortably as possible.
We'll talk about how we can be ready if life throws curve balls at us, and how to   prepare our families for hard times ahead.
We'll talk...realistically and with common sense.

I hope you'll join me in this discussion.