18 September 2014

Catching up

Been pretty quiet around the blog lately, but not because I don’t feel like writing – I’ve just been really quite busy!

My parents came to visit, and we had a fantastic time. We went to Fort Edmonton, where some of our family heirlooms have been donated – ate brunch in the dining room at the Selkirk Hotel, next to the buffet and hutch that were in the room for most of the holiday meals of my life, and saw the painting my great grandmother did hanging right behind the front desk at the hotel … that’s incredible! It’s so awesome to have it there where everyone can see and enjoy it.

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We also did a day run out to Jasper, and went on the new Glacier Skywalk – wow, what a view!


Family selfie:


And Dad and I conquered the glacier:


Had supper at the Jasper Park Lodge on our way back … oh my, it was fantastic! And we had this for dessert!

It was just awesome to hang out with my parents. Mom even came to the felting workshop I did, and mended the Boy’s quilt with a fantastic Apple Jack Creek themed applique!

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That was all really awesome.

Then The Reluctant Farmer and the Small People and I went to visit my in-laws, which was also fantastic. They are such lovely people and they live right on the lake, so there is always fishing! They are selling the lake cabin (too much to manage now), so this was probably our “last trip to the lake”.

Then more work to catch up on, then apples!

Which became juice (and some more that’s fermenting into cider):

And then more work, and then trying hard to get rested up because having done that much, my chemistry is all dialed up to eleven. Oi.

So, I have some audio books, some printed books, some knitting, and … I changed my hair colour.

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I love the henna red, I truly do, but it is simply more than I can maintain now. My real hair colour used to be very blonde, then gradually darkened to a sort of dull ash blonde, with plenty of silver strands in it. I like the silver – it’s like the sparkle in Frazzlebatts! – but the contrast between my own colour and the bright red was just too much. Having had henna in my hair for what, ten years or so, it was deeply, thoroughly embedded, especially in the tips. Getting it out was a bit of a challenge, but thanks to information found on the web and some careful experimentation, I was able to lighten and counteract most of the remaining red, and then just brightened everything else. Now as my hair grows, I can easily lighten the roots a little if I want to (it’s just peroxide, which is very easy to apply and does a fine job on my hair - since I don’t use heat or other products on it the rest of the time, it doesn’t do too much damage … nothing I can’t counteract with the usual oil, aloe, and flax treatments I use normally, anyway). As the silver gets more pronounced, it’ll just all … become sparkly. And in the meantime I won’t look like I just stopped taking care of myself!

That’s the hope, anyway.

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It’s a bit startling to see myself blonde again … my hair hasn’t been this colour since I was quite a lot younger than I am now!

So there you are, you’re now caught up on the happenings at Apple Jack Creek. Time for me to go grab a glass of apple peach juice from the fridge and some lunch!

ETA: I really was blonde as a child. Even lighter than this, actually:

Lonna and Dawn and Cunningham house sign

10 September 2014

Kitchen Day

It snowed here day before yesterday. Like, three cm on the ground snowed. Snowed more yesterday. It's almost all melted now, but it's still chilly. 

So I decided today is a good day to do kitchen stuff. I baked apple spice cake, chocolate banana bread, lasagne, cannelloni, and a pot of beef soup that I will be delivering to a friend. 

Also sorted the jam jars on the shelves, found what I have and what I need, what I should be using up faster, and some stuff to go to the chickens. 

Now I'm sitting down while the dishwasher does round two (and there'll be a round three yet); but there are snacks in the freezer for lunches, and some easy things to defrost for dinner on days I have less energy. 

Voila. :)

24 August 2014

Felting Workshop

Today I taught a felting workshop at the Pegg Garden … it was a load of fun!

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These lovely artists created felted vases … so many different colours!

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I did a quick intro, then worked on a demo vase while everyone had lunch … it was like dinner theatre but with soap and water and wool. (Mine’s the one on the far right with the thistle on it.) Everyone started their creations after seeing how it was done, and we had a lot of fun seeing everyone’s felting take shape. It starts out as this weird lump of soggy wool, and ends up as a shaped vase that stands up on it’s own!

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Look, this one is shaped like a pitcher.

My parents are here visiting from Ontario, and my mom came to the workshop with me today, which was really awesome. She arranged all the sample vases with flowers and greenery … the County Horticuluralist, Lorraine (on the right) cut the greens and Mom (on the left) did all the arrangements.

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Look how pretty they are!

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It was really fun.

When I came home, Dad and The Boy had been cutting deadwood out back – more firewood for winter, and less of a mess in the back!

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Look at all that!

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What a lovely day.

10 August 2014

Tired, at last

I've finally figured out that a central aspect of PTSD for me is that my "tiredness system" is miswired. 

When I'm tired, I get more and more wound up ... Witness the stuff I've done over the last few weeks. In addition to whitewashing the barn, reorganizing a good chunk of the house, installing a ceiling and clearing a laundry backlog, I have also done about 40 hours of paid work in the last couple of weeks ... Most of it running errands and setting up furniture and driving around to get things. 

Today, I finally feel tired. 

This is a good thing. 

I'm knitting.

26 July 2014

Gold medal?

I am really not sure what the level above “trifecta” is but I think even if there is one, I’ve exceeded it. I am declaring this last accomplishment a Gold Medal achievement.

First, some context.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I have been bitten by the reorganize/tidy/clear out the old stuff bug lately. I reorganized the north wing living area (because I wanted my chair by the window, and then everything else shifted) and followed that up by clearing out the loft (including building a reading/spinning/knitting nook out of an Ikea bookcase).

Then I sat down and looked around the newly organized loft and all I could really see was …

… the unfinished ceiling.

We have lived here for … what, seven years? eight? Somewhere in there. And the ceiling just never got dealt with. We made an attempt with some panelling, but it was unwieldy and didn’t look good. We would have put the same stuff up as is on all the walls, but whoa, talk about a fussy job. It would take ages. And it would require a person lift of some kind. A contractor would make more sense. But there was no budget for a contractor.

And then, some money arrived unexpectedly. Let’s just say it was a much appreciated gift that gave me the freedom to actually do something about the ceiling.

So I went to the city, talked to the helpful people at All Weather Wood and came home with enough materials to experiment with cedar shingles on the ceiling. I started in the loft, where I could work without needing a ladder for some distance, and after some false starts and modifications, I decided it was worth continuing. Then I fell off the ladder. Gently, really – I fell forward, not backward, and banged my legs up on the way down, but it was enough to make me realize that this was not really a workable strategy.

Take home message: using a ladder leaning up against an inward slope is very dangerous. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.


I phoned the nice people at DV Rentals and arranged for scaffolding. Voila: a workable strategy. More wood, proper infrastructure, lots and lots of nails for the air nailer, and we were off to the races.

(Yes, there really was a platform that went from one side of the scaffold rack to the other, but we’d relocated it temporarily when this was taken.)


When all was said and done …



No, it’s not perfectly even. I knew I’d never get it even, so I staggered the shingles on purpose. They stagger a little more than is reasonable in a few places, but oh well. There’s also one spot above the fireplace that I just could not reach safely from the scaffold: the frame wasn’t wide enough to scoot past the wood stove, and after leaning as far out as I dared, I decided that perhaps The Reluctant Farmer (who is, after all, a firefighter who runs training sessions on safe ladder usage) might be able to get up there and deal with that one tricky spot some other time. Not falling from two floors up seemed fairly important right about then. I did a lot of very slow moving while on top of that scaffold: reaching up to support myself on the ceiling as I walked, crawling from one end to the other rather than walking, lying on my back and doing Michaelangelo imitations, you name it.

I didn’t have enough stain to cover all the new boards I put up, but those can be done with a stain pad on an extension pole at a later time. There are still some pieces that need to be put up, but most of what’s left is finicky fitting that I am really quite terrible at doing, but the thing is …

I can live with this.

It feels much more comfortable.

I realized that I’d been avoiding spending time over here, avoiding organizing and cleaning it up because it just felt like a construction zone anyway. There’s one noticeable place that needs to be covered up before that sense is completely eliminated, but my goodness … to glance up and see wood instead of vapour barrier and insulation? To have the ceiling covered (with real wood and an air pocket which will add more insulation value to the roof as well)?

It ain’t perfect, not by a long shot, but I did this and it’s damned good, if you ask me.

I am bruised all over – the fall actually didn’t damage me too badly as we instituted proper first aid measures immediately, but all the pressure points of legs and shins and arms where I braced myself against scaffold pipes are turning blue. My hands ache from gripping the air nailer – it got heavy after three days of use. My shoulder muscles are sore from so much lifting over my head (even though The Boy did the vast majority of the heavy lift-and-carry-fetch-and-lug work for me, bless him).

But I am sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window … and not seeing any yellow insulation or floppy plastic, the whole house smells of cedar, and I am content.

Many thanks to the generous provider of these funds (you know who you are): you didn’t have to make the choice you did, but you did, and I am grateful.

And deep appreciation to The Boy, who hauled and carried and tolerated the noise late at night and loaded and unloaded the van and let me use his vehicle to haul materials and scaffolding and fed me and brought me water and lemonade and gave me ice packs when I fell and spotted me when I had to use the ladder again later on and delayed taking a shower until a time when I wasn’t up on the scaffold, just in case. Couldn’t have done this without your help, Boy. Thank you so much. You are a very good kid.

And now I think I might go lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling or something.

Because you know what? It’s awesome.

21 July 2014

And for the trifecta…

… I cleared out the loft today.

I wore shoes this time, but my feet still hurt. As does my thumb, I poked it on something sharp.

A little back history here: the loft was, originally, The Boy’s bedroom. Then the addition was built when The Reluctant Farmer and his kids arrived, and I moved out of the downstairs bedroom in the south wing. It got stuffed full of storage things and fibre things and before long you couldn’t even walk in there.

One day, The Boy and I decided to switch rooms. He got a door, I got more space, things were good. There was room for the store stock, a loom, plus some storage.

Then the shop moved out, and the upstairs was just … a catastrophe. It wasn’t anyplace you wanted to spend any time. It was a place to go dig up what you needed and escape as quickly as possible.

Right now I seem to be in the place where I want all the spaces to be user-friendly. At least mostly tidy (there is still a good ways to go with some of the piles that have been removed from their original locations, but we are making definite progress here) and welcoming. Light. Comfortable.

The loft was none of these things. It was quite frightening in fact. So I got started.

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Like I said, frightening.

But I firmly believe that good infrastructure eases most problems … so I set out to improve the infrastructure. Hence the power tools and lumber in the picture.

I’ve been dreaming of a little spinning/reading nook … I spent a bunch of time last night online looking at ideas, but of course I am constrained to work with only materials I already have at hand – no purchases allowed. I think that this new spinning/reading nook should earn me a place of honour on the Ikea Hacker’s website: using the framework from one IVAR section and several no-longer-needed wine rack shelves, I made a base; then covered it with tongue and groove pine (we still have some outside: I used some of the watermarked stuff, partly as an experiment to see how it looks when stained – and honestly it looks fine). Then I took three IVAR shelves and the two remaining wine racks and built a bookshelf, which I screwed to the end of the platform surface, using four of the predrilled holes in the side rails as guides. A few more pieces of pine and the shelf had a top rail and was sufficiently sturdy that it wouldn’t wobble.

Pictures are a little strange as it was dark by the time I was ready for photos but here you go:

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The platform will get some kind of mattress, some day … probably in the short term it’ll get a down quilt and several blankets piled on it. For the purposes of the picture I spread out two cotton blankets I wove and tucked a little hand knit pillow in the corner … I took it all off afterwards, though, as the stain needs to cure the rest of the way (I love Watco Danish Oil!)

This one shows the bookcase a little better: it’s not got any books on it, just spinning and knitting stuff. though that may change as I improve my stash storage.

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Under the platform there’s room between the shelves (which act as cross-braces) to tuck banker’s boxes and assorted other bits and pieces. The edge of the platform is surrounded by an old bed dust ruffle – if I am not mistaken, it once belonged to my cousin who is a big Texas A&M fan, it’s a lovely shade of burgundy! I’ll try to get some better pictures in daylight tomorrow. If I can still climb the stairs.

The lamp base is a piece of wood – I think my Dad made this, I should ask where it came from! It’s been around pretty much as long as I can remember, anyway!

The pony wall at the top of the stairs had never been properly finished: I added one more piece of tongue and groove, which created about an inch and a half ‘lip’ at the back of the wall, then used two boards of different widths to surface the rail. At the left, where a person might be leaning back against the wall (like a headboard), the shelf is flush with the edge of the panelling, but further out, it widens and has a bit of an overhang. It’ll be a lovely spot to put treasures once the stain dries!

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The two shelves are positioned to be easily accessible from the platform, but without being so deep as to get in the way as you round the corner. The bottom shelf is quite close to the floor, but I’ve found it is much easier to keep the floors clean if stuff is up … even by a few inches! That shelf is wide enough to hold two of my favourite baskets for yarn and knitting. The top shelf is narrower and presently has a couple of cones of yarn (including one that is stuck full of the various circular needles I found while cleaning up) and some thread. I’m sure it’ll find more appropriate contents before long.

The bin on the right contains various knitting patterns in hanging file folders. I need a better spot for it, but that was sufficiently out of the way for now.

What you can’t see is the big pile in the corner: several boxes that are going to the ‘take it or leave it’ at the dump, three HUGE Rubbermaid type bins of fibre goodness that are going to be listed for local Ravellers to take off my hands, another bin for the new owner of Flannelberry Creek, and one for my fibre neighbour. Two huge bags of garbage left as well, plus a pile of boxes bigger than I am.

The loom has a spot just to the left of the ‘nook’, there’s lots of room to work there and it doesn’t impede traffic. The roof slants sharply down at that corner, so I mounted a very wide shelf and hung a fabric skirt all around it: underneath is storage for banker’s boxes, the sewing machine, and some more fibre. It’s much tidier having it out of sight like that! The shelf is currently covered with a disorganized pile of books – I need to figure out some proper bookcase management, but that can wait. The small loom and a couple of bins of useful things are over by the front of the loft, and two spinning wheels are upstairs now. And the gold tub chair, which is ugly but so ridiculously comfortable.


I am amazed.

Yes, there are still several ‘landing zones’ of stuff to be cleared up yet … piles of books in the basement, hats and mittens in the hallway, a corner of assorted fibre stash oddities, and some things to rehome or sell … but oh my goodness, what a relief.

Tomorrow, I promise, I’ll stay in the recliner. I have computer work to do … and sore feet!

ETA: Daylight view!