2019 Year in Review

December 31, 2019

2019 was another busy year here on the Porter’s Ponderosa.  The year started quietly, with Ken going to Mexico for two weeks in February with his travel group and I, stayed home to mind the home fires. While no one seems to understand why I prefer to stay home, I love the fact that we can each do what we love.

Darlene with Dr. Will Tuttle, author of World Peace Diet

Although I had said no more travel for me, I was persuaded to take a spur of the moment vacation in March for a Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend 10 days with 2,000 other vegans and take in lectures from some of the best in the whole food plant based movement – Dr. T Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Klapper, Dr. Neil Bernard, Brenda Davis, Dr. Will Tuttle and many more. I spent my days attending lectures, workshops, cooking demonstrations, yoga, meditation, meeting interesting people from around the world and, of course enjoying great food. And for the first time I could eat everything at the buffet! What more could you ask for in a holiday! We took a few days extra and drove to Miami taking in the sites along the way including, Graceland and Epcot Center. We also spent some time with cousins Phyllis and Harry Barrows in St. Pete’s Beach and Wayne Jackiew (a previous Revival Band mate of Ken’s) in Fort Myers. Ken and Wayne were hits on the senior karaoke scene. Those boys could sing all day long!





Baba and Gigi with Jacob Astrid and Nora (who is not happy at the moment)

After returning from Miami we flew to BC (Ken had enough driving) to spend Easter with Kelsey’s and Christopher’s families. It’s always a great treat to see the kids and grandkids and it’s especially nice when we can all be together. Thanks to Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora for hosting us all for Easter in Kamloops. After Easter, Ken and I spent a few days in Vancouver with Christopher, Emily and Astrid before flying home.



Hannah, Vicky, Darlene and Ken

While we were on our holidays, Hanna, Sox and our house were lovingly cared for by two wonderful Workawayers, Hannah from Australia and Vicky from Germany. We are so thankful that they were brave enough to experience winter in Manitoba, off grid. They arrived mid-February. Hannah had to fly back to Australia the end of April, while Vicky stayed on to housesit solo while we went to BC. Vicky flew back home to Germany May 1, her Canadian adventure completed with an epic Manitoba experience.



View of Garden from upstairs window

For me, summer was all about the garden.  I am learning regenerative gardening – growing food for us, for the birds and bees, and for the soil. This year, part of the garden was sown with buckwheat as a soil enhancer; and in the fall after each crop was harvested, I planted spring wheat rather than leave bare soil. I also experimented with growing cucumbers in straw bales (a win!), and potatoes in crates (sufficiently good results to warrant another trial). The sweet potato experiment in the greenhouse brought good results this year, harvesting about 20 pounds of delicious sweet potatoes. Two of my tomato plants in the greenhouse grew over 11 feet high and yielded over 70 tomatoes each. And I had a massive pepper harvest. I froze, dried, pickled and even made hot pepper chili paste. After a two year trial, I am writing off chickpeas as a viable Ponderosa crop, and lima beans as well. However, I did get a good harvest of kidney beans, black beans and small brown beans.

Strawberries in early July, companion planted with spinach.

We added a few new garden beds this year. One is mostly flowering perennials from my Mom and Baba’s gardens, plus it has some Saskatoon, blueberry and asparagus.  The strawberry and herb bed on the west side of the house was finished last year and planted this spring. The strawberries were wonderful, producing until the end of September.  The herbs did exceptionally well and I won’t be buying any peppermint, lemon balm, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro, dill or basil this winter. I could go on and on all day about the garden but I’ll stop before you fall asleep.


2019 McArthur Park Festival

While the summer was all about the garden for me, for Ken it was all about slo-pitch and golf.  Once again, each doing what we love best. Ken joined the Coyotes senior slo-pitch team from Brandon and played several tournaments throughout Manitoba. He also golfed weekly with his Sandy Lake buddies. He was thrilled to participate in the McCarther Park Festival – a local music festival hosted on a neighboring farm. The Cookes and Jackiews attended and Ken had a blast making music with them. He can’t wait for next year’s festival.

In September, Ken had another of his special K. Porter Travel trips, this time guiding 34 people on a Mediterranean Cruise out of Barcelona. They cruised with Norwegian Cruise Lines visiting Naples, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Cannes/Monte Carlo, Palma Majorca and spending three days in Barcelona at the end.

Matt, Jacob, Nora and Kelsey with Pickles

In October, we were excited to have Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora visit us. They were in Winnipeg for Kelsey’s school mate Miranda’s wedding. Unfortunately, Ken and I missed the wedding due to an early season blizzard, but we cleared out the lane in time for them to come spend some time on the Ponderosa. The weather was cool but that didn’t stop the tractor driving lessons or a visit to meet Pickles the donkey at my cousin Larry’s farm.




Finished Clay Oven

One of the outdoor projects on my Honey Do List was an outdoor clay oven, or pietz. We spent last winter researching ideas and built it this summer.  It was fall before we finished, but we did manage to fire it up and make a few pizzas and loaves of bread. I am really looking forward to having an oven to use next summer.





This fall, Ken finished off the last project I had for the house – a Hidden Bed (aka Murphy Bed) and storage units for the office bedroom.  With all the drawers and shelves I have lots of room for my fabric and crafting supplies and the bed folds up into a desk for lots of project space, while still having a wonderful bedroom for you when you come to visit.





Jacob helping Gigi with the Kamloops bedroom project

While I am running out of things for Ken to build, there are always others to share his talents with. This year, he helped a friend renovate his cabin and in December, spent three weeks in BC, visiting and doing work for Kelsey and Christopher. He helped Kelsey and Matt turn their big master bedroom into two bedrooms, for Jacob and Nora. For Christopher, he is replacing the carpeting, in the home they just purchased, with hardwood. I might just start a Rent-A-Gido service.

This winter Ken has also gone back to another of his sports passions, ten pin bowling. He is bowling with his old team in Winnipeg.  He is living the retirement dream –traveling,  slo-pitch, golf, singing and bowling!

Cross Stitch gift bag I made this winter

Besides gardening, I am still doing whole food plant based cooking classes. This year, I did two classes close to home, in Minnedosa, and three in Winnipeg. (You can find the recipes from the classes at ponderosacooks.wordpress.com)

I continue to volunteer with the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum in town and at the town perogie bees. I also made several trips to Saskatoon this year to visit my brother Glenn who is recovering from surgery. I am enjoying the slower pace of winter and have started on two winter projects – organizing and scanning old photographs; and Ukrainian Cross Stitch Embroidery. I am teaching a cross stitch class in the new year, so am brushing up on the skills Baba taught me. My goal is to make a Ukrainian shirt for myself this winter.

I think that about covers the year. From our house to yours, we wish you all a very happy holiday season and all the very best in 2020.

About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.
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