Snow or Sand

February 25, 2018

Sunny Manitoba in February

Sunny warm Mexico in February









What is your winter vacation of choice – the warm sandy beaches of Mexico or the chilly white snowy landscape of Manitoba? My husband and I have a difference of opinion on this one, so this year we are not doing a winter vacation together. I am enjoying sunny Manitoba, and he is enjoying sunny Mexico.

wind protected trails through the bush

I love it here in the winter. Its a quiet, tranquil and quite solitary, as we get few visitors over the winter. The cold is not hard to take when you have good gear and can suit up, strap on your snowshoes and head out into a winter wonderland right outside your door. With an abundance of sheltered trails through the bush, there is always a good one to follow even when the wind is howling and the windchill is bone chilling. And I love the pristine whiteness of my winter wonderland. No stressing about packing, getting a house sitter, or getting the animal settled. Like going on a retreat without ever leaving home.

For the last two weeks, I have enjoyed solitude. Just me and the fur kids, Hanna and Sox. Snowshoeing, yoga, meditation, cooking, and a few fun projects. Love the simple life.

There is not much chance Ken will give up his yearly winter getaway, he is not a big fan of the cold winter weather here in Manitoba. However, I am glad he is willing to go without me. (he organizes group travel so is travelling with over 40 friends, so he has plenty of company) To each his own.

Snowshoeing across the lake

Selfie shadows









Enjoying a hot chocolate in Sheryl’s quinzee


Snowshoeing with sister Sheryl and Kensi

Ken enjoying the sun


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Visiting the Grandkids

January 31, 2018

One of the disadvantages of wood heat is that someone has to feed the fire.  If we both plan to be away for more than one day during the winter, it is necessary to find a house sitter. The last two years we were able to get a friend to house sit for us. This year, I decided I would not travel south with Ken for his annual winter getaway, opting to stay home instead. He is heading to Mexico in February, so I decided to fit in a visit to see the grandkids in January.

Baba and Gigi with baby Nora

Our newest grandchild, Nora, was born last September, and the last time I saw her, she was three days old. By the time we see her again in June, she will be nine months old – no longer a little baby. Ken visited the grandkids in November on his way to a one week site inspection in Mexico. So January was my turn for a little Baba time.



Christopher, Astrid and Emily



I flew into Vancouver and spent the weekend with Christopher, Emily and our 19 month old granddaughter Astrid.  As a bonus, Astrid stayed home from daycare on the Monday for an entire day with Baba.

Astrid is at an interesting age, just beginning to talk and assert herself. She is super cuddly, likes to read books, play with blocks, draw with markers, dance and sing. When you tell her we are going out, she runs and gets your shoes, coat and gear for you and then gets hers too. While I was there she loved to play a dress up game. She would get her coat and get you to help her put in on, then she’d get a sweater and put that on top of the coat, then another sweater, and still another on top of that. As many as she could get on. Too funny. She also liked to put on my boots and try to walk around in them. While Astrid loves to play with toys, her favorite thing is to clean up. After playing blocks for a bit, she wants to put them back in the container. And everything has to go in the right container.

Baba and Astrid

Astrid Swinging



Story Time




















Baba with Jacob and Nora

After my Vancouver visit, I took the Greyhound bus to Kamloops. Now, that is the way to travel the Coquihalla in the winter – no driving worries. I spent ten days visiting with Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora. Nora was almost 4 months and Jacob 27 months.

They had snow when I arrived and Kelsey, Jacob and I had a blast making a snowman. Jacob liked to stand on the stump beside the snowman and jump and knock his hat off – over and over again. As the weather turned colder, we had difficulty getting Jacob outside to play as he hates mitts. But he burned off plenty of energy at the indoor play centers and trampoline parks. Jacob is jabbering full steam now and my favorite was “cold water” and “How ’bout this!!” whenever he wanted something.

Kelsey Jacob and Mr. Snowman

Jacob and his shovel

Playdough fun

Baking Muffins

Jacob feeding the ducks corn

Jacob snow fun with Baba
























Nora is a delightful, contented baby. She gets fussy just before sleep time, but otherwise is bright, alert and cheerful. Its easy to coax a smile or laugh out of her.  She adores her big brother and he amuses her to no end. He loves to snatch her soother from her and sit in her bouncy chair, but she does not mind – yet.


Jacob and Nora








After my Kamloops visit, I took the Greyhound back to Vancouver for another weekend and Monday with Astrid. This time we attempted a snowshoe at Bowen Lookout but had to bail out, it was windy and snowing big fat wet flakes. We opted instead for a hike at Atkinson Lighthouse.

Astrid with Baba and Grammy

Astrid hiking with Baba and Mom

Hiking the easy way, on Daddy’s back

Christopher Emily and Astrid
















I flew back to Winnipeg and then spent a few days in the city before Ken drove in to pick me up. It was a great opportunity visit with Kerry and Megan.  Grandkids Katie and Tyler were super busy with hockey games and practice but I did get to watch one game and have a short visit. I also got a chance to meet up with some friends I have not seen in a while.

And now I am back home again. While I always enjoy time with the kids and grandkids, it is nice to be back with the peace and quiet on the Ponderosa. Ken got the two upstairs storage rooms mudded and taped while I was away. He also did a pretty good job of cleaning up, which I really appreciated. While he is away in Mexico, I plan on painting these rooms and turning them into a meditation room and a kid’s playroom.

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2017 Year in Review

December 29, 2017

Another year over, it seems in a blink of an eye. 2017 was another busy year here at the Ponderosa. And we are pleased to announce …drumroll please…..THE HOUSE IS FINISHED!!!!!!! There are still lots of little projects to do, but the house proper is finished.

The House July 2013

The basement of the house was dug in July 2013. We estimated it would take us three years to finish and I vowed I would not move into the house until it was all done. Ha ha. Turns out it took almost five years and we moved in when it was not much more than a shell. But still I think five years from start to finish is not too bad for two old farts doing most of the work on our own. It’s been exciting to watch the house develop. We learned so much during the process.

Livingroom window seat and cubbies




During 2017, we completed the living room with all of its bookcases and cubbies; and

Upstairs bathroom

the entire upstairs – master bedroom, walk-in closet, bathroom, TV room, dormers, bannister and walkways. We also spent most of the summer working on outdoor projects – an outdoor kitchen, balcony and some landscaping.

Outdoor kitchen









The Porter Family February 2017

Looking back over the year, I am amazed at how much work we managed to get done while spending so much time just having fun. In February, we officially welcomed Megan and her two children, Katie and Tyler, into our family.  Kerry and Megan were married in January in a small ceremony in Winnipeg and had a big wedding in Mexico in February. It was great to spend a week in the sun with all the kids, grandkids, relatives and friends.

Tyler, Jacob, Astrid and Katie

In June, we made our annual trip to BC to visit Christopher, Emily and Astrid in Vancouver and Kelsey, Matt and Jacob in Kamloops. As a bonus, Kelsey and Jacob came back with us and spent an additional two weeks at the Ponderosa. Christopher and a then almost one year old Astrid, came out at the end of June, as well as Kerry, Megan, Katie and Ty, to help celebrate the life of my sister Laverne, who passed away September 2016. In July, I was invited to do a cooking class in Edmonton and took that opportunity to visit with relatives.


Baba and Gigi with baby Nora

In September, we made another trip to BC to visit the kids and welcome another grandchild into the world. Jacob’s little sister, Nora Joyce Aubut, was born on September 24th. Ken paid the kids and grandkids a visit again in November, before heading to Mexico for a week.

Nora 1 day old









Darlene and Ken with Andrea, Cristiana and Stevie and Hanna

In 2017, we also signed up with a program called Workaway, which promotes volunteering, work and cultural exchange around the world. As Workaway hosts, we hosted travellers who were interested in learning more about plant based eating and living off grid. We were lucky to have five fabulous Workaways come stay with us. In exchange for room and board, they worked 20 to 25 hours a week.

Yoga on the deck

Shayan from Great Britain and Charlie from Ontario housesat and took care of Hanna and Sox while we were away on our BC trips. Stevie from New Zealand, and Andrea and Cristiana from Italy helped us with the garden and landscaping. Cristiana led us through our morning yoga routine. We had such fun playing tourist with them as well as cooking and working together. I learned something from each of them, and hope they also learned something from us.

2017 was also time to get back to the books for me. While Ken was busy perfecting his cabinetry skills, I was improving my knowledge of plant based nutrition. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies and eCornell. In April, I received my Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition. I enjoyed the on-line learning method and the lectures from well-known experts in the field. I am an academic at heart and loved learning the science behind the diet.

Cristiana and Stevie filling the woodshed for the winter

With building winding down in 2017, we began getting in the groove of daily living on the Ponderosa. We spent more time gardening, foraging, harvesting, preserving and just enjoying a simple lifestyle out here in the bush. With the help of our Workawayers, we put up a stock of wood for this winter (2017-2018) and have next year’s (2018-2019) already split and drying. And we have started the 2019-2020 pile.



Cabbages growing in net cages

The garden was fabulous this year and we used or preserved pretty much everything it produced. We have a good supply of garden produce stored in the root cellar, canned, frozen and dehydrated, which should take us through most of the winter.

Canned garden preserves





Hothouse with peppers, eggplant and basil

We experimented with different gardening techniques – a mini greenhouse to extend the growing season and netted cages to protect our brassicas from pests. We produced a fabulous crop of sweet peppers and basil in the little greenhouse and grew a great crop of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale under the cages. We cleared more land so that next year we can expand the garden and hope to put up a bigger greenhouse.

We are really enjoying the slower pace of life here at the Ponderosa. Morning and evening walks with Hanna and Sox (yes, our crazy cat Sox loves to come along for walks), snowshoeing the trails during the winter, kayaking and canoeing in the summer, and time for yoga and meditation. Not to forget, time for cooking and baking. This year I ventured more into fermentation – making sour kraut, kim chi, pickles, kombucha, ginger bugs, apple cider vinegar and sour dough bread. There always seems to be more to learn and try.

Do we miss city living? No, definitely not, but there are a few things we miss. Ken misses playing slo pitch and bowling. Poor guy, he only got to play one game of ball this summer. As for me, I miss connecting with friends. I travelled to Winnipeg to host a few plant based cooking classes this year but did not find much time to connect with city friends. Hopefully in 2018 we can both find time for these pursuits again.

From the Ponderosa to you, we send sincere wishes for a wonderful holiday season and peace, health and happiness in 2018.

Posted in Basement, Bathroom, Construction, Decks, Family, Food, Fun, Gardening, Home, Landscaping, Living Room, Outside finishing, Outside living space, upstairs | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Upstairs flooring

December 26, 2017

Loft room floor complete

The last major job to finish was the upstairs flooring and baseboard trim and I am happy to report that it is now complete. Our goal was to have it done by Christmas and we finished on December 23, just in time.

The upstairs of the house has the master bedroom and bathroom, two dormers, two storage rooms and a large open loft that we use as the TV room. After living so long with plywood floors, it is a real treat to have the flooring in.

Master Bedroom

The master bedroom  was completed last spring. The floor in it is prefinished narrow ash hardwood. The bedroom is nice and big enough for a people bed, a dog bed and a cat bed.

The bathroom was completed last month.  The walk in closet , located between the master bedroom and bath, was completed in the spring. The bathroom and closet both have vinyl flooring.


The two dormers have built-in day beds under the window with storage cubbies below the beds. Ken still has to finish off the doors for the storage cupboards and I still need to finish sewing the covers for the day bed mattresses. We also hope to put in sliding barn doors across the front of the dormers so they can be closed off and used as bedrooms for the grandkids (or short guests – the beds are only five feet long) when they visit.

The storage rooms, off the dormers, are drywalled but no other finishing done on them. I plan of tackling them in 2018. They will have vinyl flooring. One of the storage rooms is my meditation room and the other I plan to make into a room for the grandkids’ toys.

loft floor installation

The loft TV room was not in the original house plans; however, the structural engineer did not like where we wanted the outside structural wall to go and suggested we expand to add a loft. We are so glad he suggested it as it turned out to be one of the most used rooms in the house. In the winter, it is warm and cozy with the heat from the wood stove rising, keeping the second floor nice and warm.  In the summer, the windows capture the cool breezes and the room is always comfortable.  Its a great room for relaxing, watching a movie, reading a book, enjoying the view of the lake or doing yoga. Ken has plans to build an entertainment unit for this room.

The floors in the open area of the upstairs – the loft, the walkways and the dormers, are a mixture of hardwoods. The hardwood was bought in small lots off Kijiji, left overs after reno projects.  We looked for lighter colors and ended up with a mixture of maple and birch, some wide boards and some narrow. However, the tongue and groove of all them fit together so we could mix and match. And it was all prefinished so just install and its done. No sanding and finishing thank goodness.


Herringbone corner

Since the area is all open, it was quite a puzzle figuring out how to make it all go together. We decided on a mix of narrow and wide maple, with some birch thrown in as well, for the east walkway. The part of the loft room adjacent to the stairs is also a mix of narrow and wide maple. Where these two meet, Ken did a herringbone joint. The rest of the loft room continues with wide maple. The dormers come off the east walkway and are wide maple which is a bit darker in color. The walkway in front the bedroom and the west windows is all done in narrow maple, meeting in the corner by the door to the outside balcony with another herringbone joint. Considering we used 6 different lots of wood, I think it flows together really well.

The installation was a long process, with so many nooks and crannies. Each of the bannister posts needed to be fitted around. As Ken likes to say “It was tricky”. He did all the installation work.  I was the template girl, making all the templates for the bannister posts, arranging all the hardwood in size order and laying out the rows for installation.

under construction

It is quite a treat to have construction in the house done. I was beginning to consider the pressure tank a permanent fixture in my livingroom.  Hopefully this is the last picture of my livingroom being used as a construction site.

After almost five years of constant construction, I am happy to say the house is pretty much complete. There are lots of little finishing projects, but those are never ending and will always keep us busy. Its been quite a journey!


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Maple Trees

November 19, 2017

Winter is a great time to explore the property as there are many areas that are hard to get to at other times of the year. You can make your way through the bush without all the underbrush and insects bothering you. And you can cross frozen water. We actually chose the house location by tramping the area in the winter.

Today was a beautiful day. Sunny, no wind and only -10C. Since I was not in a hurry to get back inside, Hanna and I went exploring,  snowshoeing across the frozen beaver pond at the south end of the lake. While snowshoeing along, I happened to spy this on the frozen pond – a maple tree seed.

I was curious, how did this seed get here. Maples are not native to this area and the only maple trees I know of where planted by my parents in their yard about 2 miles away.

Investigating, I found more seeds and along the shore of the pond I found maple trees, four to six of them. What an exciting find for me. In the spring of 2016, I tapped some birch trees on the property and made birch syrup, but it is not as tasty as maple.

Maple tree

The trees are not in very good condition, but I am sure with a little love and pruning they will shape up well. They have some pretty interesting shapes and configurations. The trunk of the one below is almost parallel with the ground. I think the grandkids will love climbing on these trees. We a path down to the south end of the lake, but it stops before these trees. We will have to make it a priority to extend the path past them and clean them up before the spring so I can tap them.


How they got here is an interesting question. I believe my Mom planted them. The seeds from the maples on the home property often sprout, forming little trees in Mom’s flower beds, and have to be pulled out.  I am thinking that my Mom took some of those seedlings, planted them here and forgot about them. This spot is where we always came for picnics and camping when we were kids. The beaver pond used to be a meadow and we would drive across the neighbors field to this meadow and camp. (All five of us kids and my Mom sleeping in the back of the station wagon. The lake is just down the hill from here and we would skip stones.) She loved the Ponderosa property and even talked about building a retirement home here.  Maybe she was planning for that. By the time the trees would have gotten big, us kids would have been grown up and there were no more picnics here.

I do wish I could ask my Mom about the trees. On December 19, it will be two years since she passed away. Although I can’t verify the origin of the trees, I believe Mom planted them and will enjoy this wonderful surprise gift from her.

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Upstairs Bathroom Complete

November 14, 2017

Now that winter has arrived in Manitoba, we have time to work on indoor projects – like the upstairs bathroom.

For a long time, we didn’t have an indoor bathroom. Instead we had an outhouse (and still do) and in the summer, used the bath house  (a separate building containing a sink, tub and sauna, see Bath House post here) for washing up. In the winter, we bathed and washed our hair in a basin using snow heated on the wood stove.  Some would wonder why anyone would want to live without such basic necessities as running water and an indoor toilet. However, living with just the mere basics – a washbasin in this case –  gives you a real appreciation about how little you really actually need. Plus it gives you a true appreciation of the luxuries we take for granted. After getting by just fine with a basin, having a fully working bathroom seemed like a real luxury. We completed the main floor bathroom in August 2015 (see Main Floor Bathroom post).

I guess you can say we are slow builders, as two years we have finally finished the upstairs bathroom. But we were not really in a hurry. One bathroom worked just fine for us. Now that the upstairs bathroom is finished, it is nice to have a washroom off the master bedroom.  Not sure why, but I seem to like the color purple for a bathroom. The bathhouse and main floor bathroom are purple, and now the upstairs bathroom is also purple. I love the clean crisp look of the purple against the white trim.

The bathroom features a single sink with a large counter area.  Ken built the cabinet under the sink – 3 drawers and 2 cupboards out of the same rough cut birch that he made the kitchen and living room cabinets from (see Kitchen Update post).

The main floor bathroom has a shower, so we decided on a tub for the upstairs bath. In hindsight, we really did not think through the logistics behind this tub. When are we ever going to have enough hot water to fill this big tub???

In our previous house in the city, we had a large double jet tub that we loved. Every Sunday after coming home from a weekend of working on this property, we enjoyed a long soak in the jet tub while we discussed our progress over the weekend and planned for the next weekend. However, we failed to consider that our water situation would not the same as it was in the city. (see Off Grid Hot Water post)  In the summer, we generally have lots of water from rains, but hot water is limited (water is heated by solar generated electricity). In the winter, we have lots of hot water (as it is heated by a coil in the wood stove) but we are in water conservation mode. Once the fall rains stop and winter freeze-up comes, we need to get through to the spring melt with the water stored in the basement cisterns.  Filling this tub and using the jets will be limited to spring or fall when the cisterns are full, it is raining out and the wood stove is in use. But who is to say you need to have a full tub of water. The tub will be great when the grandkids visit – no more kitchen sink baths, and all three can fit in this tub!

The bathroom has a rather unique construction, with the toilet being separated from the main bathroom area by a wall.  The toilet is a low flush Sealand Traveller toilet which uses about 1 cup of water per flush. It is hooked up, along with the toilet on the main floor, to the central composting unit in the basement. The waste is mixed with sawdust and peatmoss, rotated in the composting drum and composts down to a hummus rich substance that we spread around the fruit trees.

Frodo Baggins house

The bathroom ceiling is sloped, with a high ceiling over the sink area sloping down to about three feet high on the other end. To compensate for the low ceiling, the tub was moved out three feet from the wall and a small storage area was built behind the tub. Its a perfect area to store our suitcases and I am pretty sure the grandkids will love this hiding space. Ken even made a cute hobbit door for it, complete with name plate. The ability to create these little whimsical features while building is what I love the most about this building process.

Since the house does not have a linen closet, we added a wall of shelves for storage. For the shelves, Ken built a bunch of boxes – about 18 inches by 36 inches – which we stacked crate-like on the wall to create shelves. I love the look.

Almost all of the fixtures in the bathroom (and throughout the whole house) we purchased off Kijiji – the Corian sink/countertop, corner jetted tub, sink and tub taps, a large 3 foot by 6 foot mirror, tiles around the sink and tub areas, vinyl flooring, cedar around the tub base, doors, low flush toilet and light fixtures. If you are patient and diligent, you can get some really super deals on great quality items, either lightly used or leftovers from building projects. Most of this stuff was purchased over three years ago, before I retired. I was living in the city so could easily pick up Ken’s finds. However, you do need to either know your stuff or be prepared to trust the sellers. We have gotten burnt on a few items that were either not working properly or missing pieces.  But even with the occasional dud, we saved a bundle buying used and its a good idea to Re-Use rather than buy new.

While it is hard to believe it, we are coming close to finishing this house! Other than a few smaller jobs, basically all that is left is the hardwood floor on the second level. We have finally purchased all the hardwood (yes, on Kijiji – so the floor will be a mixture of different woods) so that will be our next project. However, as in every home, there is always no shortage of projects to undertake. So while the main build will be complete, we still have lots of projects we want to tackle. I have my fingers crossed that the flooring will be in before Christmas.


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Ready for Winter

October 26, 2017


We are ready for winter – rain barrels are emptied, eaves troughs cleaned, equipment put away and wood sheds stocked. And just in time, too. We awoke to a blanket of white this morning and the forecast is for -10C tonight. There is a good chance the snow will disappear tomorrow (fingers crossed!), as the forecast is sunny and +3C. While I would be more than happy with a few more weeks without snow, its nice to know that we are ready when it does decide to stay.

Garden update:

The garden has been put to bed for the winter. After everything was harvested, which was not until mid October this year, Ken tilled the soil. If you remember in the spring, when I planted the garden, I planted in large 5 foot wide beds, with walking rows in-between. I removed the top 6 inches or so of soil off the walking paths and put it onto the garden beds. Then I mulched the paths as well as the beds. As planned, we tilled under the beds only this fall, leaving the walking paths.  We will see how it works in the spring when he tills once again before planting time.

Our expanded garden area is coming along nicely. The Forage Radishes we planted in the space this fall are growing nicely. The roots can grow to 6 feet long, opening up the soil as they grow. I pulled out several of ours and the main root is over 6 inches long, with small roots going even deeper. And they are good to eat too. Hot and spicy. I even pickled some for winter eating and they are delicious.


Instead of hauling off the garden scraps at the end of the year- carrot tops, tomato greens, etc – and making a compost heap that takes years to compost down, I like using the sheet composting method. I leave all the scraps on the garden beds after harvest and then we till them into the soil. I also empty the compost bin directly onto the garden beds as well. The bin is generally full by the fall with kitchen scraps and partially decomposed. It gets tilled into the soil to fully decompose. The soil then has the fall and spring to compost this organic matter. I love this method of composting and found it works well if you have a good tiller. We have a 5 foot wide rototiller that pulls behind our tractor. It does a great job but is not fond of vines – cucumber or squash. They get twisted round the blades then have to be cut off. However, I found if I used the machete and chopped up the vines into 1 or 2 foot sections, the tiller would work them in just fine. By spring most of this organic matter will be decomposed. In the spring, I empty the compost bin with the kitchen scraps accumulated over the winter and this all gets tilled in again. By planting time there are few remnants left, and those left will compost over the summer. Its the lazy man’s compost but it works so well. I rotate my compost bin around the garden each spring and fall to spread the wealth. (If you have pests or disease, you will have to cart away that vegetation to compost elsewhere so it doesn’t spread. ) The only thing we haul off to a separate compost area is the corn and sunflower stalks.

I was using one of those black plastic compost bins for my kitchen scraps, but it got pretty beat up in a wind storm this fall. We are currently brainstorming ideas for constructing a new one.  One that is a little bigger but still easy to empty and move around as I move it each spring and fall.

Fall Planting:

This year I tried a fall planting of spinach, onion and garlic. After the garden was tilled, I planted a section that could be left undisturbed in the spring. After the October long weekend, I planted. Firstly I planted garlic, lots of garlic – some cloves I bought from a market in BC (hope they survive a Manitoba winter!), some cloves I grew myself this year (I planted purchased cloves in the spring and got a couple dozen small heads. I planted the big cloves hoping to multiply my harvest), some cloves that a local garlic grower gave me (Thanks Olive)  and some garlic seed bulbs (from the seed heads that form on the garlic as it grows). The seed bulbs will take 2 years to fully mature. Next summer these bulbs should form large garlic ‘onions’ –  it looks like one large solid garlic, not split into cloves. I plan to dig them up them next summer (August) and store them until the fall. In the fall, you plant the garlic ‘onions’ and the following year they should form large garlic heads. I have been taking lessons from some local garlic growers and am determined to learn to grow great garlic.

I also planted a few ‘Multiplier’ onions. I had some left over from this spring that I forgot to plant and my local source (Olive) told me that she often plants them in the fall for early onions in the spring. I am always willing to try something new!

And I planted spinach. I have tried this before with mixed success. This year I planted two ways – a few small rows that will be within a cold frame and a few rows out in the garden. My plan is early next May I will cover the cold frame with the glass cover (right now only the wood frame is in the garden) and hope that the sun will warm up the soil and the spinach will germinate and come up early. The spinach planted in the garden, I am thinking, should come up a bit later. Then I can plant more spinach when I plant in the spring for a later crop. Spinach loves the cooler weather and my spring planted crop often bolts before it gets a chance to develop well.  This year, I did a second planting of spinach in August and it was just getting nice in October. I got a small harvest off it. I will likely try a late summer planting next year as well and try for a better fall harvest.

Hothouse Update:

Hothouse with peppers, eggplant and basil

The little greenhouse/hothouse Ken built for me this spring worked out really well.  After my transplants – tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc, were planted out in the garden, I planted the peppers, eggplant and basil directly into the soil in the hothouse opening the windows as needed to prevent overheating. The plants loved the hot environment and grew like crazy. I had buried a soaker hose in the soil and kept the hothouse watered through the soaker hose attached to a rain barrel.

Some of the peppers grew right out of the hothouse and the plants had to be trimmed down in order to close the windows. I had a few peppers sunburnt but only a couple. I had a banner harvest, picking a big bowl of red, orange, green and purple peppers. I had planted a couple peppers in the garden and from those I got 1 green pepper. The difference was obvious and I will continue to grow peppers this way in future years. The fruit was large and fleshy – just like store bought, but better!

The eggplant on the west side produced 2 big eggplants. My first ever produced. The one on the east side did not produce. The basil did incredibly well. I was able to have fresh basil early, all summer long and well into October. The last leaves I harvested in late October and froze as pesto. The basil grown in the garden did well for July and August only. We had plenty for fresh eating and I dried some for winter use.


Brassica Cages:

The net cages that Ken made for the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale worked like a charm. I got 4 large cabbage heads, 3 cauliflower, several cuttings of broccoli and tons of kale. I planted kale around the edges of the cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli so that once they were finished producing and were pulled out, the kale could take over the cage. I will do this again next year. I also planted kale in the garden and it produced well early in the year, until August. Then the cabbage butterflies got the best of them and ate them up. Good thing the kale in the cages was doing well by then. We harvested kale right up to mid October when I finally cleaned it all out so that Ken could till the garden under.

Harvest Update:

What a great garden year 2017 was. My best garden to date, and I have been gardening for over 50 years! In most part, I think it was because I finally had time to devote to the garden. With most of the house building done, I had time for mulching, weeding, watering, harvesting and preserving. And we made such good use of the produce. It helps that we had our Workawayers here for part of July, all of August and part of September. These volunteers not only helped in the garden but really appreciated the fresh produce. Everyday we would see what it had to offer and plan our meals around its bounty. And they helped me preserve what we couldn’t eat. Nothing wasted this year.

The basement storage rom is loaded with jars of dill pickles, sauerkraut, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, corn, pickled radish, relish, and apple sauce. As well, I have jars of dried herbs and greens. This winter I am going to try making green smoothies out of dried greens – kale, spinach, beet greens, parsley, nettle, lambs quarters, etc.  Dehydrating is a great way to preserve produce for the winter. I also have dehydrated apple chips, kale chips, rose hips, and mushrooms.


The root cellar has pails of carrots, beets and potatoes. I have difficulty keeping carrots all winter long. The potatoes and beets seem to keep well, but the carrots get mushy. Everyone I asks says they keep theirs in a spare fridge, I luxury I don’t have. Last year I tried storing them in wood ashes, something I have lots of. Not a success. They still got wet and I ended up with wet ashes on them. This year, I am trying sawdust, also something I have lots of. Both the beets and carrots are stored in pails layered with sawdust. So far I like it. Much nicer to dig through than ashes and I can use the pails sawdust after for feeding the central composter for the composting toilets (it gets fed a weekly diet of sawdust and peat moss).

The geraniums are also stored in the root cellar. I bring the geraniums in in the fall and store in the root cellar. In April, I bring them upstairs and start watering them again. By end of May they are ready to go back outside for another season.

Bench seat removed and cover off the dumb waiter

We have a trap door in the front entrance that leads to the root cellar. It has been great for bringing in the produce and getting the geraniums in and out of the root cellar. Open the trap door, hook the hook on the rope onto your pail and lower it down to the person in the root cellar. Unhook the pail and send the hook back up for the next pail. Geranium pots are put into pails to move them up and down. So much easier on your back. A simple dumb waiter.

Our freezer is packed with frozen garden produce as well – corn, snow peas, green beans, kale, green broad beans, local cherries, choke cherries, cranberries, sea buckthorn, raspberries, and strawberries. In fact, our freezers were packed to capacity. We had a small apartment sized chest freezer and the 3 freezer drawers in our Vestfrost fridge. We decided to replace the chest freezer with a larger more efficient one and found a great Danby Premiere Energy Star upright freezer with 8.2 cubic feet of storage. I found boxes to fit on the shelves and you can pack a lot of produce into this baby. The boxes help keep the cold air in when you open the door and allow you to pack a lot more stuff on each shelf. It uses just a touch more electricity than our small chest freezer did, and provides a lot more room. We keep it out in the unheated porch so it doesn’t  run much in the cold weather when power is less abundant. We moved the chest freezer to the garage, and I will be able to freeze more garden produce next year.

I still have some garden produce in the sunroom right now. All my squashes are being stored there while they ripen and harden for storage in the basement. I have some tomatoes still ripening for fresh eating and canning. And I have some late harvest herbs drying.


Although I am sad to say goodbye to the nice fall we were having, its kind of nice to start a new season. We have been working outside since the spring and now its time to concentrate on indoor projects. The upstairs bathroom is next on the list, then the upstairs hardwood floors.

Today was a snow day, our first snowfall of the year. We enjoyed our morning and evening walks, using the bush trails to avoid the brisk north wind. The scenery has changed. No more walking on crunchy leaves.  Hanna (German Sheppard) loves the snow, Sox (the cat) not so much.

The solar panels were covered in ice and snow this morning. Ken cleaned off the snow and although it is cloudy out, there was enough sun to burn off the ice layer and let in a bit of solar power. Not enough to fully charge the batteries but enough to top them off. Today we watch our electricity consumption. Enough for the necessities – fridge and freezers (both in cold rooms so not running much)  and computers LOL,  but not enough for power tools, blenders or electric mixers. However, the local town was without power this morning for over an hour. So while we have to watch our consumption, we still have power.

Today we relax and live simply. The wood stove is on so we have heat and hot water. I mixed up a batch of dough (by hand, no electric dough mixer today) for a nice garlic, olive focaccia bread and made a big pot of Red Lentil, Carrot and Coconut Milk Soup. A pot of Chili Non Carne is simmering on the stove for supper. Life is good.



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