Mini Greenhouse

April 30, 2017

Tomorrow is the first of May, and things are beginning to green up here in Manitoba. The snow has disappeared, the days are getting longer and the temperatures are on the rise. Pretty soon it will be time to put in the garden. But for now, my transplants are still safe and sound in the sunroom.

The LED growlight we purchased seems to be doing a good job, especially for the tomato plants directly below it. However, all the plants seem to be healthier, less spindly than previous years. For next year, we will need to purchase two additional grow lights to ensure they all get enough light. And while they are doing okay in the sunroom, they really need to get out. A greenhouse is in the plans for a few years down the road, but for now we decided to build a mini greenhouse.

My plan for this year was to grow my peppers and eggplant under cover. A couple in town, Ernie and Ann, grew their peppers under a plastic tunnel a couple of years ago and got a bumper crop. Ever since they told me their pepper success story, I have been itching to try it out. I thought we could build a simple plastic covered shelter on the south side of the house. And why not have it double as a mini greenhouse to hold the transplants until they are ready to go into the soil?

The original plans for a simple plastic shelter seem to have gone out the window, since I discovered a stash of old windows. Ken replaced the windows for a friend a few years ago, and kept the old ones. They were perfect for this project – all 24 inches by 24 inches. So, four days later, my simple plastic shelter has become a beautiful work of art.

The greenhouse is 3 feet wide and 11 feet long. The base was made using 2×6 treated lumber, staked in place. An old hose was turned into a soaker hose by drilling holes in it, and is buried a couple of inches below the soil. It will attach to the rain barrel and, I am hoping, water the bed gravity fed. The area in front of the bed will become a shale path later.

The front of the green house is two feet high and the back is three feet high. Ken made sweet window panes for each window by making dado cuts in 2×4’s.

The roof is composed of five separate window panes, each able to open. The frames are as pretty as a picture frame – made out of leftover birch from the kitchen cabinet build and coated with a Behr finish. (The little bed at the east end of the greenhouse is the space left as Ken did not want to cut the 2×12 base board. LOL. I think I will try planting a fennel in that spot. And putting my garden gnome door there too. )

Since the front is only two feet high, I can reach in to do any weeding, planting, watering, etc. The sides – west and east, both have a window pane and a vented top panel to allow air flow. When it gets too hot, some or all of the roof panes can kept propped open with dowels, though I have yet to complete this part of the project.

The forecast for the next few days is warm (around 15C) and cloudy, and the nights are not forecast to go below zero. Should be perfect for transitioning the plants to the greenhouse. Fingers crossed, I will move them out tomorrow – my May 1 celebration!


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Completed Projects – Livingroom and Walk-In Closet

April 5, 2017

At long last, some of our projects have been completed. Back in the beginning of March, I posted an update on the living room and master bedroom progress. The final touches on the living room have now been completed. Funny how those little things like putting the door handles on just never seem to get done.

Livingroom – the big job in the living room was all the built-ins. There are 2 window seats, 3 bookcases, 20 cupboards, and 3 drawers. And after installing the doors on the cupboards, we decided that standard door pulls just did not do the doors justice and we went searching for our own ‘nature art’ door pulls. It was a bit more work, but I think the final product speaks for itself. Its is definitely a one of a kind room.

Here is a close up of a couple of the doors.







In order to speed up the drying of the handles, Ken made use of the warming ovens on the wood cookstove. I often use the warming ovens for dehydrating foods, and in this case, they made the perfect kiln for drying the twig handles.





Above the window seats are two false fronts, on these we put ‘tree art’ we found in the bush.





Finding the ‘tree art’ was an adventure. We tramped into the bush, carrying a ladder, looking for unusual shaped limbs. When I say we, I really mean Ken. Carrying a ladder half a mile through snow is not something I am good at.

When you find that perfect specimen, you climb up and cut it down.





Then you skin it, dry it and mount it.







Included in the living room built-ins are cupboards and drawers built in the space under the stairs. The drawers were finished a while ago but the last two door fronts are now done too. These were a bit tricky (Ken’s favorite expression. LOL) as they are odd shaped. But they turned out pretty awesome.



The bottom cupboard houses the vacuum cleaner and Rhoomba. We have no carpets in the house, but I find the vacuum really handy for cleaning off the mop head after mopping the floors. And the Rhoomba is awesome for cleaning the floors and door mats. I love letting it vacuum the floors while I go for a walk.



The other cupboard is used for dishes for the dining room, which is in the sunroom just to the right of the stairs. The drawers hold dining room linens, cups and glasses.

The big alcove under the stairs currently houses a playpen full of kids toys. The original plan was to put Ken’s juke box in the space, but he still has not got it working after the move. At least when the kids come in June, the toys will be handy and the play pen will be used to block access to the stairs for the little ones.

Walk-In Closet – Off the master bedroom upstairs is a walk-in closet, and it is all done. Wow, after two years my clothes are finally out of suitcases.

The back of the closet has the hot water tank (located above the kitchen wood cookstove, which allows the stove to heat our domestic hot water and use thermosyphoning to circulate the hot water up into the hot water tank without using any electric power) and the stove chimney. The chimney is a Selkirk chimney and does not get hot to touch. You can see it above the closet unit in the picture.

The closet unit is composed of two sections, one for me and one for Ken. Mine has 8 drawers and a small hanging section, plus 3 small shelves. Ken opted for two drawers (on the bottom, you can’t see them in the photo above), 4 large shelves and a larger hanging section. In addition, there is room on top to store totes for out of season stuff. The whole thing is removable, should we ever need to replace the hot water tank. (The tank is a copper lined tank, so rusting out should not be a problem.)

To make the best use of the space, we put in hooks on the wall to hang belts and stuff. And beside the hot water tank and by the door to the bathroom, we put in extra shelves.

So nice to have the closet done. The master bedroom is also done, with all the trim put in and the doors installed.

What’s next? Right now Ken is taking a short break to go watch the Masters Tournament (golf) in Augusta Georgia, but when he returns next week we plan to get serious about finishing the bannister. And maybe putter at the master bathroom and the bookshelves for the small bedroom downstairs. However, spring has arrived in Manitoba so pretty soon the snow will be gone and once the yard dries up we will want to start with outdoor work. We will continue to putter away, but at least we are making progress.








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Garden Expansion

March 20, 2017

Happy First Day of Spring!

Expanded garden

While it may not look like spring here yet, you can definitely feel it in the air. Yesterday was a balmy +6C and the snow banks were melting. Today is cooler and we have cooler weather in the forecast, but I think its safe to say we have seen the last of the -30C temps.

The project sounded simple enough in my head. Just take down a few trees. However, I got a huge surprise when I came outside and found Ken 3/4 through the cutting. We have never clear cut a site before and the sight of it turned my stomach. A mass destruction of about 50 trees! So glad we did not have to clear the site for the house or current garden.

Destruction of over 50 trees to make way for expanded garden

The trees are mostly down now, just a few more to cut. Still have the work of clearing out the branches, cutting and splitting the bigger stuff for firewood, removing the roots and brush and tilling the soil into a usable garden. Ken said he will have it ready for planting this spring. What a dreamer. I expect it will two years from now before it is planted.





And speaking of spring and gardens, I have all my transplants planted and sitting in the sunroom. Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant and herbs. And I have hauled all my geraniums out of the root cellar and they are starting to regrow. We have ordered a LED Grow Light and are expecting it any day. The coating prevents the house from overheating in the summer but it does have its down side – plants don’t grow very well. I am hoping the grow light helps prevent them from getting too spindly. Eventually, we plan to build a greenhouse but for now, other priorities exist.

Day 1 of forcing tulips in water

Nothing says spring like tulips. I planted 50 or so bulbs two years ago in the turnaround. They bloomed last spring and I can’t wait to see them appear this year. However, since they are still under at least a foot of snow, that will not be anytime soon. Sister Sheila picked me up a bag a tulip bulbs on her trip to Amsterdam last November and I cold treated them in the root cellar. I am trying to force them in water using the message found on this link.

Day 10 of forcing tulips in water

So far they are growing well.

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Zero Waste Shopping

March 17, 2017

I was pretty excited to hear about Bulk Barn’s reusable container program. Starting February 24, 2016, you can bring your own containers into Bulk Barn and fill them with the products they sell. I have used a similar service at Vancouver’s The Soap Dispensary and loved it.  This week was my first opportunity to try out Bulk Barn’s new program.

Containers ready for shopping

Before heading to Bulk Barn, please review their Reusable Container Program on their website and make sure your containers meet their standards. Its pretty straight forward – glass or plastic, empty, clean, no rust, no chips, no bags. My containers are labelled because I am using my storage containers, but you don’t have to label them.

When you enter the store, find a cashier and get your containers weighed. They will mark each container with the weight. Then do your shopping. When you check out, the weight of the container will be deducted from the total weight.

Shopping all done.

While the program is pretty straight forward, I was not sure what I would find at the store. The success of this program will depend not only on the shopping public’s desire to reduce waste, but also from the stores attitude to the program.

I was pleasantly surprised at the service I received. There was a line up at the cashier when I entered the store, but when I asked what to do, another employee came out immediately to weigh my containers. While we shopped, the manager came out to speak to us about the program. After shopping, checkout was smooth and seamless.

I would normally price shop a bit, buying the bulk goods wherever I can get the best price. Bulk Barn has very competitive pricing on their products; however, with this new program, I am willing to buy all my bulk goods at their stores just to have zero waste.

It was a real treat to get home and just put my containers away. Normally I would have the job of transferring my purchased from the plastic bags to my containers. Then wiping out the plastic bags and storing them for future use.

A couple of tips:

  • Be sure your containers meet their standards.
  • Take a few extra containers with you for impulse purchases and sale items.
  • Chose containers with wide mouths that are easy to fill using Bulk Barn scoops. (My current container for Tapioca Starch has a narrow mouth and was difficult to fill.)

It is an exciting step forward for a main stream store to offer a Zero-Waste Program. I hope you will utilize it. The more successful this program is, the more likely other stores will be to follow their example. Use your shopping dollars to encourage the change you want to see.


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After the Storm

March 6 & 7 2017

Winter Wonderland

The storm is over and it was a beauty. Snow and winds 6- to 70 km/h ripping across the lake to create a blizzard. It started with above zero temps on Monday (March 6) and rain and quickly the temperatures plummeted creating freezing rain then snow.

Freezing rain and driving snow on the tree trunk

With the high winds the trees got coated in freezing rain on one side. Then the winds switched directions and driving snow covered the other side of the tree. With the drifting, its hard to tell exactly how much snow we got, some areas have been swept completely clear of snow and some have drifts up to four feet. I think we received less than 10 cm. Lucky for us, as areas north are expecting 30 to 60 cm.





The sun come out in all her glory today, making the place look like a winter wonderland. And after over 30 hours of howling winds, the winds have abated. Still windy, about 30 km/h, but the reduction is much appreciated. So thankful for the one foot thick walls in the house which pretty much muffled the constant howling.

One blessing was that the wind cleared off the solar panels. With the blazing sun and cold temps today, we have an abundance of electricity. And no need to climb the scaffold and clear the snow off the panels.




We have started to dig out the many drifts – in front of the doors and garage, and although our driveway faired fairly well, we will wait for the plow to come through before we venture out anywhere. For now, we are content to strap on the snowshoes and wonder down our many sheltered paths within the trees. So nice to be able to put another log on the fire and enjoy nature’s show.




















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Livingroom and Master Bedroom Update

March 7, 2017

Its been a while since I posted an update on the house build. We are back at work after our Mexico break and have a few projects in the works…..but nothing finished. I am a finisher. I like to start and finish a project and then cross it off my list. Ken is a starter. So..lots of projects started, nothing finished. But, we are making progress.

After finishing all the cabinets in the kitchen (Love my 100% finished kitchen. Its a dream come true.), Ken got going on the cabinet doors for the livingroom, and there is a lot of them. 12 bottom doors, 6 top doors and 2 false fronts to complete the west wall with the windows and window seats. Plus 2 weird shape doors for the cabinets under the stairs.

Livingroom west wall – almost done

This is the west wall today. The bookcases between the windows are complete. All the bottom cupboards have doors. Ken finished all except for one that warped bad after construction and needs to be redone.  The top cupboards in all three book cases will also have doors, and over the window seats will be false fronts. I made cozy window seats. The seats are a bit high but super comfy. There are lights above the window seats, so perfect for curling up for a read or looking out the window. Sox, the cat, loves this spot. (We have the vinyl flooring and baseboards stored in the livingroom right now.)

Mater bedroom ceiling, walls and floor done

Then he got sidetracked. Ken C volunteered to come help finish the pine ceiling. Once that was done, Ken decided now that the ceiling in the master bedroom upstairs was done, he’d like to put the hardwood floor. (The hardwood was another Kijiji find from a few years back that has been stored until now) So we mudded, taped, painted and put in the hardwood floor.






Mater bedroom walk in closet floor done

The bedroom still needs the French doors put in and the trim finished, but Ken decided to start the walk-in closet and attached bathroom as well. Finding the perfect piece of vinyl flooring on Kijiji sealed the deal. A great deal and enough for the walk-in closet, master bathroom, both dormer storage rooms and the porch floor. It is the fibreglass backed kind which is wonderful to work with and does not need to be glued down.





Master bathroom ready for vinyl


We had already installed the Enstrom subflooring in the closet and bathroom. It had been sitting on the veranda deck all summer after we finished the cork floor on the main level. With winter on the way, we figured we had better get it inside. Rather than store it, we laid it down. Now we had the vinyl so we installed it. There is still lots of build to do in these two rooms and we know the floor should be last. BUT, we don’t always follow the rules. So the floor is in and we are finishing around it.



Master Bath floor in

Hoping all the drywall will be up soon so that the closet can be taped and mudded. Ken does the mudding and taping, I do the cleanup and painting. He has the closet storage system almost finished but the room needs to be painted before it can be installed. Can’t wait to have a closet. We have most of our clothes still stored in suitcases. Whenever we have a special event, we have to rummage through them to find what we need.




There you have it, are projects started:

  • livingroom – almost done
  • master bedroom – almost done
  • walk-in closet – almost done
  • master bathroom – started
  • bannister – half done – still 2 sides to complete
  • dormers – drywall up
  • dormer storage rooms – drywall up
  • TV room – drywall up (but at least now all the drywall that was stored in here is gone!!)

March 7, 2017 Winter storm raging out my front door

I doubt we will finish these projects finished before the warm weather hits. However, given we are in the midst of a fierce winter storm today, you just never know when old man winter will give in and let spring come in. Once the snow is gone, we will head outside for landscaping. And whatever is not done inside, will just have to wait. However, keeping my fingers crossed that I can have at least one more completed project before spring.

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A Wedding and a Week in Buccerias Mexico

February 8 to 15, 2017



We took a break from building to relax in the sun and celebrate the marriage of Kerry and Megan in sunny Buccerias, Mexico, at the Royal Decameron Resort just outside Puerto Vallarta. We stayed at the same resort last year, returning this year with the entire family. It was a beautiful wedding and a fabulous relaxing vacation. It was mega-grandparent time, spending a week with Jacob, Astrid and our two newest grandchildren, Megan’s children Katie and Tyler. All my siblings also came, so it truly was the ultimate family vacation. The pictures below tell the story.

The Happy Couple, Kerry and Megan

The Happy Couple, Kerry and Megan

The new family, Katie, Kerry, Megan and Tyler

The new family – Katie, Kerry, Megan and Tyler









The wedding party

The wedding party

The Porter Family - Matt, Jacob and Kelsey, Ken and Darlene, Tyler, Katie, Kerry and Megan, Emily, Christopher and Astrid

The Porter Family – Matt, Jacob and Kelsey, Ken and Darlene, Tyler, Katie, Kerry and Megan, Emily, Christopher and Astrid

The whole family - Matt, Kelsey and Jacob; Dennis; Ken and Darlene; Beth; Tyler, Katie, Kerry and Megan; Sheila; Sheryl, Pat and Glenn; Christopher, Emily and Astrid

The whole family – Matt, Kelsey and Jacob; brother-in-law Dennis; Ken and Darlene; Cousin Beth; Tyler, Katie, Kerry and Megan; sister Sheila; sister Sheryl, Pat and brother Glenn; Christopher, Emily and Astrid

Jacob, the cutest little ring bearer ever, even if he would not keep the hat on.

Jacob, the cutest little ring bearer ever, even if he would not keep the hat on.

Kerry and her mothers, Darlene and Wendy

Kerry and her mothers, Darlene and Wendy

Ken, Kerry and Darlene

Ken, Kerry and Darlene

Jacob playing in the sand during the ceremony

Jacob playing in the sand during the ceremony

Jacob playing with the lighted balls at the reception

Jacob playing with the lighted balls at the reception

Reception on the grass at the Royal Decameron, Buccerias, Mexico

Reception on the grass at the Royal Decameron, Buccerias, Mexico



Baba Darlene with Astrid and Jacob

Baba Darlene with Astrid and Jacob

The Aubut Family - Kelsey, Jacob and Matt

The Aubut Family – Kelsey, Jacob and Matt

The Porters - Christopher, Emily and Astrid

The Porters – Christopher, Emily and Astrid


Love on the Beach

Love on the Beach


Fun in the Pool - Emily and Astrid

Fun in the Pool – Emily and Astrid

Fun in the Pool - Kelsey and Jacob

Fun in the Pool – Kelsey and Jacob

Fun in the sand - Jacob and Digo

Fun in the sand – Jacob and Digo

Boogie Boarding Fun - Katie

Boogie Boarding Fun – Katie

Boogie Boarding Fun - Tyler

Boogie Boarding Fun – Tyler

Time with the siblings

Time with the siblings

Surfs up - Boogie Boarders Extrodonaire - sister Sheila, cousin Beth and sister Sheryl

Surfs up – Boogie Boarders Extraordinaire – sister Sheila, cousin Beth and sister Sheryl

Relaxing by the pool -Brother Glenn and wife Pat

Relaxing by the pool -Brother Glenn and wife Pat

One too many buffets for Glenn

One too many buffets for Glenn

A puddle is all Jacob needs to have fun

A puddle is all Jacob needs to have fun

Or some sand and a pail

Or some sand and a pail










What a cutie - Astrid

What a cutie – Astrid

Tyler fancy jumping in the pool

Tyler fancy jumping in the pool

Tyler gets some air

Tyler gets some air

Aubut family on the beach - Kelsey, upside down Jacob and Matt

Aubut family on the beach – Kelsey, upside down Jacob and Matt

The Porters introducing Astrid to the ocean - Emily, Astrid and Christopher

The Porters introducing Astrid to the ocean – Emily, Astrid and Christopher

Baba Darlene and Astrid

Baba Darlene and Astrid

Gido Ken and Jacob

Gido Ken and Jacob

Tyler constructing mega castles in the sand

Tyler constructing mega castles in the sand

Sun protection suit - cutest dragon

Sun protection suit – cutest dragon

Katie and Tyler climbing trees

Katie and Tyler climbing trees

Darlene and Ken celebrating Valentine's Day with Cupid

Darlene and Ken celebrating Valentine’s Day with Cupid

Baby sitter in training - Katie with Jacob

Baby sitter in training – Katie with Jacob

Katie with Astrid

Katie with Astrid

Sunsets on another perfect family vacation

Sunsets on another perfect family vacation








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