Sunday, December 31, 2006

Showers of showers!

I have never known such convenience before! A house with four showers. One over the dining room table, one in the bathroom (astonishing!), one in the cupboard where the dishes live (get a footstool and climb right in) and the best one, right over my bed! Sleep and shower at the same time, what a concept! Jump from bed already fresh and dewy for the day.

Could someone please just turn the faucet off? This is supposed to be the northern end of the Sonoran desert after all, and all it's done for the past two months is rain or snow, both inside and outside. Well, it hasn't snowed inside, but it's definitely rained.

It's easy to fix, assuming the temperature is a minimum of 54 degrees F. and DRY for 72 hours straight. Can anyone say April? Until then we live with the occasional unscheduled shower.

It's New Year's Eve, the 42nd anniversary of when Tony and I met. He was the blind date for my tall friend, who took one look at him and another at the tall guy who was supposed to be my date, and said, "You get the short one." I did, and still have him all these happy years later.

This will be a quiet New Year's Eve, as he has an abscessed tooth and is not feeling all that chipper, and we're not party animals anyway. There's a party in the clubhouse to welcome in 2007, but it will probably arrive without us being there. Last night was one of those occasional nights when I slept only a couple of hours, from 7:00 to 9:00 am. So tonight I will probably be well asleep by midnight.

Happy 2007!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Musings on Catmus

To steal blatantly and without shame from the younger son's holiday greeting:

Ah Catmas! The day when we celebrate the rule of our supreme feline overlords (which, strangely, coincides with the day when those of a Christian bent in their holidays celebrate the day that the baby Jesus created capitalism).

Attached is an artistic representation of a mighty feline ruler, wearing a festive and seasonal headdress. The red felt top is a symbolic representation of the rivers of blood that will flow from humans who disobey their feline overlords, while the green band symbolizes the gangrene that will infect the wounds soon after. Note the peaceful expression on the overlord's divine countenance as it contemplates this punishment.

The naughty feline overlord of this household awakened us repeatedly last night. Oh what a bad boy he was. My patience fled at awakening number nine or ten and the fearsome fly swat was taken off the peg and applied to his furry bum.

"Ha!" the overlord taunted with a hiss and slashing claw, "A fly swat is as nothing to my well-padded and thickly-furred rear end! I laugh at your paltry fly swat! My old auntie resisted stronger and more adeptly wielded fly swats than that flimsy thing."

But after his macho display he did go lie down and eventually he must have gone to sleep. He's been as chirpy and sprightly as a sparrow all day. We on the other hand have dragged ourselves from our couches only with great effort and a fair amount of prodding.

All I have wanted today was to try and recover from the last few days. I swear every year that next year I will not let Christmas (or Catmus!) get the better of me. Every year I fail miserably.

But what a merry Catmus we've had. The young members of the family arrived Friday and Saturday. We have laughed and talked and cooked and eaten non-stop since. I feel like a stuffed turkey myself.

Christmas Eve we had Tex-Mex food; Enchiladas, tamales, mole negro, refried beans, Spanish rice, guacamole and tortilla chips. I ate more than I ought to have.

What was in the stockings yesterday morning but chocolate, of the most divine and compelling kind? Oh dear.

Then, at 5:00 yesterday we had the park's community Christmas dinner, which was delicious beyond belief. Even a tiny spoonful of half the dishes filled my plate (and me) to the groaning point. I was too full to even look at dessert. Today we had leftovers. I may just blow up and leave messy blobs on the walls.

God grant me the resolve to eat celery the next few days, and only celery! After we've eaten all the holiday leftovers, dieting is in order. Otherwise they'll have to cut me out of the trailer.

Right now I am soooo tired. I'd like to sleep about a week, and not cook, or eat. And Tinpalace? She threw a tantrum Christmas Eve and her water pressure went up to 80 psi again.

I am not calling Gary on Christmas Eve, but I could hardly go without water, so I am being an anti-enviromentalist and letting the sink tap in the bathroom drip. The drip is just enough to keep the psi in the system down to 65. This regulator number three in a week. Why can't she just accept that Gary's not for her and fall for the Winnebago next door?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Forever a Captive

Okay, now this is just getting ridiculous.

Gary replaced our water pressure regulator on Wednesday. It worked fine then, but by yesterday morning the water pressure was down to a match-stick sized trickle. It took 45 minutes to fill the sink to wash dishes. I left the water running and went off to read, would come back to check occasionally. This would not do.

Gaaaaarrrrryyyyyy!! Is it possible we have a bum regulator? Yes, he said he buys them a dozen at a time and the occasional one doesn't work properly. He said he'd be by about 3:00. And so he was. He replaced the regulator and made sure we had adequate water pressure, and was away, but Tinpalace got her daily Gary fix. He's going on a cruise in January. She'd best suck it up, because she's not going to see him for at least two weeks, no matter what tantrums she pulls.

At about 9:30 - 10:00 pm Mandy, Zak, and their friends Racheal and Ben arrived. The road was pretty messy and Mandy hadn't ever driven on such a long trip before, so they were as taut as violin strings.

However a round of hugs and kisses helped. My, I'd forgotten how tall our kids are! They almost graze the ceiling in here. But we had a wonderful visit, all piled onto the bunks in the back, curled, propped, wrapped in each other's arms.

About 10:30 I cooked up a huge pot of tortellini and a pot of vegies and we enjoyed a meal together. Six for dinner is a bit of a stretch here, but no one seemed to mind. We've made plans to go to town this morning for breakfast, but it may be lunch time by the time we all get mobile.

In the meantime my worry spinner is active, since Ian is driving from Calgary today and the roads are bad. It's snowing pretty vigorously here, which means it will really be coming down in the passes. I hope there are no slides, accidents etc. to block the way, and that he is safely here before dark. I will worry about him all day, as I worried about Zak and Mandy yesterday.

When I was pregnant with Ian an older friend said, "Sleep now, because never again in your life will you sleep entirely without care. Before you sleep you will always think first about the safety of your children."

When Ian was about two Tony worked the day shift at the airport. One evening a colleague was sick and Tony was asked to cover his shift. This meant he wouldn't be home until about 2:00 am. Before I went to bed I locked up, and without thinking put the chain on the door. At about 2:30 I came bolt upright, roused by a little voice calling, "Mama, Mama?"

I threw back the covers and heard my poor husband say through the open window, "Please come and let me in. I have been knocking on the door, ringing the bell, knocking on the window and calling your name for 10 minutes, but I simply could not wake you up. Then I thought that all Ian has to do is squeak and you are awake and out of bed in a flash, so I imitated him as closely as I could and called, 'Mama, Mama?' ".

He was a bit disgruntled that I'd slept through his best efforts to wake me, but that I woke in an instant when the baby called. But that's motherhood for you. From the minute you look in those inscrutable little eyes you are forever captive.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Forget Santa!

The last few days running (no pun intended) up to Christmas will be busy ones. Yesterday we did "town" things. Today I clean house (that will take an hour) and cook. The snowbirds get together for a big meal together on Christmas day. It's planned, so we all know what we are bringing.

My contribution is to roast one of the turkeys. We have between 35-40 people coming so we need three or four turkeys, plus a ham. Each will be cooked by a different person. Doing a turkey means doing dressing as well, and gravy. Since I can't get a turkey into my boot-box sized oven, Zak will bone our turkey and turn it into a turkey roast.

In addition, I am bringing candied yams, homemade tamales and mole negro (moh-lay neh-grow). I make mole once a year, for the Christmas turkey, and to top the tamales. It's a complex, rich blend of flavours which I simply have to have from time to time. I used to seek out and grind the peppers, now I go the easy route and simply use chili powder. Mole is not hard to make, it freezes well and makes chicken or turkey into a meal fit for a king. Mole was once the official court dish of the Aztecs and was served only to the king, male nobility and the high priest.

Drummm rolll please!

Recipe for Mole Negro:

1/4 c. ground chili powder
1 can diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic
2 pieces of toasted bread, diced
1 c. blanched almonds
1/4 c non-hydrogenated smooth-style peanut butter
1/2 c raisins
4 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp. Five-spice powder (Chinese section)
1/2 c butter
2 squares bakers chocolate
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
stock or water

Place chili powder in bowl with two cups hot water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Using chili/water mixture, process onions, garlic, tomatoes and toast in blender until it forms a paste. Do this in two lots if necessary. Place paste in bowl.

In blender, process almonds, raisins, the sesame seeds, the peanut butter and the five-spice powder into a paste. Mix throughly with the chili paste.

In a large heavy saucepan melt the butter and then add the chili paste, stirring it constantly, until the onions no longer smell raw. Add the chocolate squares, salt and sugar. Stir as the chocolate melts into the sauce. Dilute the mole if necessary, to the consistency of heavy cream. Cook for 20 minutes over very low heat.


I was delighted yesterday to find corn tortillas in the market! I hadn't been able to buy corn tortillas in Calgary in ages, though you had to leap over great displays of flour tortillas in practically every aisle. (Okay, so I exaggerate a little, but it makes the story more interesting doncha think?)

Anyway, I bought corn tortillas and will feed my kids a real Tex-Mex feast while they are here. Tamales, mole negro, enchiladas, Spanish rice, refried beans, tortillas, salsa and guacamole. (Oops, forgot sour cream for the guacamole, well, I'll get one of them to go to town and buy some.)

We came home after shopping yesterday, gave the cat a short walk, put the perishable groceries away and quickly trundled down to the clubhouse for the snowbirds Christmas party. It was fun, with a gift exchange and a snacks "potluck". We had a really good time, laughing and talking with our lovely neighbours.

Now, the anticipation begins. Forget Santa, I'm waiting for our kids to arrive. Can't wait to see them all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Egg and the Universe

When we left our heroine on Monday she was moaning about the slow and inept service provided by She had ordered books on December 4th, paid priority shipping, and then was stunned to learn (violin music please) that said Amazon had not even mailed the books until the 17th of December.

Fear ran rampant that said books would not reach End-of-the-Roadville BC until after Christmas, and so she complained mightily and with unusual vigor in her blog, knowing full well that complaining publicly always backfires.

Today the backfire. The notice arrived yesterday afternoon, allowing me an entire day's grace to pick the books up, and even time to wrap them, if I work fast.

The universe hurls egg at me, as usual.

But my cunning plan worked. Books are in hand.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Trailer Soap - Today's Episode

I filled the sink and was happily washing the brekkie dishes this morning when I glanced at the water pressure gauge, which is right by the sink taps. It read an alarming 80 psi and rising! ACK ACK ACK!!!

It's not supposed to be over 60, but ours has always been a little high, and sits regularly at 72. My panic bells began to ring as it climbed toward 90! I turned on the water and yelled at Tony to go outside and turn off the water supply. If we burst a water hose under the trailer in this weather our bank account will be very very sorry indeed.

He turned off the water supply, no easy job, considering that it's wrapped in heat tape, insulation and plastic sheeting. Then we sat and thunk. The regulator valve is a doo-hickey which attaches to the intake port, and reduces the high psi water supply to a safe level for the pressurized trailer system. Without the regulator you can blow pipes, water heater, water tank.... it's too frightening even to think of.

But we have a new regulator, put on in September. I kicked the trailer's closet and called Gary. Do regulators fail? Yes, he said, frequently after extreme cold spells. He has one in the truck, and he's coming to fix the oven this afternoon anyway, so he will attend to it then.

So, he replaced the regulator and fixed the oven. Then we followed SMMs advice and told Tinpalace, with Gary here, that he is a married man and sees many RVs besides her.

Her response? She plopped a huge drip right on his head, a small stream actually. (Trailer tears?) No, just a leak we hadn't discovered before, but strategically timed and placed. We emptied the cupboards above the sink to find that a seam at the edge is leaking, and has obviously been doing so for some time, quietly and with malice aforethought. Waiting until we put our foot down, as it were.

We gave Gary a cheque. He laughed, patted Tinpalace and said, with a knowing smile, "I'll be back in the park tomorrow."

I think she tossed her head.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tinpalace loves Gary

If you recall, Gary the RV repair man was here last Thursday to look at my non-functioning oven. He ordered the part he needed to fix it while he was here, but the part seems to be lost in limbo. They are trying to track it down.

In the meantime the furnace blew out during last Wednesday's windstorm, but it had always been "easy" to re-light before. Easy compared to a frontal assault on Everest in February. It's anything but easy, but we had always managed to get it re-lit before.

We've had reasonably warm weather in the days since it blew out, never below -10. Our panel heaters have kept us plenty warm. But we had a chilling thought this morning.

What if the furnace requires a replacement part, or (horrors) replacing? It might be something that takes a number of days to get done and Christmas is bearing down on us, with the associated houseful of guests and activities. If it turns cold we could be hooped.

So I called Gary this morning. He said he'd drop by this afternoon and look at our furnace. He arrived right after lunch, looked the furnace over and had it lit in two minutes flat. It's NEVER lit in less than five or six minutes for us, and I have lain on the floor for up to 20 minutes at a time trying to re-light it several times in the last few days.

This confirms my worst fears. I have to do something to cool Ms. Tinpalace's ardor for him. I thought a good kick to her cabinetry was in order once he left. A cold shower obviously doesn't work, because she's sat in the rain and snow for the last three or four weeks without any abatement in her desire to have him for her very own.

Anyone with suggestions as how to redirect a trailer's ardor let me know. If she could fixate on one of the neighbours that would be fine. None of them charge for their time, and one is even a bachelor. Admittedly he's 82, but he doesn't look a day over 72. He's quite a good-looking man, even if he is 82, and he's awfully nice. He's come for a couple of meals, and you'd think she'd have taken notice.

Maybe Tinpalace feels the same kind of adulation and hero worship for the repairman that an adolescent feels for her family doctor, especially after he fixes her sore throat or broken toe and comforts her in his detached but well-practiced manner.

Excuse me while I go out to kick her tires and take the hammer to her hitch. There has to be some way to knock sense into her - she's no teenager, at 32 she's practically a dowager, though admittedly one with many replacement parts!

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Cunning Plan

I have learned that all I need to do to make things work out right when I'm not satisfied with a product or service is complain - loudly. Now, this does not work in the way you may be imagining. I do not complain to the company, no, I go right to the heart of the matter and complain to:
1) My long-suffering husband,
2) my children,
3) my friends,
4) people in line with me at the supermarket,
5) anyone within earshot, like people in the parking lot at the mall.

The homeless guy who busks at the door of the supermarket will listen to me bellyache for half an hour for five bucks. Is it any wonder people get this "cornered animal" look when they see me bearing down on them, complaint at the ready?

Everyone is cleverly eluding me at the moment, and I have hatched up a plot which absolutely requires that I complain to someone, so trusty blog reader, you get to be part of my cunning plan.

I am so aggravated with that I could spit! I ordered several books from them on Dec 4th, to give as Christmas gifts. I was careful to choose only books which were in stock. I paid priority shipping, in order to speed things along. (I want to have time to wrap them after all.)

The Amazon site cheerfully chirped, "Lots of time for Christmas delivery", (the ordering date for delivery by the 22nd was the 16th) but warned that using their FREE delivery might result in a delay. That's why I paid the $25.00 priority shipping.

This is the 18th of December and my order was delivered by Amazon to the post office in Toronto yesterday at 3:00 pm. Toronto, a mere 3000 miles away. It took them 13 days to get the books from their shelves to the post office. This is priority?? Someone get them a dictionary!

You tell me how the post office is going to get it from Tronna to here by Wednesday! And it has to be here by Wednesday because our PO doesn't deliver parcels to rural routes. You have to go to town to pick it up. That means the PO has to get the parcel, send out a notice (the next day) which I will get after the PO closes, and then I have to get to town to pick it up. If it's not here by Wednesday I get the notice too late to get the package until after Christmas Day.

I sneer at Amazon's customer service. I revile them! I rebuke their lying website!! I regret paying for priority shipping!!! If I do not have those books in hand by the 22nd they will be refunding my priority shipping charge or I will round up the Knights who say Nee and we will mount an assault!!!

Now, by having kicked up such a lot of dust in front of such a lot of people, the universe will do its usual thing and make a big fool out of me by plopping the parcel into my hands by Friday, maybe even a day or two early.

Come on universe! I'm counting on you to make me eat my words - as you have done so often in the past. The only way to do that is get those books here on time! Then I'll be chagrined to have been so cranky and cantankerous. I'll look at my shoes and mumble when I type my blog, and I won't look my friends and family (or the homeless guy) in the eye until March. Small price!

Note to universe: I hope this plan isn't too cocky, I don't mean to be cocky. Just make a fool of me in the usual way. I'm really not expecting any special treatment, just treat me like you always do.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who Knew a Trailer Could Fall in Love?

It's been a busy few days, not necessarily intentionally. I think the Tinpalace has a crush on our RV repair man. She keeps finding ways to lure him back.

The ladie's coffee group is having a cookie exchange at our meeting next Monday morning. I decided a couple of days ago that I needed to get in gear and get my six dozen cookies baked. We have a nifty little stove. Three burners up on top, and an oven the size of a bread box. I have used the burners almost daily since we arrived, but have never once lit the oven. I use the microwave, as I know using the oven will turn the tinpalace into a slighter larger oven.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The pilot light lit right away but the oven itself wouldn't light. Hmmmmm. GARRRRYYYYYYY! He came just as I was changing from my jammies yesterday morning and after taking all the bits apart discovered that the tiny jet the gas feeds through from the pilot to under the thermocoupler was plugged. If you hold a flame under the right spot the oven lights right up, but goes out as soon as that flame is moved away. Couldn't get the jet unplugged so he called and ordered a replacement and will be back next week. I bought six dozen cookies today. sigh

In the meantime, we had a heck of a storm a couple of days ago. Terrific winds, and another snowfall. Flakes as big as silver dollars, never seen the like of that before and I've seen plenty of snow. At some point during this storm the wind blew out the pilot light on the furnace. It is a witch to light, you have to lay on the floor, hold a button in at a very awkward angle for six or eight minutes, hold your mouth right, pray, call on the spirits of your ancestors, promise never to think another bad thought as long as you live, swear to do charitable deeds, wear sackcloth and ashes .... and then it lights. Or it always has in the past.

Not this time. I've tried to light the thing for two days and can not get it to catch. Don't know why, the glow plug is heating up, but that's as far as my understanding of how furnaces work goes. GARRRRYYYYYY!!!!! Thankfully we have two very efficient panel heaters and a small electric heater with a fan that keeps the air circulating. It got down to -8 last night, but we never dropped below 70 d F. inside. We're probably fine to -15, but then I'd start to worry about the pipes under the floor. Gary is going off on holidays after Christmas, gotta get this fixed before he goes.

Last night was "Light-Up" in Oliver. They close down the main drag, there's street dancing, games, food, caroling, a visit from Santa and to close, a fireworks display. I thought, since Oliver has all of 4000 people, that the fireworks display would be six Roman candles and a firecracker, but the display was spectacular, as good as the Stampede's fireworks! We enjoyed watching from a perfect vantage point, looking out our side window. Tony didn't even sit up.

Two of the fellows get up early one morning a month and make breakfast for everyone in the park who wants to come; pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages and coffee. This was the morning, so we started the day by sharing breakfast with most of the people in the park, including our newest neighbours Des and Carol. What a nice couple! We've really got wonderful people around us. It's so much fun being here.

Even though it was crisp outside today it was sunny. Love to see that sun! By noon we were on our way to town with the laundry, and while Tony watched the clothes go round and round I ran to the grocery store for cookies and to the pharmacy to get disc one of Handel's Messiah to complete the set. Once we had the clothes folded we had lunch in town and then came home to put clothes and groceries away. A very productive day!

Now it's 3:15 and the sun has disappeared behind the mountain to the west. I have to take the tinpalace behind the woodshed and talk to her about the facts of life. Mostly financial facts. Gary's a perfectly nice man, but she has to understand that she's fallen for someone who charges for his time, and that means tears before bedtime, unless she has some cunning plan for making her own money.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Salvadeer the Ham

When you see cats dressed like this you know Christmas is at hand!

There's nothing like ham dressed in cat skin. He was going to shake these felt antlers off, and had already done so several times, till he saw me get the camera out. Then he smiled and held very still - until I had time to take a number of Salvadeer pictures. Any one need a movie extra?

We had a sunny day today! Blue sky! You've no idea how exciting this is until you've not seen the sun in two or three weeks. The downpour we've endured the past two days has melted the snow so Sal and I took advantage of the weather and had a nice walk. He was one happy cat!

Then we (the human we) went to town and shopped. I found a CD of one of my favorite pieces of music, Handel's Messiah. But, duh, I was so concerned that I was getting the entire thing that I only bought disc two. Honestly, guess my brain was off in the chocolate aisle, moaning like a sick cow over forbidden fruit. I'll have to go back and buy disc one.

At first I couldn't understand where the first half went. I put the disc on and got busy putting away my groceries. When I looked up and "came to" the dead were already being raised incorruptible without benefit of so much as an overture! I thought I'd gotten so engrossed with stacking cans of beans and tomatoes that I've missed the whole thing till I grabbed the cover. Sigh..... Zen and I part ways so many times during a day that it's embarrassing.

There will be a point in the next few days, after I buy disc one, when I will sit down and listen to the entire oratorio with entire concentration. It's a sublime mediation and never fails to fill me with inexplicable joy and deep contentment.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Complaints Choir

On a cold winter day in Helsinki Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen fell into a discussion of how the huge amount of energy people put into complaining could be channeled into something else. In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression "Valituskuoro". It means "Complaints Choir" and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen said to each other:

"Wouldn't it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir?"

Thus was born the idea of the Complaints Choir. Listen to the Birmingham Complaints Choir by following the "video" link on their entry. You won't be disappointed. You will be wiping tears away, and you'll probably be singing their song yourself before long, the chorus of which goes:

"I want my money back,
My job's a cul-de-sac
And the bus is too infrequent at 6:30
Why don't they pay me more?
Life was good before
And I'm thirsty....."

When I got an e-mail today from Ian saying he is cleaning house and taking boxes to the thrift shop and garbage (presumably boxes of MY stuff) I was inspired to write my own complaining song. I'm going to shamelessly steal both the meter and tune of the Birmingham Complaint Song.

Tune up: lalalalalala, now all together!

Old Folks' Complaining Song!

I live on a pension cheque,
I've got a sore, stiff neck.
And my rotten kids threw all my treasured stuff out.
I think I'm going blind,
I have misplaced my mind,
And I smell bad.

Getting old ain't fun.
I should have cut and run,
When I was fifty.
Our health care sucks for sure,
No doctor's found a cure for being cranky.

The trailer roof still leaks,
My knees and elbows creak,
And what hair I've got has gone all grey and mousey.
My bowels are slow to move,
And I have lost my groove.
I need a walker.

Getting old ain't fun.
I should have cut and run,
When I was fifty.
Our health care sucks for sure,
No doctor's found a cure for being cranky.

The bus steps are too high,
The sidewalk's never dry,
And the clothes these days are just too damn revealing.
The music is too loud.
I'd like a smaller crowd,
And my head hurts.

The pace of life's too fast,
Viagra doesn't last,
And my toenails are too far away to cut them.
They charge for what was free,
Can't sleep - I need to pee.
No one listens to my stories.

Getting old ain't fun.
I should have cut and run,
When I was fifty.
Our health care sucks for sure,
No doctor's found a cure for being cranky.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Quietly Filled

We are cups,
constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over
and let the beautiful stuff out. 
- Ray Bradbury

The temperature is 1.1 C!! It is not-freezing for the first time in at least a couple of weeks. All the old-timers are saying that it's never been this cold this early, or for this long. But, aside from a frozen septic line we survived quite comfortably, despite -20 temps and bitterly cold winds of up to 50 kmh. We have been warm and comfortable inside.

With two and a half weeks left to Christmas we are preparing to welcome our kids and friends, and we're looking forward to enjoying the food and festivities of the season. The tree is up (all 18" of it). It's loaded with one string of lights, and hung with tiny toys and ornaments the boys made when they were small.

The cat is fascinated with the tree lights. He can't believe his eyes when they go off, and he's amazed when they come back on. As far as he's concerned it's magic.

This time of year usually makes me pensive and a bit sad, but this year I haven't struggled with that. It may be because we have so many windows that there's not much chance of light deprivation. It may be because we have many more social contacts here, or that we have the satisfaction of being independent for the first time in years. A deepening meditative experience is also helping me keep my emotions on an even keel.

But then, who could be sad? The mountains are covered with snow, the air is full of the sound of wings and bird conversations, from the Fee-Bee of the chickadees to the honking of the neighbourhood Canada geese. They fly back and forth twice a day, honking like New York cabbies. The quail cluck and do a little "half-crow", much like chickens. They scratch industriously in the snow for seeds and fuss over blades of grass. A crow flew overhead yesterday and panicked the quail. They must have thought the crow was the hawk who hangs around, picking off a bird or two every day. In their blind panic the quail flew into the windows, into the side of the trailer, into the front of truck. The hawk need not hunt, all he need do is wait for one of those foolish quail to knock itself out.

It's been a time of being filled...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Going to Seed

You've no idea how much I am enjoying my new bird feeder, though you are probably getting tired of me chuntering on about it endlessly. But I am really enjoying it! (Did I just say that twice? Guess I did.)

Today's new visitors were a pair of magnolia warblers, wee little things, smaller and sleeker than a sparrow, with brilliant yellow breasts and heads and black and white wing bars. They have a lovely song.

At one point the yellow warblers and the hoary redpolls, with their deep pink caps and breasts, were at the feeder at the same time. With a handful of natty little slate coloured juncos as counterpoint it was a pretty color combination, made all the more attractive by their darting movements and bright eyes.

We got a chuckle out of two quail this morning. They were standing beak to beak, then hopped up to bump their chests together repeatedly. Maybe this is a courting ritual, or maybe they were having quail fisticuffs, but it was highly amusing to watch.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Book Tag

For a bibliophile and book publisher this game is close to heaven! I got the idea from Susan and send my thanks!

Book Tag:
The rules are: Grab the book closest to you - Open to page 123 - Scroll down to the 5th sentence - Post the text of next three sentences on your blog - Name of the book and the author - Tag three people.

The closest book is: Birds of North America. Well, that doesn't even have paragraphs. Next; one from my own press, You, Me and Myasthenia Gravis; Third Edition. Dear, dear, page 123 has a table listing medications. Okay, third book wins:

"In the morning after breakfast he started back to the village, and when he passed the site where he had left the float camp he sounded the whistle and the Scottish granny and the children rushed out of the house to wave and call to him. After that he saw no one: he passed no boat." I Heard The Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven

BTW, this is one of my favorite books and is literally falling into pieces from being read, read and reread. Like a four-year-old I love a familiar story and read my favorite books time and time again.

I tag: SMM; and Mandy;. Okay I know it says three but my blogging circle is small....

Two Beautiful Words

Two of the most beautiful words in the English language are "working toilet".

Gary the RV guy came yesterday. I had just fussed around with the system enough to find out that our dump line (4" diameter and 20 feet long) was full of uhhhh.... effluent and frozen solid. Together Gary and I removed the full, frozen hose. It shattered into shards of blue plastic in our hands, leaving us holding cores of uh.... best not say.

We then wrapped heat cable around the new hose, wound heat cable up around the dump valves and against the bottom of the septic tank, hooked it all up and wrapped everything in styrofoam or fibreglass. The trouble light went back in under the tank and we closed the skirt up again.

This took a good hour and a half, and it was dam*ed cold disgusting work, but it paid off. Gary is going to the Caribbean next month and today we have a working toilet. sigh Such a simple thing. A tank, a hose, a little valve you open, a little avacado green toadstool of a thing in the bathroom. Three steps away.

On another subject Salvador has decided that walking on frozen snow is not so bad, though he is ready to come home after 10 minutes, rather than the 45 he took before. He's now lying on the table bird-watching. Once we get a sunny day I'll try to get pictures of some of our feathered visitors. I tried but it's so overcast every bird appears grey in the resulting pictures. Not worth the battery juice and effort.

Think I'll just go LOOK at the toilet. Admire it. Pat it approvingly. Sweet talk it. "Nice toidy, lovely avacado green toidy, sorry I said you were horrid and ugly before, I was in a bad mood and my chakra was in a knot. I really do love you."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Surmounting Cabin Fever

Our new bird feeder is providing excitement and entertainment for the cat, oh and me too of course. As I said before the first birds arrived two minutes after I hung the feeder in the apple tree eight feet or so from the front door. In two days the birds sighted at the feeder include a red-shafted flicker, dozens of slate juncos and hoary redpolls, several chickadees, a downy woodpecker, too many quail to count, and heard again last night but not seen, a great horned owl.

Salvador reached the limit of his endurance for being housebound today despite the snow and -8 degree weather. He'd been bouncing off the walls all day. Cabin fever took over and about 3:00, he leapt out the door and took himself for a short walk while I talked to a new set of neighbours who arrived night before last.

He walked around the trailer, investigated the storage shed's "news" corner and checked for monsters under the picnic table. Only then did he break and run for the safety of carpeted floors and an MEC sleeping bag.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Happiness in the Kitchen Sink

We still have a frozen septics line, but we're in good company as almost everyone in the park has at least one frozen line or tank. It has been murderously cold the past few days, with wind chills down to -25 C. Luckily we are warm and cozy inside and can work around the frozen line. The park's bathroom is a bit of a hike to dump wastewater, but the site next to us is empty so we are simply pouring our dirty dishwater and leftover tea down the septic opening there.

I was washing dishes this morning, a pretty mundane chore, when I experienced one of those treasured moments of sheer happiness and utter contentment. And why not? If we wait for perfect circumstances before we allow ourselves to be happy we may never achieve it. Even though it was -15 outside the sun was shining and I had some nice music playing. Tony was snoozing on his bunk and the cat was blissed out on my bunk, sleeping with all four feet in the air. What could be more perfect?

I finally broke down and bought a bird feeder and seed. Almost everyone here feeds the quail. They are so fat they can barely waddle from site to site. But I want them to do more than run through our site on their way to the neighbour's. I want to be able to watch them close up. Hence the feeder.

It had been up for all of three minutes before two juncos discovered it. Two minutes later two quail noticed the juncos pecking at the seed I'd scattered on the ground under the feeder and they rushed over to get their share. In another two minutes there were a dozen quail packed as tightly as sardines, scratching and pecking at the grain. They seem to be little clowns. One picked up a twig and waggled it in the face of another and they played a bit of tug 'a war.

Today's birds; a yellow-shafted flicker, right outside the kitchen window in the apple tree, a pair of chickadees, about 100 quail, 10-15 slate-coloured juncos, and numerous sparrows, including the white crowned, which has a lovely song.

The cold will pass, eventually. We'll probably be at a much more comfortable temperature by this time next week.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Many A Cold Step Tonight

I know that winter death has never tried
The earth but it has failed; the snow may heap
In long storms an undrifted four foot deep
As measured against maple, birch and oak,
It cannot check the peeper's silver croak;
And I shall see the snow all go down hill
In water of a slender April rill....
From "The Onset" by Robert Frost

The winter death has descended on us and April's rills cannot come soon enough to suit me. Right now I'd settle for +2 degrees. The frost on the window is the frost on the window just above my bunk. The frost is between the outer window and the inner storm window, the outside window doesn't seal properly and condensation has formed on the glass. It's usually misted over first thing in the morning, this is the first time it's frozen.

Outside the wind is roaring in the bare limbs of the apple trees. We are at the crest of the hill, unprotected from the wind's teeth, which right now are biting at -21 degrees. It's blowing a steady 35 kmh with gusts to 53 kmh.

The snow has drifted high enough to be up over the ankles of my jeans. I've packed my winter boots so well that I can't find them, and snow wedges into my runners with each step.

Meanwhile hardy James, who, with wife Cathy owns and runs Bel-Air Cedars shoveled snow all day long, clearing not only the walks but the roads! Here he is, clearing the walk in front of the motel. What energy these two have!

There will be many a cold step tonight. While we are a comfy 72 degrees inside our dump line is frozen somewhere, leaving us without a way to dump the septic tank. What you can't dump you can't use, hence a block's walk to and from the bathroom every time.... oh, it's going to be a long and bitter night.

Being inexperienced in the ways of winter trailering, and reading the weather forecast a few days ago, we sought the advice of the RV repairman as to whether we needed to insulate and heat the dump valve and line. He assured us that it was unnecessary, as the sewer lines don't freeze up. (Right)

He's coming as soon as he can get here, which will probably be tomorrow, as he was on his way to repair a failed furnace when I talked to him. He will regret his advice. Yes, he will be paid to do the job, but how much is cleaning out a frozen sewer pipe worth, when the temperature is -15, maybe -25 with wind chill? You couldn't pay me enough to get me to do that willingly.

Later: In a clear demonstration of James' devotion to his "snowbirders", he showed up at our door as soon as it was too dark to shovel snow. He spent an hour in the bitter cold trying to fix our problem, without success, but not for lack of trying. Gary, the RV repairman, stopped by at 5:00 to check if he could come tomorrow morning, which of course we agreed with.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What Cruel God Did This?

Winter came to visit today, and will bring the family these next few days. It's predicted that daytime highs will be in the -14 area, with lows at -20 by the beginning of the week. Hopefully it will be a short stay and we'll get back to relatively mild temperatures soon.

We woke to snow this morning. Our high temperature was less than two degrees C. today, and it's hovering at the freezing mark at 3:30 in the afternoon. But there was no wind, and it was sunny off and on so it was a very pleasant day, for me. The Red Chief disagreed. He is of an opinion that God could have created either snow or cats, but no god in his right mind would have created both, unless he had a cruel streak.

He was dubious this morning when he looked out, but once the snow had quit falling and had melted back on the driveway he decided to venture out. Eeeeeeeeeeeekkk!!!! Wet! Wet! Wet! Run, run, run back to the trailer before paws melt back to bone!!

By 2:30 he was itching to try again, so we haltered up (He'd asked me to take his halter off earlier.) and out we went. He lasted three or four minutes, mostly because he got to within four feet of a quail as it emerged from a hedge. (I got a picture of it, eyeing us warily.)

After the quail had decided that wisdom dictated flight, Sal decided that the cold wet gravel was too much. He tried to get to his favorite walk, the dog run, but that involved a walk across a snowy stretch of grass, and his courage wasn't up to it. He came in, twitching his tail in irritation, mad as the proverbial wet hen. I may look for cat boots for him. It will be a long winter otherwise. He doesn't seem to mind the cold, it's the wet paws he hates.

But, as always, snow is lovely to look at, and I took some pictures. The light was gorgeous, the clouds were the colour of cotton candy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

With Open Eyes

Be utterly humble
And you will maintain your inner peace.
Be at one with all living things which,
Having arisen and flourished,
Return to the stillness they came from,
Like a healthy and vigorous plant
Falling back to its root in winter.
Quiet acceptance of this return
Is criticized by some as "fatalism".
But fatalism is an acceptance of mortality,
And to accept mortality is to face life with open eyes.
To deny mortality is to face death blindfolded.


Last night, with my stuffy nose and a huge fever blister in the middle of my upper lip that makes me look like a pipping chick, I watched a PBS program on the problems society (and families) face as we are able to prolong life to greater and greater lengths. Living to be 100 is not so uncommon anymore, but few do it without serious decline of their physical and mental abilities.

There comes a time when life itself is a burden. Wracked by intractable pain, unable to participate in life in any meaningful way, medicine and families fight to keep elders alive who want nothing more than release.

I remember some 30 years ago, when a friend of my parents was struck with some illness that left her body a mindless shell. She existed in the twilight zone of a hospital room, kept alive by tube-feedings, and a breathing machine. Mom and Dad were in their 70s, and what they saw terrified them.

"Don't do that to us!" they pled. "Let us go should something like that happen to us."

When Mother broke her hip at 78 she had successful surgery, and appeared to be recovering, but died from a massive coronary a few days later. About 20 minutes before her heart attack she called the nurse and asked her to adjust the IV lines so that she could cross her hands over her breast.

"Why do you want to lie like that?" the nurse asked her. "That's the way they lay people out after they've died."

"Because I'm going home now." Mom answered.

The nurse ran from the bedside and called my brother. She told him to get Dad and come to the hospital immediately, as mother's death was imminent. They arrived as Mom was being taken to the ICU. The doctor told Dad he might be able to keep her alive with aggressive treatment, but he couldn't guarantee that her brain had survived intact, or what her quality of life would be. Dad asked that she be made comfortable, and be allowed to pass without being subjected to aggressive and invasive treatment. She died within the hour.

Medicine looks at death as the enemy, and so it should in people who are still productive and capable of enjoying life. But death is not the enemy when your body fails you and your only experience is pain. Then death can be a blessed release, a "falling back on the root" for a winter's season.

No one wants to die, even when they are 90, but death comes to all of us, and it's better to make your peace with your own mortality. Doing so sharpens and sweetens your days.

No one can prepare for every situation but make certain your doctors and your loved ones know how you want to be treated at the end of life, whether it's to be kept alive as long as possible, by any means available, or it is to be made comfortable and be allowed to die without the application of heroic measures. I am firmly in the "quality" measurement camp. If my life becomes a burden to myself and others I want to be allowed to face death, open-eyed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Whoo Whoo Whoose Calling?

After yesterday's exciting close encounter with a red-tailed hawk I am all atwitter with bird fever. Well, maybe not that atwitter, but it was fun to sit and watch the quail parade waddle from site to site today, picking up the grain the folks in the park are putting out for them. I swear some of them look like basketballs on stilts.

But just now (11:15 pm) having turned off the television I was checking my e-mail when I heard this, just outside in the common. No mistaking that, it's the hoot of the great horned owl. It sat and hooted for three or four minutes before either quieting down or moving off.

Great horned owls grow to be HUGE, with a four and half foot wingspan. They are clever and aggressive hunters, and will easily pick your pet poodle or fattened pussy cat right off the front steps. The owl may have been sitting in the apple tree ordering cat for dinner after seeing our well-fed "lunch on a leash" out for walkies just after sundown. I can imagine it now, thinking in its owlish way, "That ginger cat looks exceptionally tender and juicy. He'd make a great midnight snack."

One winter evening, back in the 70s, when we were on our little farm in the Columbia Valley, I'd gone out to milk the goat as it was getting dark. Coming out of barn with a full pail of milk I flipped on the outside light just as I was strafed by an enormous great horned owl.

Absolutely silent, wings out a mile, talons extended, it looked like an airliner coming for me. I don't remember if I dropped the milk pail, but I know I screamed and dove for cover. When I am really scared the best I can manage is a sort of choked squawk, so I probably squawked like one of the rabbits the owl was probably hunting.

Off in the distance the coyotes are yipping too, so it's the serenade of the wild tonight!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

November Walk

It was a grey kind of day, with clouds spilling over the mountains like roiling waves. Nippy but pleasant. Our morning walk was uneventful, but our afternoon walk was a bit more exciting.

We'd made the circuit around the park, and up and down the dog run. We'd crossed the common and were watching a big crowd of quail feed only a few feet away through the fence. This is a six foot high chain-link fence with woven vinyl privacy slats. So while we had a good view of the quail, looking through small holes in the fence, they didn't seem aware of us.

Suddenly they exploded into the air in every direction, some coming over the fence, squawking and screaming. And right behind them was a red-tailed hawk. He scarcely cleared the fence. He flew about a foot over my head and landed in the cherry tree only three or four feet away. I could practically have touched him. When he saw me he almost did a double take. He hopped a branch higher, and a few seconds later he launched himself into the air and was gone.

No time to even pull the camera from my pocket, but I have his image here in my memory.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Will That Be Dial or Digital?

My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to commune with the spirit of the universe, to be intoxicated with the fumes, call it, of divine nectar, to bear my head through atmospheres and over heights unknown to my feet, is perennial and constant. Henry David Thoreau; On Man and Nature"

Ah, but Thoreau and I have not been "communing with the spirit of the universe". He's dead and I have been attempting to follow the incredibly obtuse instructions which came with the new thermostat we (Tony and I, not HDT and I) bought. The manual is written in three languages, none of which make any sense at all.

I admit to being something of a Luddite when it comes to gadgets. My timepiece of choice is a Mickey Mouse watch whose hands point to the numbers on a dial. Dear God! Give me dial with numbers, or a knob to turn. Do not hand me something with a face full of buttons labeled with arrows. I am not "intuitive" - what apparently comes naturally to modern man just leaves me befuddled and extremely cranky.

Expecting something I could set by moving a little red thing-a-ma-jiggee up and down as needed, I was (and am) truly dismayed at this incredibly complex gizmo which requires that you set the temperature separately for each 12 hour period of the entire week! Oh, wait! It comes with default settings which give you a cozy 60 degrees of heat during the night, boots it to 70 at 7:00 am and then drops it back to 62 for rest of the day. Hello? Does anyone stay home anymore? Maybe everyone who buys these things sleeps at the office. I don't mind 65 degrees, rolled up in my MEC sleeping bag, but I'm old and I have to get up in the night to make a tinkle trip. 60 degrees???

Worse, the display is stacked. There are two layers of numbers and codes indicating days of the week, hours, temperatures, cycle times, weekend overrides and other imperatives. You can't really read the stuff underneath, although those are the ones which change when you press the various up/down/hold/release/off/on/run/stop/swear buttons. The manual doesn't mention two sets of numbers, so is the manual just poorly written or did someone at Purolator or the post office drop kick this thermostat across a dock somewhere, giving it a case of digital schizophrenia?

It's Friday. The manufacturer is closed until Monday, so I guess we'll play human thermostats as usual this weekend; wake up cold, turn the heater on, get awakened by the sweat dripping into your eyes, turn the heater off. Wake up cold, turn the heater on, get awakened by...

Somewhere in the 80s I think I took a wrong turn. Two roads diverged on a yellow legal pad, one marked "dials" and one marked "digital". I took the one less travelled by and I still haven't figured out how to make the microwave do anything but run on full power for multiples of one minute.

Edit as of Monday Nov 20

I called the technical support line of LuxPro; voice mail. I hung up and e-mailed them and in five minutes had my answer to the "stacked displays" question. "There's a sticker on the face of the display. Take it off."

Well, sugar. How was I supposed to know that? Once I took off the sticker, and sat down with the instructions setting the thing was relatively easy, though fiddly and time-consuming. You have to set the temperature for four time periods for every day of the week. I managed to do some of it right, though I now see that my night time temp settings are running in the day, so I've crossed up an instruction somewhere. But give the company good marks for a fast reply on the display question. Wonder how many times they've answered *that* question already?

Bet they are having a neon sticker printed for the next shipment, "Remove sticker from face of display".

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sweet (Spit) Sunshine!

Finally a day of sun, after a week of rain and overcast days. What can you say except "Happy Happy"!!! We were even happier when Gary the RV guy showed up to address our leaky ceiling.

I took a couple of pics while I had the cat out for a walk. You can see the snow on the mountains above us, while we are still simply soggy below. The orchard, which was apple-laden and gorgeous a month ago, is bare and looks like a pile of tortured sticks. The hill behind is the brown-paper-bag velvet colour common here.

Once we were back from our walk I decided to change the litter in the cat's box, a chore we do outside. I hauled the box out and emptied it into a garbage bag. The litter we buy comes in gallon-sized plastic bottles with large screw-on lids. Part of the lid flips up to form a handle. We keep a couple of these containers under the edge of our picnic table.

I grabbed the one nearest me, flipped the lid up and... flipped yellow musky urine all over my face, hands, shirt, even into my mouth. OH YUCK! Spit spit spit!!! Not quite musky enough to be a tom cat, I figure it had to be coyote pee. They use the corridor between the back end of the trailer and the fence as their route through the park on a regular basis. One must have stopped to leave his calling card last night.

Needless to say I rushed in and scrubbed within an inch of my life, brushed my teeth and gargled, washed myself with Listerine, did everything short of setting myself on fire. I think I'm still a bit musky. I'm headed for the showers with the laundry detergent. Mmmm the fresh smell of Sunshine detergent. Maybe I'll rinse in fabric softener and lose all my wrinkles.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lawd, Have Mercy!!

Poor Salvador; helpless, unfortunate creature.

Yesterday while shopping in Oliver's world of exotic and bizarre delights, (aka The Dollar Store) I spied a bunch of $5.00 Made in China "Victory" Harmonicas. At the risk of contracting god alone knows what from dozens of other harmonica testers I took one from its box and made a test run. No dead reeds. No Hohner organ this $5.00 sandwich of cheap chrome, basswood frets and tin reeds, but it blows a recognizable tremolo. Sold!

Almost 30 years ago I dropped $52.00 on a fancy Hohner 270 gold chromatic harmonica which included a spring-loaded button-actuated slide that gave me access to the full range of notes found on a piano keyboard. I loved that thing, even if my children cringed every time I took it from its velvet-lined case. That particular mouth organ probably costs a couple of hundred dollars now, and I'm not likely to ever buy another. That one met an untimely end when it fell into the wood stove. (I assumed at the time that its fiery end was an accident, but considering my "talent", I wouldn't swear to it.)

But I digress. I brought my $5.00 beauty home yesterday, unpacked it and blew a few chords. You could tell from the expression on Tony's face that he'd steeled himself to the occasion. I'm sure he was thanking his stars that he's partially deaf. But the cat had no previous experience as the audience of a harmonica recital. He reacted to the first notes as if his tail had fallen into a vat of hot wax. He shot off to the other end of the trailer, twitching his ears and swishing his magnificent tail in the most exquisite demonstration of disdain (if not pain) I'd witnessed since the last time I played the harmonica!

I picked the "Victory" up today and sawed out a couple of very rusty tunes. Cat was most unimpressed. He twitched his ears so hard I thought he might leave the floor. (I definitely felt a draft.) He tried to put his paws over his ears, and failing that, started trying to crawl into any cupboard large enough to accommodate 20 pounds of irritated feline.

As we'd say in the sowth, "LAWD have MERCY!!!"

I finally felt sorry for him and put the thing away, but he's gonna have to get used to it, unless he finds a way to build a fire, and can slip this poor buzzy contraption into it. I'd forgotten how much fun a $5.00 mouth organ can be.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Our Night Nurse and New Friends

SMM asked, "Of what use are furheads?" (By "furheads" she of course refers to the beasts who run our respective households.)

Our furhead is a beautiful decorative accent, as seen by this picture of him bulging from his beloved bootbox. He is also a night nurse. I have to take a pill somewhere around 5:00 - 6:00 am. He's learned that, and nows wakes me at 5:30 every morning. He expects a cat cookie in return for this wake-up service. He was quite unhappy to find it wet and cold again today and he was not the only one. I don't mind grey, even cold, but this rain has gotta quit. We have a leaky vent in the roof, and the water spot just keeps spreading and spreading. (Eeeeek!)

But, on to more fun stuff. One of the reasons we chose Bel Air was because there's a winter community of "snowbirds" here, retirees who have taken to the road, temporarily or permanently, and who spend at least a few of their winter months here.

There's a pleasant clubhouse where activities, both organized and unorganized, take place. The men have coffee two mornings a week, as do the women. There are potlucks, pancake breakfasts, games night, darts night, and happy hour when everyone who is so inclined gathers for a chin wag and lots of laughing.

No need to sit in your own little tin can and stew. There's a full calendar for November, and lots of new friends to share with. Tonight was the official welcome dinner, provided by Cathy and James, who run the place. The food was excellent and plentiful. James and Cathy brought their two little ones, Matthew and Emma, to join us, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Matthew (twoand half) has the right idea and will only eat cake, Emma (10 months) eats almost anything as long as she can feed herself. Beautiful children. It's lovely to watch a young family together, it brings back such sweet memories of when our own children were small.

Looks like this winter is going to be even more fun than we anticipated!

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Way to Do is to Be

There is no need to run outside
For a better view.
You need not peer out the window.
Stay in the centre of your being,
For the farther you get from it
The less you understand.
Calm yourself and
Live each moment as it unfolds.
The way to do is to be.
The Way of Life - Lao Tzu

Besides, the windows are so fogged up, so it's hard to see anything but an interior view. It is raining, and raining, and raining. I like the sound of rain on the roof, which is good, because that's what we have been hearing the past few days.

Tony asked, "I don't hear the rain on the roof. Has it quit raining?"

No, it's just blowing so hard that the rain is hitting the sides of the trailer, rather than the roof. It's a balmy 2.8 degrees C (37 degrees F). If it drops too much more the rain will turn to snow. Hey! I came over here to get out of this kind of weather!! Is anybody listening?

The propane guy came this morning, delivering a big fat propane tank (referred to as a "pig"). We could have saved money by carting our 30 pound propane tanks to the station and having them refilled every week or so, but neither of us is good at wrestling heavy weights on and off the back of our truck. Best pay for a big tank, and the propane guy will come by and refill the tank when needed.

I will remain calm and live each moment as it unfolds, and in a few minutes go outside and re-light the water heater. I'll also have to re-light the furnace, which is a witch to light. Takes the strength of ten and a power of patience. You have to lie on the floor, reach into the furnace housing and depress this red button for six minutes. It's in a very awkward location so you can only come at it from the side. I have to get the hammer, jam it behind the button and pull on the hammer until the pilot lights, then hold it down for another minute and a half before turning the thermostat on again.

Hopefully this will be the last time this winter I have to do this, cause it's not high on the list of things I do to amuse myself. I guess this is being, but it feels a lot like doing.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Thick as a brick, aka the Cold Water Flat.

When we bought the trailer its old hot water heater had turned up its toes and died. No more hotsies from that old thing. So we spent $675.00 having a dandy new six-gallon hot water tank installed. We failed to get the manual and because we have a real talent for missing the obvious, we misunderstood the 10 second "Introduction to your new water heater" lecture.

Okay, he said you have to light it from the outside when you want hot water. I will swear that he said you have to go outside and turn the &^%(*% thing off when you are finished using the hot water. Tony remembered this way as well. This seemed like an awful lot of fol-de-rol for a pan of hot water, so we have never even turned the darn thing on, other than once, to make sure it works! I've just been using the kettle and heating the small amount of hot water we need to do dishes, Tony's shaving etc.

I'll admit washing your hands in freezing temp water is not all that comfy, but man evolved a long way before he invented water heaters, so we knew we'd survive. Back in our youth many apartments were what were called "cold-water flats", i.e. there was running water, but no hot water. So, we were back in a cold-water flat, just on wheels.

But we have been worrying. Like this. "The water heater has water in it. It is getting very cold. Cold makes water freeze. Freezing water expands and will burst a closed container. How do we keep our new water heater from freezing and popping it's expensive rivets? How do we drain the water heater?" We could find no way, other than draining the entire water system for the winter, and I really don't want to carry water all winter.

Well, a few days ago the RV service guy, Gary, and another park resident, Jim, came and put the winter skirting on the trailer. The next day we asked Jim about draining the heater and he looked at it, in a puzzled sort of way, before saying he'd ask Gary to have a look when he was back next time.

I'm almost embarrassed to say it. Gary came this afternoon, took me out to the water heater panel, lit the thing and explained that you don't drain it to protect it from freezing. (He didn't say "You don't drain it to protect it from freezing dummy..." for which I am profoundly grateful.) He said, "You light it! The pilot light kicks the gas on whenever the water temp drops and you have 1) hot water to wash your face and 2) protection from frost."

Once he said it - Oh geez, what could have been more obvious?

The nice thing is - I now have hot water to wash my hands in. What a luxury. Thank you inventor of hot water heaters, and thank you Gary, for not laughing, when you must have wanted to REALLY REALLY badly. I can explain how cell membranes regulate electrolytes and and neuromuscular junctions change electrical signals to chemical ones and then reconvert them back to electricity, just don't ask me about pilot lights.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another Year of Snow

The last line of Frost's "The Leaf Treader" is:
"Now up to my knee to keep on top of another year of snow."

Having thoroughly shuffled around in Frost's leaves yesterday it was only appropriate that today began another year of snow. At 9:30 am a white veil descended from the mountain in front of us and in a few minutes materialized on our doorstep as whirling flakes of snow. Within the hour the ground was lightly covered.

The Red Chief, who is usually hanging on my legs chuffing and begging to go outside while I brew the morning coffee, sat and looked out the kitchen window with a look of pure disgust on his handsome face. At about 11:30 I held up his harness and called him. This usually brings him running. He could put the harness on alone, if he could only do the buckles. He sticks his head through, puts his feet through and holds his head to the side so I can do up the neck buckle. But this morning he didn't even want the harness on, and refused to help.

When I snapped on his leash he seemed a little more excited but when I opened the door all he needed was one look at the snow. He turned and hightailed it back to his bed in the back, next to the heater. He *hates* snow.

We had to change propane bottles, since the one we've been using since August was down to 3/4 empty. I don't want to run out of propane at 3:00 am, so did the switch while I was still suited up for the aborted walk. Changing bottles involves turning off and then relighting our cranky old furnace. What a fiddly job. We didn't need the heat from the furnace so we let it sit for a while, but it took three tries to finally get it fired back up.

By 1:30 the snow had mostly melted away, so I offered the cat another chance at walkies. He was dubious but jumped out and had a cautious little exploration around the gravel pad. Then he ventured into the grass and found it both cold *and* wet. ICK!!! He turned and hightailed it to the trailer as fast as he could run. He has canceled all outdoor activities until further notice. I guess I can forget making a sled cat of him.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Leaf Treader

I've always been partial to the poetry of Robert Frost. I keep a well-thumbed anthology of his work close at hand. Many of his poems evoke not just an emotional, but a physical response in me, a fullness in the throat, a tightness in the chest.

Frost's images of nature are never as straightforward as they seem. They are plain and spare, yet glisten like prisms. No matter how many times I have read them, each new reading reveals previously unexplored nuances.

The past two days have been cold. The temperature has dropped well below freezing each night, and with the cold came a wind which stripped most of the trees of their leaves overnight. The grass is covered with layers of leaves. The first verse of the Frost poem "A Leaf Treader" comes to mind as the cat and I wade through the drifts.

"I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired.
God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired.
Perhaps I have put forth too much strength and been too fierce from fear.
I have safely trodden under the leaves of another year."

Over the years Frost has said many things to me through these lines. He equates the life cycle of the leaf with his own life. He cries out that he has triumphed by surviving while the leaves have died. But the knowledge that his life is as ephemeral as that of the leaves disturbs and frightens him.

The acknowledgment of death is a recurring theme in Frost's poetry. But he also acknowledges the daily struggles we have with ourselves. He concludes the poem with these lines:

"They spoke to the fugitive in my heart as if it were leaf to leaf.
They tapped at my eyelids and touched my lips with an invitation to grief.
But it was no reason I had to go because they had to go.
Now up to my knee to keep on top of another year of snow."

Sometimes it is our own deeds which touch us with an invitation to grief. What do we do when we are made fierce by fear? If we aren't mindful we may attack others and ourselves. Afterwards we regret it, but there is no way back.

Frost's words came alive to me once more as I trod the fallen leaves today. Thankfully, even when we tarnish a day with grief we can look forward to tomorrow's clean slate, and the chance to continue the process of transformation from closed and fearful to open-hearted and joyous.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Drum Roll Please!

As promised in the previous post, here are some more of the pictures Ian and I took of the brilliantly-coloured autumn foliage and some interesting wild plants yesterday.

This first one is a two-foot wide mullein "rosette", the first year's growth of the biennial plant which produces a tall spike of small yellow flowers the second year. Mullein is also called "flannel flower", because the leaves are covered with a soft, dense down. Nice bush TP, but better used as a tea to releive chest congestion. The flowers can be slowly steeped in olive oil (using a double boiler) for a couple of hours, producing an oil which relieves earache and is good for sore joints.

There are also pictures of a bright red "burning bush" which was taken at the Oliver Visitor's Centre, and one of a red pyracanthra bush with huge numbers of berries. A pyracantha bush always reminds me of my Dad. We had them in the garden when I was a girl. The berries would ferment on the bush and the birds would eat them and get roaring drunk. Some would fight like bar room toughs on the lawn, others would stagger around chirping happily. All were totally unable to get off the ground and were easy prey for the neighbour's cat.

My Dad would go out and pick the drunken birds up and bring them into our screen porch. He'd put the fighters into lidless shoeboxes. The happy drunks got put onto an old bed which was covered with a heavy cloth. Once they'd sobered up enough to be able to fly he'd catch them and put them back outside. He was a gruff, undemonstrative man with a heart like melting butter.

Lastly one of wild-growing aloe-type plant, which had white spots and soft spines. Can't find it in my book - it must be a native cactus.

A Visitor and an Outing

Ian arrived from Calgary late Saturday night. He took a spectacular picture of Castle Mountain, in Banff national Park, as he wended his way west. He has a "new" car which unfortunately developed a problem on the way over. It may mean he has to leave the car here to be repaired, go back to Calgary on the bus and come back on the bus to pick it up. We're hoping he can get it fixed quickly. If it only takes a couple of days he will just wait and drive it home.

But today was sunny and warm enough to be comfy with a light jacket. We lazed around until one o'clock, then went to town for lunch. After lunch we drove up to the Oliver Visitor's Centre, which is an old railway station.

The flowers and shrubs are spectacular. The fall colours are past their height, but still lovely. We both took photos of the flowers and foliage. I'll do a separate post with more autumn colour pictures.

After walking along the river we decided a drive was in order, so we got on the road and headed toward Penticton. We turned off at the Okanagan Falls road and drove up a very twisty road for about a half-hour looking for the falls. (We found, as we came back, that they were only about 100 metres from the highway. We drove right past them without seeing them on the way in. I'd call them "rapids", rather than falls, but....)

We saw some beautiful country on the way in. There were gorgeous vineyards on the bench-land, and large stands of ponderosa pine. These are the most beautiful trees you can imagine, with long needles, cinnamon-coloured trunks and huge pine cones. We started talking about the predictions that the *&^)( pine beetle is going to wipe out all the pines in BC in the next few years.

What a catastrophe this would be! Many of the pines on these slopes are hundreds of years old. What will the landscape be like without them? No nesting spots for birds or chipmunks, no trees breathing out oxygen, no trees to stabilize these loose hillsides, no trees to keep the watershed clear and clean. But just to think that our generation will be the one to watch them all die, and that it will be hundreds of years before our descendants can stand in awe at an enormous pine again. It's enough to make you weep.

We stopped along the road and picked some mullein leaves - they make a wonderful medicinal tea to clear up chest congestion. We found some interesting cactus, sort of like an aloe plant.

On the way back we stopped and bought ice cream at a place called Tickleberries. Yummy ice cream! See our double chins? Sadly they aren't from eating ice cream like this every day. As we sat in the truck slurping our way through these gigantic cones we looked up to see a doe and a yearling fawn walk across the hill in front of us. By the time we got ice cream cones handed off and cameras ready the two were too far away to get a good picture, but it was fun to see them.

It was a lovely day all around. Now if Ian can just get his car fixed without losing the engine....

On an Autumn Afternoon

Like two incredulous kids, we keep looking at each other and asking, "How lucky can you get?"

We have the world's happiest cat, as evidenced by his smile. We are struck by the beauty of our surroundings again and again, and we are surrounded by congenial people. Even better, and the real reason we made this move to begin with, Tony has been feeling very well recently. He's been able to go to town with me to shop, and we've been able to go out for lunch or dinner as well. This was almost impossible for him to do in Calgary. He simply never had the strength.

The men in the park get together for coffee at 8:30 two mornings a week. I could count on one hand the times Tony has been up at 8:30 am in the past year. But yesterday he was out the door shortly before 9:00 and came back an hour later full of stories and the energy of the companionship of other men. I can't remember how long it's been since he's had the ability (or opportunity) just to sit and visit with a half dozen other guys.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thy wide grey skies

Today, as I walked and gaped at the beauty around me I recalled a poem that perfectly described the day, a poem I had to commit to memory in high school.

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!

Thy mists, that roll and rise!

Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag

And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag

To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!

World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,

But never knew I this;

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart, -- Lord, I do fear

Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;

My soul is all but out of me, -- let fall

No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

God's World
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Feeding the Inner Me

Nature and growing things are nourishment to me. Walking outside, looking at the plants, wild and cultivated, watching and hearing the birds, feeling a crisp autumn breeze on your face... no-cal food for the inner me.

Today is a bit cooler than the 70 degree days we've had this week. It was 17 degrees, about 63 degrees F, at noon today, slightly overcast. The Red Chief and I had a long long walk. He is adamant about the route, I just follow along, hold the leash and keep him out of trouble.

In the 10 acre field next to us the pepper harvest continues unabated. I don't know how they will ever get all those peppers picked unless they find a few more pickers. (How do get yer peppers picked without a pack of pickers?) Right now there are a couple of old women, bent nearly double, patiently working their way down the rows. We don't appreciate the work (the pain) that goes into producing the food we so blithely toss in the cart on shopping day. I took a couple of pictures of the pepper plants, with peppers hanging on them like bright jewels.

And, though our days continue warm and dry the occasional tree is beginning to color up, like the Japanese maple two sites down. What a glorious sight this tree is, the colours are so intense and vibrant.

And a visit to the grapevine growing on the fence finds its leaves yellow and russet, with a dozen or so clusters of marble-sized purple grapes still hanging. Tempting, but these blue grapes seem to trigger migraines and since mine has not yet fully resolved I pass the clusters by, mouth watering.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."

Dreams have been a rich vein to mine since early man relied on the dreams of their shamans and holy men. Writers have quarried their depths. Psychologists and psychiatrists take their interest in dreams straight to the bank.

Though not a shaman or a shrink, I've had an interest in dreams for a long time. One thing is clear. The body communicates within the context of the dream. I can personally attest to this.

I've had migraines since I suffered a head injury at age 17. I probably would have developed them anyway, since they are primarily genetic in origin and they run in my Dad's family. The sick headache they used to call them, as in, "I got up this morning with the sick headache." Sick referring to the nausea, and the sensitivity to light and sound which comes with the throbbing one-sided pain.

The type of migraine I have is preceded by a light show, wildly dancing zig-zags of neon light which fill my visual field. This is called an aura. It is not painful, but can be a problem because you can't see very well. But it's a short-lasting phase, 15 minutes from start to finish. After the aura fades there's a lull and then the hammering starts. If I can get to the pain pills when the aura first begins I can usually stop the migraine from developing, but when it begins while I sleep (as it did last night) I am sunk. Once established my migraines can last for a week.

The interesting thing is that my brain still sees the aura, even when I'm sleeping. In my dreams the aura is translated into brilliant flashing lights. In a dream last night they became enormous flashing Christmas lights, and lights on a helicopter (carrying none other than George Dubbya, of whom I am not a fan.) I will spare you the details, as they were most pedantic, something about a book signing.

But that the aura takes place in the brain, and is not just a visual effect, cannot be more clearly demonstrated.

Another type of dream which demonstrates that the body clearly communicates with the brain during sleep is one I call the frustration dream. I have Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis (HypoKPP). HypoKPP is also a genetic disorder, another passed to me through my dad, who also had it. In HypoKPP a fall in the level of potassium in the blood causes temporary attacks or episodes of weakness, sometimes to the point of paralysis. Attacks often develop during sleep.

When I have an episode during sleep I get frustration dreams. The most common theme of these is that there's an emergency of some sort. I must summon help, usually by telephone. But though I try to make a call I can't. I can't find the number, can't read the phone directory, can't work the phone. I've often dreamed that the house was on fire. I rush in and carry the children out, only to have them run back into the house as soon as I put them down.

Everyone becomes paralyzed while they dream, in what is called the REM stage of sleep. During REM, the electrical activity of the brain, seen on an electroencephalogram (EEG), looks about the same as the electrical activity that occurs when a person is awake. Although the brain functions much the same way during REM sleep as it does during waking, REM sleep is characterized by temporary muscle paralysis. So, being paralyzed during a dream is absolutely normal, yet the brain can tell the difference between normal REM paralysis and the paralysis of a HypoKPP episode, and (in my case) translates that inability to move into a dream full of frustration and panic.

Another odd consequence of HypoKPP episodes are hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations. These occur as (normal) people are falling asleep or waking. They are the result of parts of the brain falling asleep, or waking, at different rates. A dream, seen through the filter of an awake brain, while the body is still in the REM stage of sleep paralysis, can be mistaken for reality. These hallucinations are extremely vivid and are interpreted as reality by the brain. They are undoubtedly the basis for many an alien abduction experience, legends of "The Old Hag", etc.

A study done by Italian Neurologist Giorgio Buzzi et al. showed that people with periodic paralysis are far more likely to have these brain out-of-sync hallucinations. I've had these since childhood. I remember standing in the window of my childhood home at about age six, bending my knees, spreading my arms and flying out over the back gardens, the creek behind our house and the neighbourhood beyond. My memory says this actually happened. I know it didn't because there was no way I could have stood up on the window sill in that window. It simply was too small. Shame. The ability to fly would be useful.

The brain is amazing in its ability to interpret not only what we experience externally, but also what we experience internally. I am always fascinated, but I remain rooted in reality. If the aliens show up to probe me during a hallucination I'll probably note that their sophisticated instruments have Black and Decker stickers.

One other funny thing is that when I have a migraine it interferes with my ability to frame sentences verbally, but writing actually helps mitigate the pain. Blog post as pain killer. What a concept!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Winter's Coming

It's beginning to be reliably cold at night. We are busy getting ready for winter. We've wrapped the water line with heat cable and insulated it and put the flexible sewer line inside a PVC pipe.

As we were renovating we insulated the back walls of all the cupboards and closets with a material called Reflectix. We brought enough Reflectix with us to make covers for the windows. We plan to put these on just after sundown and take them off in the morning.

We started making these covers a couple of days ago. For the last few days as soon as the sun went down the temperature started to fall very quickly. It would be a very pleasant 75 degrees F inside when the sun went down and fall eight or nine degrees within an hour. This means we have been turning on the smaller of our heaters almost as soon as the sun went down. Still, even at what should be a toasty 72 degrees we felt cold because the warm air inside was hitting the cold glass of the windows, cooling and creating a draft.

So we began putting the Reflectix on the windows yesterday by covering the two sun vents, and making covers for the bathroom window and the window above Tony's bed. Today we made a cover for the window above my bed, and for each of the large side windows in the front. We still need to cover the two largest windows in the trailer, the ones in the front.

Even so, the difference is encouraging. Two hours after sundown, and covering the windows, the temperature has fallen by less than half a degree. The cold draft is all but gone. It's supposed to fall to freezing tonight, so I'm sure the weather proofing is going to be appreciated.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Feline Dreams.... hissssss

It was raining when we got up this morning. The cat was teed off big time. No walkies? How disgraceful! Maybe later. The sun is trying to shine now, in a half-hearted way. Red Chief is curled up asleep in his box, growling at some other cat in his dreams. Last night he must have had a ferocious dream. He growled in his sleep, then made a mighty twitch and conked his poor head on the leg of the bunk. He came awake hissing and spitting like a cobra. Poor puss. Maybe he needs psychotherapy.

I found a way to keep busy this morning, despite not being able to take the cat out. While looking for the coffee filters I discovered that the bottle of soy sauce I had in the pantry had tipped over and soaked everything. I had to empty the shelf, wash and dry the bottom of everything that had been on it, take out the shelf liner and chuck it, and clean the shelf. Once I got going I just kept going and cleaned out and reorganized both pantry cupboards.

Also organized the closet and the shelves we keep clothes on. Things migrate like African swallows. You can't tell me that hoodies, jeans and sweaters aren't migratory. I've evidence to the contrary. It's been two hours and already a pair of Levi's has migrated from a hanger in the closet to the top shelf above Tony's bed. I've heard that there are men who are neat freaks but I think that's an urban legend, like the dead prom queen that hitches rides on stormy nights.

Well, kitty has awakened, the sun is shining and I'd best make hay while the sun shines and get him outside to work off some of his energy.

A later note: Sometime between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon someone kicked that lovely big round mushroom into three or four pieces. This aggravated me, I really would have liked to see it mature. Looking at the pieces the skin is black inside (or has turned black from exposure to the air) but the woody, sponge-like interior is light neon green! What a surprise. Obviously the "baseball" was very immature. I wonder how large it would have gotten, left alone to grow to full majestic adulthood?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Valley of Heaven

There are lots of wild mushrooms here, of various kinds. I know nothing about mushrooms and wouldn't presume to eat any I'd found growing wild, but they are interesting, and some are beautiful. Yesterday morning I took the camera along on the walk with Red Chief and while he read the news I took mushroom pictures. Don't know what any of them are, but thought I'd share their pictures anyway.

The cluster of orange-speckled ones are growing at the base of a tree in the site across from us. There's another mushroom on the other side of this tree. It may be the same type, just further along in its life cycle.

In the orchard across the road there are numerous examples of these round, dry mushrooms. Some are the size of baseball, a couple even larger. These don't appear to have a stem, one had been kicked loose and had no "foot" or stem. There was a larger one (about 6 inches across) of the same colour and texture, but it was flat. Again, I'm not sure if this is the same kind of 'shroom as the round ones farther ahead in its cycle or not. I'm gonna keep my eye on them and see.

The last ones are tiny, the size of the fingernail on my pinkie finger. They grow in clusters at the base of the cherry trees and look like brownish-grey pebbles. They are easily overlooked as they are only about 1/2 inch high.

The day dawned clear and quite cool (6 degrees C or about 40 degrees F) with a brisk "Nordic" wind. I bought a digital thermometer at the hardware store yesterday. It has a remote sensor so we can take the temperature in two spots. We placed the main unit at the foot of my bunk, and the secondary sensor in the kitchen. When we got up at 8:00 am, the temperature was 66.9 F at the foot of my bunk. Perfect for sleeping in our new Mountain Equipment Coop sleeping bags which arrived yesterday.

There's a Farmer's Market down by the river every Saturday morning spring through fall. We went down and while there were very few booths, we got something from almost all of them, organic tomatoes, red and green peppers, basil, cucumbers, a jar of apple butter, and one of Dave and Pat Whalley's fabulous pies. The rhubarb and raspberries came from their garden and the pie was dee-lish!

Once we'd finished shopping we took a walk along the river to see the big red kokanee salmon migrating upstream. I would love to have taken a picture, but the reflections on the water made it impossible. There were many of the big fish working their way toward their birthplace and it was a thrill to see them. They are a spectacular colour!

We took a little drive on the way back, south toward Osoyoos. What a beautiful spot this is. It's like one huge park. One realtor says the postal code, V0H 1T0, is an acronym for "Valley of Heaven in the Okangan".

Once we were back from our rambles I took a very impatient cat for a nice long walk. He had to read the news and check out all his favorite spots. Someone's little grey poodle came up to the fence. The Red Chief noticed and turned around to run back to the fence where the dog was standing. The dog had the bad manners to bark, which made Sal hiss. I've noticed that he is very interested in dogs, and wants to go see every dog he lays eyes on. He isn't afraid of dogs, and wants to play with them. This makes me wonder if there wasn't a dog friend in his past, when he was just a small kitty?

When we returned from the walk Tony joined us to sit in the sun until I decided to come in a make lunch. I made a corn salad using many of the ingredients I'd just bought, put some sliced roast beef out, along with a bowl of grape tomatoes. It was a meal fit for a king, and we invited our next door neighbour, 82-year-old Bernie, to join us. We had a good conversation and a pleasant time. Lovely day!