Friday, September 19, 2014

Tis a tale of two fridges

I have a house which looks like a hoarder's den. There are tools everywhere, sawdust in every corner, furniture out of place and the cats are having a ball with cardboard bits and rediscovered felt mice. All this because we got up Friday morning last week to a dead refrigerator. (The freezer compartment was still working, thankfully.) I went out and bought ice to help keep the fridge compartment cold. 

We measured the space and I sat down with the web to shop for a new fridge. I quickly discovered that in the ten years since this building was built fridges have grown. I could only find two which fit in the space I have. One was really cheap, less than $500, and when I went searching for reviews they were uniformly terrible. Not one recommendation. So, though I didn't necessarily want a side by side fridge/freezer, it was the only other fridge I found that fit the space (or so the dimensions on the site said.) 

I went out Friday afternoon and bought a new fridge, lightening my pocketbook by $1100. They arrived with it at 6:00 Tuesday evening and while I thought for the $90.00 we paid to have it delivered that they would at least unpack it and plug it in, they wheeled it in and left it sitting unpacked in the middle of my tiny kitchen floor.  I had paid for them to take the old fridge away, which they were a bit disgruntled by, but grudgingly did, when I waved the receipt under their nose and insisted. 

Never ever let anyone tell you expanded polystyrene is not strong. The doors were secured by an i-beam of polystyrene. It took us an hour to dig it out with the business end of a closed pair of scissors. I was sweating like a Dallas Cowboy by the end. It took us another hour to peel off the adhesive film it was shrink wrapped in, rather like skinning a bison, with less blood and more swearing. 

Larger than advertised
So we unwrapped this King Tut's mummy of a fridge and went to roll it into place. We'd already decided that plumbing the water line for the ice maker and filtered water could be done later, but wait - it wouldn't go in. Oh, I had forgotten. We had to remove the skirting board which is sort of a fancy profiled molding along the floor which projects 3/4's of an inch into the room, including the corner where the fridge sits. 

So I got down on my knees with a chisel and hammer and pulled off the skirting board. That should do it. We rolled the fridge back. No. It still wouldn't go. Now what? The wall looks straight, but when compared to the fridge it's clear it bows inward, and the fridge catches on the bow.

On the other side the immoveable object is a 30" stove. (Very poor design - what dimwit puts a refrigerator adjacent to the cookstove?) The fridge and stove had discovered each other and instantly fallen in love. The corners were kissing, and would not give up this new-found intimacy.   

We stood back and surveyed the situation. The formica top on the lower cabinets projects about an inch beyond the cabinets, leaving a useless gap between the stove and the cupboard along the wall. You can't get a broom or any cleaning instrument in there. If we could cut that projecting bit of formica off, we could move the stove over that inch and Bob's your mother's sister's husband. (I say "we" meaning Ian of course.) I place a call for rescue.  

Ian, who learned these skills at his father's knee some 35-40 years ago, arrived at the door about dinner time, armed with dinner and a power saw with a diamond-tipped blade.  The first cut, which took off an inch, was not enough, for while the store's website gave the fridge's width as 80.3 cm (31.6") it measures 83 cm (32.7").  The evening ended when the building's mandatory 10:00 pm "quiet time" kicked in, and the fridge was still sitting in the middle of the floor. 

I woke up in the middle of the night with the sick realization that while we could move the stove over there is absolutely no way to move the range hood over. It is connected to exterior ducting, and while it is angled at the front six inches, it widens out to span the stove width after that. I shot off a quick e-mail to Ian and went back to bed. 

I began figuring how we were going to have to sell this fridge at a considerable loss, buy the one which had received terrible reviews and cross our fingers that it wasn't as bad as everyone said it was. I used to carry a tape measure in my purse. Why did I quit doing that? 

I had a medical appointment shortly after noon which took several hours, then I went grocery shopping. When I returned home at 4:30 I was delighted to find my fellas had figured out how to get the fridge in. Ian removed the entire blind end of the cabinet and countertop, and the fridge squeaked in. But it went in only because the range hood is an imperceptible inch shorter than the stove on each side. If it had been as wide as the stove we would have been hooped. 

Lesson learned byes and gurls: Tyke yer type measure to the shop wi ye and measure the ting yerself. Don' go trustin' no website ner salesclerk wi' dollar signs a shinin' in his lovely brown eyes when ye asks him, "Are ye sure enuff now this tis is only thirty one and a half inches wide bye? Looks bigger to me now I sees it up close." 

Because he'll be tellin' ye anything tuh get that fridge out the door, and cause it's on the sale now ye won't be bringing it back and all.  And what does he care thet you'll be spendin' two days sweatin' bullets and rippin' up yer kitchen. And them two nights you'll be havin' the nightmare about walkin' around that fridge sittin' in the middle of the floor of yer wee kitchen for the rest of yer nacherul life. 

Ah, but 'tis a fine fridge, and has two grand doors side by side, fridge on one side, freezer on t'other.  And it uses less of the electrics than the old 40 watt bulbs. Even me mother would be impressed, and she was a hard un to please, was mother.       

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

There is no escape

“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.” ~ Ruskin Bond

It's true. We lived in a tiny house on the final slope of the Rockies in the mid-70s, one of the happiest periods of my life. I have always longed to return.

They lie on the western horizon, grey and lowering like storm clouds. As you drive toward them they seem to rise up from the earth. We turned off Highway Number One and drove down Highway 40, into Bow Valley Provincial Park between two towering rows of mountains with mile after mile of dense coniferous forest. Trees which have grown so closely together that their trunks are bare rough posts for the first six meters (20 feet) with green topknots casting a deep gloom below.

It is a perfect day. A week ago we had 35 cm (14 inches) of snow. Today it is 24 C (75 F) and we don't even need a jacket. The sky is so blue you could fall up into to it, and breathe in the effervescent mist of one of the clouds which pass by.   

Mt Kidd
The magnitude of the forces which created these mountains is unimaginable. The Canadian Rockies are made up of sedimentary rock, limestone, dolomite and shale, which was laid down in layers kilometres thick when western North America lay beneath a shallow sea. 

In most places the Rockies are formed of pieces of continental crust that are over a billion years old thrust up as two tectonic plates collided. As one plate was forced beneath the other it shattered the layers of sedimentary rock above it pushing them into broken rows of jagged and tortured peaks. 

And then the ice came. Again and again the ice crushed and gouged and milled cliffs off boulders and boulders to dust. It carried boulders as big as houses down these valleys and out  onto the prairies like your mother carried a roll of quarters in her pocketbook to the laundromat.  

Mt Sparrowhawk
Some mountains look like a horrified baker just dropped her layer cake to the floor on its side. The layers of another were at a 90 degree angle to the ground, and looked exactly like an enormous petrified tree trunk which had been broken off by the wind. One appeared to be a medieval castle with battlements, another a stone hawk hunched against the wind, its wings poised to fly. The snow glistening from ridges and slopes accentuate the fantastic shapes. 

As we drove Ian pointed out the many peaks he'd climbed. I may complain about his climbing, but I understand it. The Mountain may be a fickle lover, and a dangerous one, but to embrace her is enthralling.   

Barrier Lake
The glacial lakes that dot the valley floor like a string of beads are indigo in the shadows, milky turquoise and radiant Caribbean green in the sun, depending on depth. We stopped at Barrier Lake to take pictures. The air is rich and crisp with the scent of pine sap and aspen resin. A few miles father along we stopped and walked up a trail at Wasootch Creek.  We stopped to buy a soft drink at the only service station in 100 miles of road, then turned to make our way across to the next valley over, where we found more mountains, more trees, and a washboard gravel road. 

Wasootch Tower
I had a very fine time teasing Ian that my teeth were being rattled out of my head, begging him to drive more slowly, and all-in-all giving him a good-natured hard time. These are the roads we used to drive when he was four and five when we rough camped out here, before any of the campgrounds were developed.  I love spending time with my oldest son. 

At a rest stop we saw the only wildlife spotted on the trip, a chunky little chipmunk who kept his distance. And in due time we arrived in Canmore where we had dinner and helped one of Ian's friend's celebrate his 50th birthday.   

There is a deep solid peace which I glean from those mountains. They speak to  me in a language I hear nowhere else on earth. As evidence of their power I slept that night without pain medication, the first time I've been able to do that in several years.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

September Surprise

It's a good thing I took the pictures I posted last Friday because by this Wednesday we had 35 cm (14 inches) of wet, heavy glue-like snow on everything. The trees haven't even begun to put on fall colours yet, everything is still green and in full leaf, so the snow settled on branches and leaves not designed to carry such loads. There are branches, limbs and entire trees down all over town, and many people were left without power because falling trees took down power lines. 

The lower branches of the crabapple and plum trees outside were weighed down right to the ground. The shrubs and flowers went higgeldy-piggeldy in all directions, laid flat by the snow. 

There's a slender tree, about seven and a half meters (25 feet) tall, a volunteer of indeterminate parentage, right in the corner at the entrance.  Looking out the window I could see it was bent almost in half by the weight. When the wind came I could see that tree was going to snap, so I quickly threw on my jacket and gloves, grabbed the broom and went downstairs. I used the broom to knock as much snow off the lower branches as possible, getting a lot of snow down the back of my neck in the process. But I couldn't reach the upper branches, so I grabbed the trunk, which is only about the size of a round metal fencepost in a chain link fence, and I shook it. I definitely got snowed on! But the tree returned to its upright position. 

I then went over and knocked the snow off the worst of the crabapples branches, and having done in my arms, came up for my morning coffee. 

The trees look none the worse for wear thankfully. I haven't even seen any broken branches. But my echinacea are fallen warriors. The Ligularia is broken in half, but the hostas have sprung back and a little mini rose bloomed under the snow and since the snow has now melted it is smiling like nothing even happened. You couldn't go wrong emulating that little rose. It takes a kicking and keeps on blooming. 

Friday, September 05, 2014

September Song

After several days of rather cool and wet weather; it actually snowed a couple of inches day before yesterday a few miles south of us; the sun graced us today and it was warm and lovely outside. 

I was able to finally grab my camera and go out to the garden to get pictures of the flower beds in their last flush of late summer glory. We have snow in the forecast for the start of the work week, so my flowers may soon be a memory if I don't preserve them with my camera. 

The Ligularia put up a magnificent bloom spike with a half dozen large sunflower-like  flowers. However the recent wind and rain beat them to tatters so I didn't bother taking a picture. The veronica is so eager to grow it has worked its way over the sidewalk. I will try to get down and trim it back tomorrow. But I'm very happy that the shredded bark mulch has kept the weeds at bay and there are very few weeds. 

Now for the good part. The crabapple trees are hanging with red jewel-like crabapples. I think they need just a few more days to get ripe, but I didn't try one. I may do that tomorrow. They are just slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball but they make good eating, if you like a tart apple. I'd like to pick a bag-full before the frost gets to them. A half cupful is a great snack, and you can't get any healthier or environmentally friendly. It's the 100 foot diet, or as the crow flies, the 25 foot diet.  

Moving down the bed the sage is four feet tall and blooming at the last foot of the stems. It looks rather disorganized and untidy, but the bees love it, so I've left it. 

Here you can see the lavender stems sprawling in all directions, and further down the row the echinacea blossoms, the bright red geraniums at ground level and small but bright yellow blossoms of the yellow potentilla that stands at the back of this bed. 

And here, a closeup of the echinaceas or coneflowers, which have just outdone themselves this year. The stems are just over three feet (one meter) tall, each plant has about half a dozen blossoms and each blossom would be saucer sized if it were flattened. I will look for some of the coloured ones next spring. They come in an astonishing range of colours but despite being expensive seem to fly off the shelves as quickly as they arrive. And it takes them two seasons to acclimate. These bloomed half-heartedly last year and half of those I planted died.  

The roses, both red and yellow, have bloomed all season, despite my fears that they both might have been winter killed. I didn't get pictures of them today, but both have about eight or ten blossoms in various stages, from opening bud to fully open flower. 

In the bed at the outside edge of the walkway the wolf willows have done well this year, after being shaped and pruned last year. The oxeye daisy that I thought might have been drowned during our spring thaw, when that bed was underwater for two weeks, came out none the worse for wear and is putting on a cheerfully spectacular display. This is from a single plant I stuck in the ground two springs ago. 

Turning around and walking back up the sidewalk the late-blooming pink potentilla is lovely, and the cornus alba (red osier dogwood) has grown to a height of eight feet (2.4 meters) since it was planted as a 3 foot (.9 meter) stick last May. 

Otherwise most of the shaded garden is not much to write home about. The slugs have been snacking on the hostas. The astilbes and coral bells have bloomed and gone to sleep. Only the fern and bergenia look perky. 

In the Zen garden the sedums around the standing stone continue their march through a seasonal flourish of colour. 

And soon a blanket of snow will cover it all. I am a gardner who follows the "Leave the stems and seed heads in the garden over winter" philosophy. When we first came here the only birds we saw were pigeons and seagulls. 

With the garden, small birds come to feed on the insects and the seed heads. Warblers, wax-wings, chickadees, sparrows, robins. Slugs may eat holes in my hostas, but in turn they make a fine meal for a bird. I cured the out-of-control aphid problem by taking out the plants which were not getting enough light to thrive (and thus were unhealthy) and replaced them with plants which like deep shade, and we have no aphid problem now. 

Anyway, thank you for touring my garden with me. It is one of my great pleasures.   

One fish One hook

This is the tale of two partners. Partner A is anxious and while A finds completing a certain task too anxiety-provoking to do, is also anxious that it be done, so reminds Partner B multiple times that it needs doing, and offers to bring materials to B so B can do the task.  Partner A grows anxious and increasingly insistent. 

Partner B on the other hand is psychologically resistant to being pushed to do the task, which is scheduled for later in the day and grows increasingly aggravated at being interrupted while working on another task. 

In the end, Partner B stops work on the task in progress and does the task Partner A is anxious about, but a few cross words ensure between the two of them. Shenpa at work.  

Partner A comments; Anxious Buddha; Grumpy Buddha    

In Buddhism shenpa is the word used to describe the physical or emotional hook that triggers our habitual tendency to close down, strike out, worry or nag. We get hooked into that habitual pattern we use to gain relief from that anxiety.

Our goal is to begin to recognizing that moment when shenpa kicks in and learn to relax, rather than react to it.

We can train ourselves to spot shenpa. For example, when we say something to another person and the expression on their face, or their response, triggers shenpa, and we feel that tensing in the gut, that feeling of resistance. Rather than get caught up in a story line about how right or wrong we (or they) are, we stop and pay attention to our response/ anxiety/ anger itself. We notice that while our response may be somewhat uncomfortable, it actually poses no threat. It is simply an emotional response which triggers physical symptoms which are not harmful. They do not require that you act upon them, and if you observe them dispassionately, they soon subside. 

Oh, and it helps to remember there are no right or wrong in trivial domestic disputes, and we are almost always more comfortable when we choose peace over power.