As I See It

I’m enjoying “me time” in my backyard this afternoon. A bit of a breeze, but I was doing some yard work to keep warm. I’m taking a small break to enjoy some music, the weather and share a couple of photos.

Here is what I am seeing right now as I sit in my wheelbarrow:

Here’s what the satellites and ufos can see:

I’m just a small piece of the vast universe. I’m going to enjoy my time here on this planet. Who knows what comes next. Today is just pure enjoyment. Pleasure to be alive, just floating around on this crazy planet.

Enjoying a moment is important when life is filled with challenges and hardships. Taking a moment to remember that it’s not all bad. Life is grand. I’m enjoying it.

Too Much Yard

People have asked me why we sold our property. The main reason is we have too much yard.

I’m getting older and want simplicity. A small lawn to mow, perhaps a few plants and bushes. Taking care of the old growth trees is too much these days.

Even though we move out in 50 days, I have pride for our home. We are still looking after it, but the yardwork is intense. This weekend will be busy trying to clear out dead branches and utilize a burning permit.

Today was a write off for me as well. I’m still feeling the after effects of getting my vaccine the other day. My energy levels are extremely low. Likely, my wife and I will do the majority of the work and our teens will run and hide every chance they get.

That’s the other hard part. Getting assistance. I was a teenager once. I know what it’s like to want to have a life not devoted to chores. I remember my father tricking me into allowing a friend stay over for a couple of nights one summer- in order for us to lay down sod.

I’m getting older. I can’t push as hard as I once did. It’s almost time for my midlife crisis. Maybe that’s why we bought a new house with a pool…

Castle Havelka

It has officially happened folks. After a couple of years of hemming and hawing we put our house on the market to sell. This has been an emotional and tough decision that didn’t happen easily.

First, some history on the house:

It was built by my wife’s father in the early 70’s. He was a bricklayer by trade and enjoyed woodworking as a hobby- and it shows throughout the home. We took possession of the house in May of 2007 when our son was only one year old. It has been a great home to grow in with our kids, with innumerable memories made and loads of personal touches added over the years. Putting the house on the market has a greater emotional connection with more members of this family than just my wife and I.

Here is a collection of pictures from the house after staging. It sure feels like a little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of life.

If you wish to check the listing while it is still active, head over to REW. This house has never been on the market, so the value we put on it is worth more in memories than it is in dollars.

We are excited to pass it on as we say goodbye to the beautiful nature that surrounded us. This is a truly unique home that we hope will be enjoyed by future families.

Market Value

A year ago I wrote about our Property Value. The newest property assessment has come out once more. We have seen an increase of 11%. Basically back to what our property was two years ago.

The housing market is booming once more. Especially in our area. COVID has made people realize they want more space outside of the city. Having land and a large home is a blessing some days. Unless there is a major storm. Then we have days of cleaning up the debris and have also gone up to four days without power.

But we also have a natural beauty in our yard that people would drool over. Our summer evenings have been spent sitting In The Trees (quite literally) or just enjoying breakfast on our deck. We take the good with the bad.

I have actively watched the market for about twenty years now. Always searching to see what is out there when we do finally move. Moving is inevitable really. Majority of us have lives that change requiring a change in homesteads. Be it downsizing, upsizing, transferring jobs, or even financially- staying rooted doesn’t happen for many of us. My wife has lived in this home almost the entire time since 1972- minus about ten years here or there. That is a legacy if you ask me.

A love of this home and location are in our hearts. But what else is out there? Is the grass greener? (We have mostly moss- so it’s always green.) Tell me where you live. Would you recommend it to someone thinking of buying nearby? Or do you wish to sell and move someplace else?

Let me know in the comments.

2020 Solstice Snow Chaos

After the chaotic snow storm on Monday, we did get power back on early than anticipated. That was a good sign. Until we began checking the yard for branches.

The snow and ice decimated our yard. After almost four hours of cleaning up the carnage, I’m out property was beginning to look better. It was a group effort, and I really thank the kids for all they did over the past few days.

I climbed up on the roof after to assess what the trees had done. There were two large branches above our living room, but luckily no damage to the roof. On the other side, above my wife’s studio was a different story. A three foot branch speared into the roof.

Quite the sizable hole remained. It seemed much larger than the one from a couple years ago- check out Roof repair if you want to see that damage. My son offered to help with this repair, so I took the opportunity to show him what to do and explained why it needed to be done that way.

Now we wait and see how the repair holds up. The last time was great- no leaks. We also need to wait for some of this snow and ice to melt so we can really clean up the yard. But we are all cold and tired. Time to relax and get ready for Christmas Eve Eve. Or Festivus if you wish.

Solstice Chaos

Yesterday was a heavy dumping of snow that came out of nowhere. As beautiful as it is, it caused havoc and carnage at our home.

The power line is hanging off the roof onto our driveway.

As our kids were out front playing (and sort of shoveling the driveway) a large branch fell from one of our trees. It came down and took out the power line to our house from the street. At this point, my wife told our teenagers to come inside. Which was a good idea as more large branches throughout our yard, and neighbourhood, continued to snap off and fall.

Not covering much anymore.

The carnage in my yard is pretty extensive. Besides the thuds onto the roof (which I will need to inspect for damage just in case) a massive branch went through our storage shelter. Now there is a large hole which I will need to repair, or at least cover, once I remove the branches. It also looks like we may lose our rhododendron bush and some boxwoods in our front yard. I haven’t even ventured out to the backyard yet.

As beautiful as our home and property is, moments like this making it frustrating to live where we do. And with Hydro telling us we may not get power until Christmas Eve- going days without power is difficult to say the least. It means we have no way to cook or use water (our well has an electric pump). The generator we own will give us enough power to light some lamps and a couple of space heaters. So at least our dining room and family room will be cozy.

With Covid precautions in place, we also don’t feel comfortable going to visit friends or family. I guess that means that we are “off grid” for the time being in hopes to become civilized once more for Christmas.

Mushrooming

My wife mentioned how some of her coworkers go out and collect wild mushrooms in autumn. Today was a perfect day for me to explore our yard for such fungi.

I downloaded an app that allows me to take a photo and it would tell me if it was toxic or safe to eat. I downloaded “Picture Mushroom” and it has a free trial for the week, but costs $29 for the year. So why not try it out since this was my first foray into mushrooming. And I don’t think I will be out in much more of the world to search for ‘shrooms, so after this week, I’ll likely delete the app. (If anyone has an app they enjoy using- please let me know).

The afternoon turned into a fun hunt for my wife and I. We gently collected a variety of mushrooms, keeping them separated so that we could cross-check afterwards just in case. We don’t want a sick family because of a lack of knowledge.

Turns out that we had quite the collection of various mushrooms growing on our property that were good for consumption! My wife and our oldest daughter went to work cleaning the funguses and we stored them away in paper bags until tomorrow night’s dinner.

In our front yard, we also happened to find a smattering of toxic mushrooms. The kind that cause hallucinations. We collected them up and told our teens about them and the effects. Ingesting these types of mushrooms is not on our radar at this time. But we removed them from the yard anyways.

Do you go mushroom hunting? Any good recipes to share? Or perhaps any ill effects happened?

Let me know in the comments. (And no, we are not selling the psychedelic ones!)

Ahead of the Game

Yesterday I mentioned that I was looking for Christmas light clips in: Make it. That is because I’m trying to get ahead of the winter season. I like to put up my lights in early November, but I don’t turn them on until December. That’s because I don’t want to be freezing my fingertips or standing on the roof in the rain trying to put up lights.

I also sneak a couple of decorations out a bit early. Just because of the hassle of getting a ladder in the cold. We have four large baubles that hang from our ceiling in our main foyer. I hate putting them up every year, so I just git’r’done immediately after Halloween.

Since I am crafty, I also do something unique every year. This year is a couple of cheap wooden crates painted in red that will hold Christmas stuffed animals. We will put them underneath the stairs in our front foyer. I figured I better paint them now and let them dry 100% before putting anything inside. It also gives me a chance to decide if I want to add anything more to the boxes. Like a hand painted sign or fake holly. We shall see.

Are you getting ready for those winter holidays yet? Let me know in the comments. Plus I love to see what other people craft. It always brings me joy seeing stuff made from scratch. It always inspires me to do better.

Early Autumn Morning Drive

Living in the countryside has its advantages. My commute to and from work can be long and tiresome. I try and use that time to decompress and leave the workload behind me. Driving home from a night shift lately has been rather pleasant.

I enjoy the sunrise in the autumn much more than any other time of year. The sun is at a slightly different angle as well as a bit later to rise. A misty morning makes the light of day shimmer with a hazy aura. As if the trees are glowing and preparing to change colors.

Having trees all around my neighborhood makes for a peaceful autumn morning. A freshness is in the air. One that you cannot experience in the suburbs or city. It clears my head and relaxes me on a daily basis. My own little zen experience.

An autumn morning drive fills me with contentment. This world is a pretty place.

Farm Fresh Country Living

Our one acre of privacy is surrounded by larger acreages. Some have horses, many are hobby farms. Personally I don’t want any other animals to take care of as our dog is the hardest one to look after lately. He’s getting old and it makes me sad. But I want to talk about our neighborhood instead of our puppers.

Wandering around our neighborhood there are a few little stands set up. One is from a couple little kids. They are selling a variety of zucchini and squash. It’s really cute that they are trying to be entrepreneurs. Pretty sure they got “backing” from mom and dad. As in harvesting their vegetables.

The other type of stands that are around are for “Free Range Eggs”. We have a couple of these in our neighborhood. I have not purchased from them. My wife has in the past and was not thrilled with the color of the yolks. I won’t go into detail, but store bought eggs are more reliable in her opinion.

There is also an herb stand around the corner as well as a few small businesses. Such as a Christmas tree farm, a turkey farm, and a few vegetable greenhouses. Having these nearby is unique and pleasing. I do enjoy the freshness of the vegetables as well as the luxury of having these places nearby.

Are you more city or country? Perhaps you love the suburbs.

Country Living for Convenience?

I cannot get enough of living in the country. Being on the outskirts of the suburbs, we own an acre of land. Filled with trees and plenty of space to relax. We are only a few minutes away from accessing major routes to get into cities and local shopping. Our privacy and peace make all the difference to my mental well being.

Visiting a friend over the weekend, I also appreciate that we don’t have a farm to maintain. Not that they do, they just rent a house on that land. But their privacy and views are also amazing.

My wife and I discuss on a regular basis the idea of moving in the future once the kids are all done high school. But we both want something different it seems. I still want some privacy and space. She wants connivence to walk to shopping and have less land to maintain. Both of us want bigger and better bathrooms and a kitchen. Newer would also be nicer.

Until our son reaches his final year of school in three years, it’s tough to discuss plans. I honestly think we will remain where we are for at least another decade, if not longer. So I feel we should do some work around the house to update it so that we can enjoy it before someone else does.

Having inner peace is important to me. I’m not sure I’m ready to trade it for convenience.

That Old Guy Didn’t Tell Me To Get Off His Lawn

Last night I stepped over a fence into my neighbor’s yard. Only on occasion have I gone over to talk with him. We wave at one another and have brief conversations. But yesterday I saw him sitting alone and decided to go over for a talk.

Last weekend he lay some concrete, put up a gazebo to the side of his yard and set up a standing swing inside. Turns out my building of the Front Porch a few weeks back inspired his wife to want a swing and a place to relax as well. Sorry Bob.

So I sat down and we shared stories. He told me about his career as a pilot. How he flew in a plane that broke the sound barrier, not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions. He’d worked on movies and even landed on icebergs to do measurements. But he was more interested in my job working with trains.

As the night went on, he told me of buying the land and building his home in 1972. The same time my father-in-law was building his house- the one we now live in. And he told me about my wife growing up. My wife was two years old when the house was first built.

I’ve mentioned Bob and how extremely neighbourly he is: Donating Wood and how he can be regimented in his routines: Determination. What I like about Bob is that he is genuine. For an 87 year old, he is also very active and busy.

That’s what I want to be like when I grow up.

Camping at Home

Our middle child has the right idea. Since we came home from camping last week she decided to set up the tent in our backyard.

Having a yard with a park like setting is my favorite part about not living in the suburbs or city. I sit out on one of our four decks on a regular basis to just enjoy the country life. Almost every one of our meals is had on our covered deck. Since installing the Porch Swing in our front yard, I have spent more time out there after a day at work.

Our tree deck is still my favorite of all the decks we have. The family is utilizing it more frequently as well since I added the deck chairs and lights. It also happens to be where the tent got set up for the past week. Our daughter has been the only one sleeping out there. Except yesterday when I disappeared into the tent for a nap.

The peace and quiet was thoroughly enjoyable. As it always is in our park like setting.

Fresh And Fruity

We have so much fresh fruit in our yard! I love it.

In the very back of our yard, there is salmonberries. Which just so happen to be ready for consumption! We also have a bunch of huckleberry bushes throughout the yard. Once they are ready, the kids load up on them.

This year, I discovered our cherry trees are producing fruit. It’s been a couple of years since they did. I’m looking forward to enjoying them. Our pear tree is also producing an abundance of fruit which should be ready in a few weeks.

We had a plum tree- but it ended up being diseased and had to get cut down. Those plums were juicy! As well, we used to have an apple tree, but alas it fell over one year in a storm. I have since planted a new apple tree a couple years ago- this time with four different types of apples infused into the branches. Currently I only get an apple on each branch, but one day- variety!

Do you have fruit trees or bushes that you grow? Summer is the best for walking the garden and eating right if the limb.

Upcycle To A Greenhouse

Last year when I Built a set of doors, I had removed the old sliding glass door and set it aside. It was pretty massive, with each panel being four feet wide. Today I finally began to do something about them. I made a mini greenhouse.

I had my son as a helper once more as we measured out some boards for the frame. I figured we could make a TARDIS shaped greenhouse. Just the right size to get some of the plants started.

These boards came from our old deck that was in front of the old sliding glass door. We ripped that deck out in 2014. Many of these board have been used for projects such as an Axe Throwing Target. I kept the long ones just in case. Today they became the frame of the mini greenhouse. I also added an old busted sliding window for the roof. That way it can be opened to allow airflow.

All that’s left is adding a door and maybe some painting of the boards. If I can find a small can of blue paint- you know I’ll be making a TARDIS door! It’s fun being a Whovian. Pretty sure my wife will be okay with that idea.

I think she will also appreciate this Great Glass Elevator in our garden.

Birdie

Yesterday morning I wrote Night Shift Is For The Birds. Not fifteen minutes after post a bird crashed into our sliding glass door. It got up and flew away. Moments later, another crash. Same bird?

I went outside to pick up the little creature. It seemed stunned and was having difficulty breathing. I held it gently in my hands. It gasped repeatedly, and finally twitched.

Welp, it passed away. Nothing I could do. With so many birds in our yard, I hope it didn’t have little ones to look after. But it was gone. Not sure if this was the same bird that hit the glass the first time or not. I’m thinking it was. It’s not the first bird to crash into our home over the years.

Unceremoniously, I tossed it into a plastic bag and dropped it in our outside waste bin. Really? Yes. I would’ve done the same if I had found it later in the day. As much as I hoped for it to be okay, like when the Hummingbird entered our home last month, this was not the case.

The only other time I held an animal as it died was our first guinea pig. That was different though. The kids gathered round as he took his last breath. He got a proper burial in a shoebox, as all small pets do. I guess animal death doesn’t affect me the same as it once did.

Squeak Squeaken

The other day I was curious if I could befriend some of the wildlife that lurks in our neighborhood. Particularly the squirrels. They looked like they were having such fun running and chasing one another all the time. Plus they bounce up and down all cute like. What’s not to love?

I noticed the little rascals were getting into our bird feeder and had successfully knocked it onto the ground one night. So I used some birdseed to entice them to get closer to me. It started with a small pile by a tree that they like to climb. Then after a bit I began to put some seed in a leather glove and laid it down on our deck.

Three of the squirrels began to show up closer to our home. They ran past me a few times and we’re becoming more courageous about approaching me. It’s been a couple of years since the cute furry Wildlife has come up to our house.

I even named the squirrels. Jimmy James, El Gato, and Samson. JJ is the lazy one on the fence. El Gato is the female who acts like a cat about to pounce. And Samson is the crazy one who jumps branches.

As much as my experiment is starting to work, my wife is none too impressed. It seems these little fellas are pooping on our deck and making a bigger mess of the bird feeder. I have been asked to adjust my plan to get them to wander elsewhere.

Time to get them to the other side of the backyard and maybe we can bond over some berries.

Front Deck: Part Deux

Well, we didn’t quite start on completing our new deck at 8am like my son wanted Yesterday. We began around 10am instead. I’m happy to report- we got it done! And most of the clean up is done as well.

I’m also happy that I was able to scrounge up some old cedar slats to make a porch swing to complete the look. I also dig out three pieces of cut wood that my father-in-law left behind. These were originally for a step stool/ mini bench. But the shape lead to a perfect angle for the base of the swing. I also used the other part as the armrests. Hooray for up cycling!

Now our home really feels like we are country living. Got the front porch and porch swing all completed in a couple of days. Now to add some planters and relax as the world passes by.

Front Deck Part 1.

The other day my wife mentioned how she wanted to change the look of the front of our home. We’ve always had stones lining the front of our house from our driveway to the wall. Nothing fancy really- take a look:

When we first moved in, there was a couple of rotting flower boxes. We quickly removed those along with a half dead “Prickly Pete” bush that hid our gas meter by the carport. We’ve tried livening it up by putting a bench and an old wagon in front. But it just didn’t look good. So my wife asked if I would make a new deck. I jumped at the chance. This will be my third deck build. I enjoy them.

I wanted to get an early start on this project, but didn’t leave the house until after 10am. The Home Depot stung me for about $600 in pressure treated lumber. Even though the deck area is five feet wide- it is 36’ long. I also opted to give it a bit of height to add a step and level it off. I returned home with 72 deck boards- which irritated one customer because I took all the good ones- I got to work on my next project around lunchtime.

I was hoping to be posting about a “One Day Build” but starting at noon makes for a tough challenge. Instead I opted to have our fourteen year old son help me. That way I could teach him how to use power tools, as well as the tricks to making a good sturdy deck. Safety was the first thing I taught him. Safety glasses, taking your time and common sense were expressed. As much as he groaned at first, he got into the workload pretty quick. A few errors were made, but nothing tragic.

We’ve gotten about half way through this project before calling it a day. Building the frame and leveling it off was the toughest part and took quite a while. My son wanted to keep going after dinner, but I explained to him that it was disrespectful to the neighbors to be noisy as dusk fell. He has decided that we will be waking up at 7am and be back at it by 8am. He wants to be done by lunch. I’m happy about his enthusiasm. He’s also proud of his workmanship.

Little does he know that I also have a Porch Swing project in mind for us… That would finish the new deck off quite nicely.

Another Hummingbird In Our Home

Today a hummingbird flew up to the skylight in our sunroom. My wife went on the roof and covered it with a blanket and I stood on the dining table to catch the little rascal.

This is the second time we’ve had a hummingbird in our home. The last time was a couple years ago- Wildlife House.

Here’s a quick video of me setting this little fella free that I shared on My Instagram. Enjoy.

Backyard Flooding

For the first time since we bought our home almost 13 years ago, our backyard flooded. There’s a lot of water in the far back of our acre, so at least it’s not near our house.

In and around our neighborhood I noticed the ditches were overflowing from the last couple of rainfalls. It’s rare for the ditches to get like that, but the heavy rain will help replenish the aquifer that we use for our well.

Living in the outskirts of Vancouver- I am fully aware that we technically live in a rain forest. It’s still unsettling though when there is such a large accumulation of pooling water. Hopefully the rain eases up for a few days and balance will come to our natural surroundings once more.

Fireplace

I love our wood burning fireplace. It gives off a great ambiance to the home. Recently I tried to figure out– How do you build a good fire in a fireplace?

With winter in full force for the first time in years, we have been using our fireplace to heat up our home more often. Here is what I was taught to do when building a fire:

  1. Crumple some newspaper and place under the grate and on the grate.
  2. Place wood kindling lengthwise with the grate. Put on two pieces of wood on top.
  3. Put two more pieces of wood perpendicular to the first two.
  4. Ensure the damper is open.
  5. Twist a long piece of newspaper and light it. Hold it carefully into the flue in order to create a draft.
  6. Light the paper under the grate.
  7. Enjoy the fire.
  • I have been lightning fires like this for decades. I found that I kept adding wood and burning faster thinking I needed flames to create heat. The other day I discovered a new technique and it really made the house much warmer.
  • Essentially you build the fire upside down compared to what I had been doing for years.
    1. Start with two or three large pieces of wood and lay them lengthwise and tight together.
      Lay three more pieces perpendicular on top of the first layer. Again making sure it is tight.
      Now add the kindling on top along with crumpled newspapers.
    1. Ensure the damper is open.
    2. Twist a long piece of newspaper and light it. Hold it carefully into the flue in order to create a draft.
    3. Light the paper and kindling that was stacked on the top.
    4. Enjoy the fire as it burns from the top down making more of a hot ember base.
  • The six or so pieces of wood burn slower and last much long than the old way. Going for ambiance- I’ll still light a fire my old way. But with negative temperatures- heat is the priority.
  • Here is a video that I found that explains the new way: Perfect Fire. I’m in no way connected with the YouTube video- I just found it very helpful and wanted to share.
  • I love living in the country and the lifestyle that comes with it. But one day we will move and I’ll have to enjoy a gas fireplace instead.
  • Are you keeping warm the winter with a wood burning fireplace or do you prefer gas?
  • Snow Day. S’no Way!

    Yesterday the kids had a snow day from school. I also had a rough time trying to get out of our neighborhood to go into work, so I ended up having a snow day as well. The downside to that is I’ll be making up my work day but my kids won’t have to. So what did I do to my kids? I made them work in the snow!

    Our driveway and back deck needed shoveling. A couple of times. I also had the kids gather up firewood in order to keep the house warm. Understandably there was a fair bit of grumbling to be had. But I made them some pizza bites and hot chocolate for lunch.

    By the afternoon it had cleared up somewhat. It was now just very windy and much colder than before. Our little cul-de-sac and nearby side streets were still being ignored by the plows and salt truck. The kids don’t have a sled or any nearby hills to enjoy but they wanted to go outside.

    So they pulled out our old inflatable boat and bombed up and down our empty street in it. They got the idea from me when I was talking about a bad snow storm from back when I was about 19-20 years old. I talked about my sister’s boyfriend at the time who had a 4×4 truck and he dragged me in a sled up the street doing about 60km/h.

    Our kids did something similar, but not at the same speed. Much, much slower. Their fun only last about 30 minutes because of how cold it was. But their ingenuity and joy made me happy for them. I opted to remain warm.

    How do you spend your snow days? Do you stay warm inside or get out and have fun?

    First Time Generator Usage

    Yesterday afternoon the power went out for about five hours. It was most likely due to the wind storm. Besides the wind, it was a nice enough day that allowed me to try out our back up generator for the first time.

    In all honesty the generator we picked up is pretty heavy duty considering what we ended up running on it: A couple lamps and the Internet. Yup, we needed online access. Not the most practical use. I suppose I should look into connecting our well’s pump so we could have running water next time. Or maybe the stove top for cooking…

    Anyhow, the generator works. Which is a good sign. It gave us a sense of normalcy for the few hours that our power was out.

    Lightning Storm 2019

    Last night brought forth some excitement in our neighborhood. Quite the light show was coming from the heavens. So we sat on our front stoop and watched and listened to the thunder and lightning.

    The glow from the lightning was pretty intense. We spent a good couple of hours outside trying to catch some pictures and video. Thank goodness for having a covered area to sit in.

    There were plenty of cheers going on after each blast. Oohs and Aahs were rampant. As well as plenty of “DID YOU SEE THAT?!?

    The weather app even added motion lightning strikes across the screen. It was a fun Saturday night had by all. I’m glad we decided to enjoy it.