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.
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:
Crumplesome newspaper and place under the grate and on the grate.
Place wood kindling lengthwise with the grate. Put on two pieces of wood on top.
Put two more pieces of wood perpendicular to the first two.
Ensure the damper is open.
Twist a long piece of newspaper and light it. Hold it carefully into the flue in order to create a draft.
Light the paper under the grate.
Enjoy the fire.
I have been lightning fires like this for decades. I found that I kept adding wood and burning faster thinking Ineeded 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.
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.
Ensure the damper is open.
Twist a long piece of newspaper and light it. Hold it carefully into the flue in order to create a draft.
Light the paper and kindling that was stacked on the top.
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 burningfireplace or do you prefer gas?
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?
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.
The daylight is getting shorter. The leaves on the trees are starting to change colour. It’s foggy in the mornings. We must be on the cusp of autumn.
So I decorated our front stoop accordingly!
We had an old wooden chair in our barn that I set up out front. I had bought a couple of metal buckets from the dollar store last year and filled them with firewood. I gathered some leaves that had fallen and placed them around. Finally, our crone gargoyle sits patiently waiting for Halloween.
On the other side of the door I put an unfinished “living edge” table (also from our barn). I set up our collection of British Columbia Beer Growlers from our road trips over the past few years. I surrounded everything with some leaves, dried seeds and bark.
I’m happy with the results and have a few other decorative ideas to add to our home before Halloween takes over. I finally found my glue gun at 11pm last night, but won’t be starting a project until later in the day.
I finally bought us some classic style wooden chairs for our yard. The kind that suits our country living lifestyle. My wife always Adirondack chairs. However, I convinced her that we should by Muskoka chairs instead.
What’s the difference between the two styles you may ask. (If you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you anyway.) Adirondack chairs are both 2 inches higher from the ground and 2 inches wider between the arm rests. Also, the Adirondack chair is built with a flat back for the seat. The Muskoka chair is built with curved back.
That’s it. The two styles are very similar in every other aspect. When we were purchasing the chairs we wanted natural wood, not plastic. Oh, and the Muskoka chair was cheaper by $20 And came with a foot rest.
I took the chairs home and needed to assemble them. Before I did that, I lay out every piece and gave a light cherry stain to seal the wood. I figure if they’re going to weather outside in our rain forest of a yard, it’d be best to try and get a few years out of them. After a couple of hours of preparing the wood and staining it, I had to leave the first chair over night to dry before assembling it.
This morning I woke up and put the first Muskoka chair and ottoman together. I’m really happy with how it looks. Just a hint of red on the wood from the stain. I’m also happy with the comfort level of the chair. The curve of the yoke feels more inviting than the flat back of an Adirondack chair. Chances are we’ll be spending hours relaxing in our yard on these chairs.
When we first moved into our home, I hated the ferns we had growing everywhere. In fact during the first year or so, my lawnmower found them attractive. I chopped them right down to the roots. You know what happened next? They grew back.
I gave in and accepted that ferns are pretty dang hearty plants. I’ve even dug them up and transplanted them and they’ve thrived happily. Over a decade later, I’m satisfied with the ease at which these plants are to maintain.
Ferns have this amazing ability to just keep living. What I do now is wait until mid spring and cut off the old or dead leaves. It’s easy to figure out because the new one stems have sprouted and are a vibrant healthy green color.
After a quick trim- these plants look good as new. If I forget to water them, no big deal- they could live through a drought of a few weeks. Ferns grow exponentially without being trimmed as well. For us, ferns add the splash of greenery to our garden that we get to enjoy during the beautiful weather.
I love animals. Always have. I think I could’ve been a veterinarian if it wasn’t for my allergies. Living in the countryside means more woodland creatures all around.
Yesterday when we returned from camping, there was a squirrel hanging out on our back deck. The fact that we were able to walk outside and it didn’t move, meant something was wrong.
After about thirty minutes of us eating lunch outside next to the little dude, we decided to catch it and take it into a place called Critter Care Wildlife. A local organization that specializes in mammal rehabilitation.
We put a box over the little critter and put a towel on top. We dropped it off and the staff was really happy to take it in. They gave us a case number so I followed up today to see how Mr. Squirrel is doing. He’s been integrated into a new group of squirrels and is bouncing back. The organization is unsure as to what was the original issue, but they will be keeping an eye on the little guy.
This afternoon another woodland creature entered our home. We had left the sliding glass door open and the bird flew right in. It bumped the window and perched itself on our cds. My oldest and I grabbed a towel and tossed it over top and I gently carried the bird outside to set it free.
Mr. Birdie took a moment after I uncovered its head before taking off. (Our son names every animal and stuffed animal MR.) We have had numerous animals visit us for brief moments. My favorite moment was when we rescued a hummingbird.
I think that when I retire, I might get into bird watching.
You know, like old people do- ’cause I’ll be old. And I’ll need a reason to look up from my smartphone once in a while.
After having the kids dig in our garden for the past few weeks in search of buried treasure, they found it. We just needed an extrusion afterwards to get it out.
This was not like the adventures that The Goonies had. My kids were digging to find our septic tank opening.
They did. In fact they found both lids. What to do next…
Today was the day to pump it out. This is the first time in 11 years since we moved in. And at nearly 20 years since it was last done. The tank is apparently twice to three times the size needed for our home.
That’s a lot of poop.
We needed a big truck.
Bright and early this morning it arrived. The fellow vacuuming out the waste was super awesome and we talked about shit. Apparently we should be pumping out every couple of years.
The smell was bad. Butt not as bad as I thought it would be. A bit less than steaming manure on a hot day. Not quite campsite outhouse.
Now that it’s empty, I’m happy that this is done. Onto the rest of my day.
My son caught a frog the other day. We named it Froggy Frog. It’s not the first time we’ve caught a frog in our yard. We’ve even caught a salamander and a couple of garter snakes (or garden snake if you prefer).
We tend to just look at them for a day or so, then set them free again. There’s no reason to keep them in captivity or kill them. The little ecosystem in our backyard is as if living in a Disney movie. I even described the sounds we hear daily in The Early Bird as well as the time I had to set a hummingbird free. I’ve even discussed my dislike of Rats a few times. But country living is accepting that all of these critters live here as well.
Mr. Froggy Frog has been set free already. Maybe his journey will be an incredible challenge with a set of crazy memories of us. Or maybe he’ll just go about his business eating bugs and staying cool.
That’s about it for my frog blog post. Time to hop along.
A few years back, I was addicted to Pinterest. So much so that I’d kill the battery on my iPhone regularly. Then one day it stopped. I think it was because I had saved all these wonderful ideas, but never did any.
It has been ages since I’ve logged into my Pinterest account. However, I do remember certain things I kept looking for. Mostly to do with our garden and doing it on the cheap.
We have an acre to work with. Lots of old growth as well as large trees. I have taken the time to move things around in the yard and have cut back some of the overgrown parts. It’s a labour of love.
Even animals love to hang out on our property. Our dog Lex is super lazy and never chases the squirrels away. We have numerous bird nests hidden in places like the wood shed and throughout trees. So we have a bird feeder that is always filled to keep them happy. And the squirrels love to run along our fence and up the trees.
Like a regular Disney Princess film- we just need more singing in the yard.
Pinterest was always something that kept me creating visions for our property. “Up Cycling” is still a hot trend. We have a collection of junk that is turning into Instagram hashtags. All with stuff we had already in our possession. This year’s spring cleaning and yard setup hasn’t cost me a penny. Thanks to some old ideas from Pinterest. I did toss a couple of our old toilets. I wasn’t really wanting the white trash planters in my yard. I’m glad I don’t go on Pinterest anymore.
But I still think about making stuff from old pallets I have…
I don’t know if I could ever give up this lifestyle. I’m not talking lavish luxuries- we are halfway between being well off and dirt poor on the best of days- I’m talking about location, location, location.
We live on the outskirts of a suburb in a little corner of the countryside, yet close enough to enjoy the local shops. Today was a prime example of everything country that makes life wonderful. Except country music. That’s not our thing.
The day began with me doing maintenance on the bikes that we own. Just a bit of tightening brakes, oiling chains and straightening handles bars. As I did this, an older lady in a diesel truck pulled up into our driveway where I was working. I traded with her a bunch of empty egg cartons and she gave me some farm fresh eggs that she had gotten in the morning from one of her hens. Nothing beats farm fresh eggs- perfect for a ham and egg breakfast.
I finished the work on the bicycles, packed up my tools, then began smoking a brisket for our dinner. Our oldest has been keeping an eye on the temperature to make sure is does a slow smoke. She has taken up wood burning as a hobby. While she stayed home to practice her new found art, we had her watch after our dinner. My wife and I took our two youngest on a bike ride up the road to the local berry farm. A few years back, the Krause Berry Farm did a major overhaul and added a bakery, a dessert shoppe and a winery. My wife and I enjoyed a couple of cold Wine-a-Ritas before cycling back home with the kids.
It was under fifteen minutes to ride home as a family. On our way, we passed some other families on bikes enjoying the afternoon, some horses grazing in a field, and a guy on a tractor heading down the road. With the exception of the horses, everyone waved and smiled. It’s very surreal to have such friendliness shared amongst strangers. But that’s the country lifestyle. A lifestyle I’m not ready to give up on. A lifestyle I never knew I wanted.
Living in the country means lots of wild critters hanging about. Some I don’t mind, others deserve to be eliminated.
Rats for instance. Hate them with a passion. Gross and destructive. At one point we had an onslaught of the vermin infesting our property when we first moved in. This was because up the road from us- about ten acres of green houses were torn down. All of the rats dispersed and the neighborhood had new unwanted tenants move in to each of our homes. Their move wasn’t magical like the rats from “The Secret Of Nimh”.
It was gross. I mean really, really gross. The rats became nonchalant in their entry into my home. I’d be watching tv and a rat would go across my kitchen floor and scurry up the cabinets. Or they’d run from our kitchen and hide under a couch. On more than one occasion I’d be staring eye to eye with one of them. The worst experience happened to me one morning. We had left a sink full of water and dishes to soak overnight. I reached in to drain the dirty water from the sink and instead of grabbing the drain plug, I had a bloated dead rat in my grip.
It took many traps and unfortunately some poison to finally rid our home of these pesky shits. We have the occasional rat still show up inside. But that doesn’t last long. I usually get them dead and gone within moments of them showing up. Once my oldest daughter watched through the glass window of our sauna as I killed a rat with a 2×6. I have no remorse for these critters. When we got our roof replaced three years ago, a rat had died in our attic from the heat of the blow torch. I found it because of the smell of death that filled that part of the house. Going into the attic to retrieve its corpse had me nearly throwing up in my mouth over and over.
Hot attic+dead rodent=sickly stench.
This winter we were lucky inside our home. I did however find some rat shit in our storage sheds and on the engine of my car. I just want them to stay out of my home and my life- is that too much to ask?
Last weekend was a long weekend. But this weekend is when everything is happening around our town. Specifically today.
Today in Downtown Langley is the Good Times Langley Cruise-In. It is the 20th year of this volunteer run event that attracts car enthusiasts from all over. It is also the only day in Western Canada that you can enjoy In-N-Out Burger. Their Mobile Truck is often sold out early in the day with lineups that last a few hours.
But if waiting hours to possibly not enjoy a burger, then heading to the Fort Langley Food Truck Festival is a better alternative. Food, food and more food. All in the oldest part of Langley. Pretty much on the opposite end away from the Cruise-In.
Living in farm country keeps us fairly segregated from large crowds. Since we didn’t want to go to either of those events today, we walked up to the JD Farms Fall Festival. It is put on by the owner- who also happens to be the Mayor of Langley. I enjoyed the food samplings, the live entertainers, and the kids had fun hanging out with their friends. It was more low key than any of the other events. Since it was close to our home, a kilometer away, we decided to enjoy an afternoon walk together.
It was another nice peaceful day in our little slice of paradise.
Today I made waffles. I used a cake mix because they turn out amazing. Everyone in my family loves when I use a chocolate cake mix, but today I opted for lemon cake instead. Using lemon cake mix as a waffle batter is something I decided to try out a couple of years ago. The waffles turn out fluffy on the inside with a slight crust on the outside. The aroma of lemon as it bakes in the waffle iron filled our home with a fresh scent that caused the taste buds to salivate.
Just before making the waffles, I drove up the road (literally one minute away) to the local berry farm to pick up some fresh strawberries & raspberries for our toppings. So fresh in fact that the employees had picked them only moments before & didn’t even have time to get the berries onto the shelves. I got the berries home and proceeded to clean and hull the strawberries with the help of a friend.
Thank you Google!
She did the trick of using a straw to remove the stem, and it worked perfectly. I decided to do a Google search about the best way to clean the raspberries. Having internet access at the palm of your hand is now something most people take for granted. Here I am looking up how to clean a raspberry- a knowledge that should have been passed down from my parents and their parents and so on- but it is completely unnecessary in this day and age.
Topping off our waffles was a scoop of fresh made whipped cream. Earlier this week we went to the store and almost bought one of those spray cans. It was in my cart until I actually read the label-“Whipped Topping”. Nowhere in the label did it make any mention of cream. I may be using a store bought cake mix, but I add the oil, milk & eggs to complete it. Super fresh fruit was going to go on the waffles, so I couldn’t sully the final product with complete artificial-ness. I put the petroleum whipped topping back and grabbed a carton of cream.
I’ve never made whipped cream before today. Even though I looked up online how to clean raspberries a few minutes earlier, I decided to make whipped cream based on what I imagined it to taste like. I poured the cream into the mixer and started the beater up on a medium speed. I sprinkled some icing sugar into it and added a few drops of vanilla extract. It looked like milk just spinning around. I watched for a moment and became impatient, so I cranked up the speed. Within seconds it thickened so I stopped the mixer & put the bowl of cream into the fridge. I didn’t even bother to taste test it, it just looked and smelled perfect. (BTW it turned out it was!)
This is the view of my backyard. I’m grateful for it.
Breakfast was served. Coffee and juice was to accompany our meal as we sat outside and lived the weekend country life. Breakfast among the trees, birds, rising sun and a gentle breeze made this morning one of the best reasons to just get out of bed. However, I am ready for my mid-morning nap now…