Snow Day!

As the day winds down, the snow just keeps falling steadily. It has been snowing heavily for a couple of days now and the accumulations are shutting everything down. And, although the local forecasters keep claiming that the storm is over, we have proof that we are still in the thick of it. No end in sight, says me! We are sitting at 28 cm at our place so far. I’d like to break 30 cm, at least.

A thick white blanket covered everything!

A thick white blanket covered everything!

As the day wound down, FM measured the snow in a bunch of places. This 28 cm reading was the deepest.

FM measured the snow in a bunch of places. This 28 cm reading was the deepest. But it continues snowing!

The Queendom came to a stand still today:

No work – A district-wide snow day closed all the schools in the valley. FM decided not to risk a challenging drive in and attempted to work from home (between outages!)

No power – Truthfully we have had power some of the time but it was out for a chunk of the morning, out again for a few hours in the afternoon and then just as we were thinking about cooking dinner. Out here, no power means that our well water pump doesn’t work so our water supply is limited to what is left in the pressurized tank. It also means that our septic pump cannot pump UP to the field so you better limit your grey water and flushing. The good news is that the power outage was not due to one of our fallen trees. The other good news is that FM dusted off the generator in order to brew up a second espresso this morning!

Everywhere we looked was beautiful!

Everywhere we looked was beautiful! We sipped tea and read in between walk-abouts.

No heat for the chickens. The two read heat lamps in the coop are out so it cools down pretty fast in there. These birds are hardy but Tweedle Dee is in a full moult right now and has lost most of her feathers. With sparse feathering on her wings and about half of her usual down, she is practically trembling. It baffles me that this would happen to her in the winter. I’m thinking of sneaking her inside beside our wood stove. (Don’t tell FM)

Taken in the days before the snow, you can see her bald patches and chicken skin showing.  Brrrr.

Taken in the days before the snow, you can see Tweedle Dee’s bald patches and chicken skin showing. Brrrr.

No light in the coop and this makes the birds CRAZY! A few months ago, the power went out so I headed out to check the chicks. There was mad flapping and crashing and begawking going on as they flew around in a panic. Ever since, I have left a battery-powered night-light inside which gives them a little glow.

Florentine is the only one brave enough to peek out at the storm.

Florentine is the only one brave enough to peek out at the storm.

And on the fun side:

Snowshoeing instead of shoveling! Our driveway is LONG and there is no way we’d consider shoveling it but tramping the snow down with snowshoes was pretty fun. We managed to drive one car out to the end of the drive for easier escape tomorrow. The car acted like a snowplow and left a smooth center between the tire ruts.

After sinking deeper than my calf-high Bogs, I realised snowshoes were really in order.

After sinking deeper than my calf-high Bogs, I realised snowshoes were really in order.

There is no way to shovel this on. Using the car like a plow had a similar effect.

There is no way to shovel this one. Using the car like a plow had a similar effect.

Hot Tubbing – Aren’t we glad we opted for the wood-fired variety! We spent hours in the tub over this snowy weekend.

It's hard to read but that thermometer reads 106!

It’s hard to read but that thermometer reads 104° F (40° C)!

Is there a better place to enjoy a snowfall?

Is there a better place to enjoy a snowfall?

Creative Cooking – We had to pre-thaw a tub of homemade chili in the hot tub and then transfer it to a pot on the wood stove. We warmed up some of B’s Foccacia loaf and had a candle lit dinner for two.

FM floated the chili container in the hot tub jsut long enough for it to loosen.

FM floated the chili container in the hot tub just long enough for it to loosen.

We already had the stove cranking out the heat so warming the chili and foccacia was simple.

We already had the stove cranking out the heat so warming the chili and foccacia was simple.

You gotta roll with the atmosphere that nature provides.

You gotta roll with the atmosphere that nature provides. FM is sipping a scotch while waiting for his rustic dinner.

Dreams DO Come True

A hot tub.  For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have a nightly soak in a hot tub, in my backyard, under the stars with my FM. I have dropped hints, both subtle and flamboyant, but a hot tub never seemed to be high on the priority list. This desire began long before the Queendom was a twinkle in our eyes. In fact, my first suggestion of a hot tub came over 10 years ago when we first bought our home in Delta. Having chosen a house with no hot tub, I thought that the addition of one would be a fantastic 10th Wedding Anniversary gift to ourselves. But our nuptials that year were celebrated in high style with a running adventure across Peru and no funds were left for a backyard  tub.

It has become a bit of an inside joke between FM and me. We allude to it as we do our ‘five year plan’ or other future improbabilities (like raising goats, acquiring a back-hoe or taking a hot-air balloon ride). But when we moved to the Queendom, suddenly a hot tub became a real possibility. Our home has a lovely wrap-around deck, under the eaves of the roof, where we can chicken-watch, barbeque and admire the pond, but it cries out for a more expansive deck where we could dine and lounge in our spare time (haha!). But more than anything, it NEEDS a hot tub.

Imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, FM directed my attention to a hot tub website. Alumi-Tubs are wood-fired hot tubs. The tubs are made of aluminium and have a deep firebox which is set in the water with heat-exchanger tubes, a safety fence and a chimney. It has cedar panelling around the exterior, giving it the look of a cedar tub but with none of the maintenance. It requires no electricity and, best of all, it is made in Sechelt, BC – only about 90 minutes drive and two ferry rides away from us.


By the end of the day, it was decided. We would pick up our new tub two weeks later, during our weekend adventure in that area, and bring it home with us on our flat-bed trailer. Eric and Wendy, the owners and manufacturers of the tubs, greeted us at their home and gave us a quick tutorial on setting up and using the tub. Together we rolled it onto the trailer and were on our way.


A perfect fit! Homeward Bound!

When we got home, we simply rolled it off the trailer onto our driveway and filled it up with water. About halfway full, our water shut off and we realized that we had completely emptied our well (oops!). Giving barely a second thought to the repercussions of that problem, we soldiered on with the task at hand. We managed to fill the rest of the tub with water from our pond. (And now we know that our well holds approximately 250 gallons of water) By the end of the day, we were soaking in its luxurious warmth! (we only managed to raise the water temperature to about 97F so it wasn’t really very warm!)

Right now, it is sitting where we first placed it, in our driveway, since we have not quite built the fabulous deck I spoke of earlier in this post. We also have not put on the cedar-panelling or made a proper, insulated cover. These things will take time and our design ideas are numerous. Perhaps next summer?? Luckily it is quite portable and we can simply empty it and roll it anywhere we fancy. We purchased a submersible pump and water filter so that we can easily use our pond water to fill it, rather than our precious drinking water from our now replete well.

With a hand-crafted log step and a garden obelisk towel hanger, we are ready to soak.

With a hand-crafted log step and a garden obelisk towel hanger, we are ready to soak.

We are willing to push the 'trailer trash' look a bit in order to make use of our tub now. Besides, it is away from the deck project area so that construction can take place any time.

We are willing to push the ‘trailer trash’ look a bit in order to make use of our tub now. Besides, it is away from the deck project area so that construction can take place any time.

We have used the hot tub every day since we got it, save one day of terribly inclement weather. We have almost mastered getting the water to reach 104F in the late evening after lighting the fire upon coming home from work. We have even had a few nights where it was too hot! FM has expressed his surprise at how much he enjoys our evening star-gazing sessions. It took twenty years to convince him but now the fun begins!

The Log Splitter Wins Again


Fingernail pain is like no other pain! The Iroquois knew this well according to early Canadian history!

It was just last summer when the log splitter and I had an altercation and I ended up at the hospital, getting xrays. I now approach the big machine with caution and know that I should not attempt to lift huge log rounds. But with one lesson learned, no doubt another lesson is coming down the pipe!

We were cutting another cord or two of wood on the weekend and I simply misjudged where I placed the log. My ring fingernail got kind of squished between the log and the metal rack that holds the logs in place. It was just a quick pinch but it left me reeling in pain, seeing cartoon-like stars and acting like my arm had been severed.

After the drama, we called it a day for hard labor. My nail bed was red, filled with blood and throbbing. After listening to my woes and being genuinely sympathetic, FM offered to drain the nail bed using a method common to runners with blistered toe nails. With a red-hot paper clip, he would attempt to make a hole at the base of the finger nail which would allow the fluids to drain out. The source of the pain is in the pressure created beneath the nail bed, not the actual injury itself. So I gave him my hand and tried to be brave.

Surprisingly I could clearly feel the burning paper clip and I pulled away before a hole was complete. I decided that I would just tolerate the throbbing and carry on.

But when night came, I couldn’t sleep. I woke up every hour, thinking about my squished finger and wishing that I could put mind over matter. Finally, at 3:00 am, I realized that I had to be pro-active and I got up. I heated up a safety-pin to red-hot and finished off the job that FM had started in the afternoon. It was a gruesome enough result (no photos, thankfully). With my nail bed drained, the pain was instantly gone. I was able to drift off to sleep within 10 minutes.

Here, you can see the little drainage hole that allowed us to relieve the pressure.

Here, you can see the little drainage hole that allowed us to relieve the pressure.


Healing takes time, indeed. Here are a few updated photos of the finger after the nail sluffed off. It looks gruesome but doesn’t hurt at all.  It sure got munched!

My nailbed, 3 months later!

My nailbed, 3 months later!

Testing My Physical Limits (or how not to use a log splitter)

OR how not to use a log splitter.

Fallen trees. We got ’em in spades.

Luckily the property came equipped with five years worth of wood stove fuel in raw form!
There are piles of trees like this all over the Queendom. We are thankful that they are (mostly) all bucked and piled up.

There must be 75 fallen trees around the Queendom, at least. Some have just recently come down in the ‘great storm of 2012’ and some have been lying around for a few years, with grasses growing over top and in-between. Right away, I knew that measures needed to be taken so that we (I?) didn’t have to cut them all by hand with an axe.

Suddenly a log splitter seems like a great idea!

So yet another purchase was made upon moving to the Queendom – a log splitter. This gas-powered, 5 hp machine has a splitting force of 20 tonnes with a 23 cm splitting wedge. This was a power tool to behold! Upon purchase, we simply hitched it to the back of the car and rolled it home in no time flat. Of course we had to try it out right away. To start it, you pull the ol’ starter cord a few times and soon it is roaring. Operating it takes no effort at all. You simply move a handle forward to chop and back once the cut is made. The only strength required is in chainsawing the tree into rounds and moving those log rounds onto the splitter. It is honestly my dream tool! Now, when I survey the Queendom and see all the fallen trees, I don’t get a heavy sinking feeling. Instead, I contemplate all the wood stove fuel that is just waiting to be refined into a more useable form.

We decided to spend a day splitting and stacking wood. We had a great division of labour (for me!) where FM would heave the log rounds onto the splitter and I would operate the chopping lever (princess work) and then throw the smaller chopped pieces into a huge pile. This assembly line was chugging along quite nicely when suddenly FM got an urgent pager call from work and had to go inside to deal with it. Now, I could have used this opportunity to begin the task of stacking the chopped wood. But no. Wanting to be a true rough n’ tumble country girl, I decided that I would carry on doing both tasks myself. It would be slower but progress would be made. Besides, FM would be back out in just a few minutes.

Here, FM demonstrates the ease of cutting a few cords of wood without even breaking a sweat.

I must add here that I am no delicate flower. Although I am considered petite, I am strong, stubborn and not afraid to test the limits of my strength. There is little that will stop me and that is probably due to being raised in a house of three rowdy brothers and being treated no differently (so says me!).

So, I carried on where FM had left off. The douglas fir log rounds were large – a diameter of about 60 cm – and heavy. It wasn’t too difficult to roll them along to the splitter, but it took a lot of strength to lift them up. I was careful to select the smaller ones and to always lift with my legs. I worked like this for a while, but then, quite suddenly, I didn’t feel so well. I felt a strain up in my shoulder and a slight wave of nausea. I shut down the splitter and worked at stacking wood for a while.

The next day, my shoulder socket and my back ached a bit. The following day, it seemed worse. In fact, I quietly suffered indistinct pain for about ten days. I was able to locate a tender spot just under my bra line and finally decided that a trip to the walk-in clinic was in order. The doctor heard a rattle in my chest and sent me to the radiology lab for chest x-rays.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, I had torn intercostal muscle (between the ribs) when I was lifting and twisting, trying to get those rounds onto the splitter. The tear was sore but the bigger concern was the resulting fluid build-up which was partially collapsing my lung.

Hmmm … no wonder I was fearful of sneezing for 3 weeks! (BTW it looks like my liver survived my twenties after all)

And so ends my story. After few weeks of being afraid to cough, laugh or sneeze, I was back in full form, answering the demands of the Queendom. I suppose there is a moral in there somewhere or simply a lesson about acting your age, but I don’t like to dwell on that kind of thing.

The Woodstove

Spring is not really a time of joy and rebirth on the Wet Coast.  It is a time of endless rain and wintery temperatures.  As April and May roll on, the rains come down, fiercely at times, and we keep the woodstove burning whenever we are home.


Springtime on the wet coast is cleansing indeed!

Go away

Sheets and sheets of rain

Although our new home is equipped with a heat pump, we have decided to use the woodstove as our source of heat.   I keep hearing people say that they prefer the heat from a woodstove. (?) Is there really any difference?  Anyway, firewood is plentiful with all the clearing that previous owner Mike did so we have enough wood to keep us sweating for 5 or more years.  (Honestly, we have cords and cords of the stuff, although it is not yet cut) (Blog to follow on that topic)

I have lots of experience with building fires.  My childhood days of camping allowed for a good dose of pyromania lessons from my brothers and both of our families had ski cabins that were furnished with regularly-used fireplaces.  More recently, while car-camping and backpacking,  FM and I have enjoyed many nights staring into the flames before sleeping under the stars.  Despite all of this preparation, I have been unsuccessful at getting a solid fire burning in our new woodstove.

Our Woodstove

Please, oh please, flicker, sizzle and crackle.

Within the first month of our move, FM was sent away on a week-long training course for work and I was suddenly made aware of my inability to keep the house warm on my own.  I would return from work, finding the house chilly, and begin the efforts of  lighting the fire.  On some occasions, I spent upwards of 30 solid  minutes trying to get the damn thing burning, building and lighting and blowing and cursing.  Could it be that all my fire experience was only second hand?  Was there always someone else there to step in when my flames fizzled out?  I guess that I am more of a princess than I originally thought.  Regardless of the history, it is time that I learned some self-sufficiency for my survival.

I discovered three key factors to starting a fire in a woodstove – lightly scrunched paper, tiny kindling and time/patience.

Lightly Scrunched Paper – Where did I learn to tightly wind newspaper into long snakes for fire building?  Well, it was wrong.  Newspaper is always plentiful and it does the trick, but only if it is gently balled up.  If it is wound too tightly, it will smoke and smolder but never ignite the wood.  Line the bottom of your woodstove with a few scrunched sheets.

Tiny Kindling – I had been taking small pieces of wood, about the width of a taper candle, and using that to build my base.  But I have since learned that the kindling needs to be cut matchstick thin.  With a leather glove on your left hand, take a hatchet and shave the kindling into pieces about the width of a bic pen.  Once you have cut an amount similar in size to 4 servings of raw spaghetti, you have enough.  Keep some larger pieces of kindling (taper candle width) and some smaller pieces of split wood nearby.  Build a teepee around your paper or lay your log cabin right on top of it.

tiny kindling

It hasn’t helped that our wood stores are still damp …

Time/Patience – Patience is not my virtue.  I am forever poking and prodding a fire, adding to it and trying to rearrange the wood into some fancy architecture.  Don’t do any of these things.  Light your paper in a number of places (starting at the back!) and close the woodstove door, leaving it open a crack of about 1 centimeter. You should be able to hear the whoosh of wind.  Then walk away, pour yourself a cup of tea, and read the leftover newspaper.  Let the fire develop.  After the paper has burned away, the wood will ignite and it needs time to get hot.  Once that heat is achieved, you can start feeding it small bits of kindling, with pauses inbetween.  Soon enough, perhaps when your tea cup is empty, you will have a roaring fire that can handle a couple of larger pieces of wood and will survive even with the door closed.

Although I have not yet mastered the one-match fire, I have passed the test.  Let the cold winds howl and the rains pour down in May, June and perhaps July, for I have learned the art of fire.  Hopefully I will remember some of this when October rolls around or perhaps I will have to start again from scratch.