Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pen Progress!

So Monday I was laid out with a sore back, and I wrote the post about expanding the dog pen.
Tuesday my back was approximately a million times better, and I was feeling restless. I didn't want to risk re-injuring my back, but I was bored as hell sitting around the house.

But even taking it easy, I made a lot of headway.

Over the weekend the focus was clearing dead trees and trimming branches. It was a lot of work, some bending and straining to lop off limbs. So I took a different tack, I detached the fence from the trees and the posts, and I wove it through the trees, maximizing the length of the fence and the area for Kaylee to run. I did this without trimming branches or removing deadfall, the entire goal was to get the fence back up so the pen would be secure, with as little work as possible.

Even still, in the name of not pushing myself too far, I took many breaks, doing the three sections of fence in stages.

This area is going to change significantly (again) once the permanent fence is installed. The entire front fence area will be used to go further into the trees, yet again increasing Kaylee's roaming area. Upon bushwhacking for this section, I realized that there was a tree that had fallen, but wasn't exactly safe, so I made sure the fence did not encompass this area. It will be on the list of to do's once the permanent fence is installed, so we can expand into that area.

There's a lot of work to be done in this area, cleaning up deadfall and trimming horizontal branches. But it already looks so much better, so much less like a bowling alley. The diagonal stakes leaning on the fence are about to be moved to where we've been storing the stakes, I forgot to do that before I took the picture.

Hilariously, the before looks better in this picture, just because of the crappy green fence. But this area of our yard is barely used, and from many vantage points, the fence is hidden behind Stadler (above) and Waldorf (not pictured)

You can vaguely see how far the green fence goes back into the distance, disappearing from view about 1/3 of the way from left to right, in the picture. It goes around a corner and deeper into the woods which the camera couldn't capture.

This pic illustrates what I mean, better, but even from a closer vantage point you can't see where the fence is in the background. There's so much space for Kaylee to explore!!

So until M gets the new posts into the ground (which I haven't even purchased yet, so it's not like there's a deadline), I can work on gathering the trees and branches I've already pulled out/cut off, and continuing the same in areas I haven't tackled yet.

Funny how, despite being besieged by blackflies the entire time, accomplishing something just feels so good :)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Because I don't have enough to do.

Did I mention we’re expanding the dog pen?

The current state of things.

When we started the pen in the summer of 2015 we just wanted a place where Kaylee could run a little, and where she would beep and boop without having to walk her down the road every single time. We did it as cheaply and quickly as possible, driving in only a few stakes, and attaching the fencing to trees, mostly.

Now that we’ve lived with it for almost 2 years, we recently decided that expanding/improving the pen is a good idea. We had considered bringing it up the entire side of the property, but it looks like instead we’re just going to go deeper into the woods.

The back of the fence here will just continue into the woods.

One of my “wants” for the new pen is to get the god awful green plastic fence out of immediate view. I thought one of the easiest/cheapest ways to do this (for one section, anyway) is to have the giant stephanandra hedge (between Stadler & Waldorf, the two huge pines in our yard) grow into/over some chickenwire, creating a natural barrier.

Front fence will change, back fence will be moved deeper into the woods.

So a few days ago I picked up 2 heavy duty hooks, 48” x 25’ of 2” chicken wire and 2 fibreglass tension rods (to the tune of $25). I threaded one tension rod through the end of the chicken wire, screwed the hooks into Stadler (the pine tree the green plastic fence was attached to) and bushwhacked my way between the stephanandra and the old nasty green fence. Once I got close to the stake the old fence ended at, I threaded the other tension rod through the chicken wire and used another wire to pull the fence as taught as I could. The pen gained about 30sqft in additional space with this one change. I pulled the old fence off the old stakes, and rolled it up for use in the expansion. It already looks better!!

More space, and soon the stephanandra will hide the wire.
That burning bush has to go.

I’m excited about replacing the old shitty stakes (used for electric or wire fencing, typically), and installing actual wood fence posts. M said he would do the labour of installing, so yay! There’s a ton of ads on Kijiji (Canadian Craigslist) for sharpened tree trunks (essentially) to be used for fence posts, that sell for as little as $1.50 each. I’m going to use those, and wood rails top and bottom, with chicken wire in between. Something like this (only 2 boards instead of 3), with wire to block the gaps:


So today I spent some time scouting the easiest route to expand the pen. The plan is find some sturdy trees and forgo the need for stakes. I spent my time looking for the largest trees and removed dead trees and horizontal branches in the area, much like I have been doing for the waterfront path (with much less cutting down live trees). There were a surprising number of dead trees that I could pull out of the ground with one hand. I did, however, find a very large tree that is succeeding in falling over, though it’s still between 90 and 45 degrees.

From Stadler (the large pine) on the right to the largest pine on the left.
And then back into the woods.
You can see the falling-over-tree on the right under Stadler's arm.

Pulling all of this wood out of the area makes me think we need to rent a wood chipper. It would come in handy for the crazy number of wood piles we have, plus mulching garden beds, the waterfront path, and the dog pen.

"Everything the light touches is our kingdom."

In other news, M has spent several weeks troubleshooting the electrical problems with my bike. He got a friend of his out, an electrical wiz, and we’re still at a loss. It’s between the rectifier ($130) or the stator ($200), so you can guess what I’m rooting for.
Soon, hopefully, I’ll be able to ride my damn bike again.

I just wanna ride!!!

More rain in the forecast, though. I’m going to have to find some things to do around the house…

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wedding Fever

Last weekend M and I travelled to the Metropolis of Ottawa to attend the wedding of dear friends, Eric and Erica.

The Jungmeisters

It was also a reunion of sorts as lots of our friends from the Manitoba days, and even University were in the area!

While M was off doing the rehearsal dinner, I had a hotel picnic with an old friend and her littles.
Marie, Mylaine & Marc-Olivier <3
They were hilarious, high spirited and adorable. And it was great to catch up with Marie.

The next day I got to have lunch with Sebastien, though I'm sad we didn't get photographic evidence.

Then off to the wedding!

(Mike) Jeon and my handsome husband (Mike) (Old Man) Armstrong.
Eric and (Mike) Lane

The ceremony was beautiful and thankfully brief considering the cold driving rain and the outdoor venue, but inside it was warm, the music was great, the speeches were touching and hilarious (Eric really outdid himself).

And any occasion to dance with my husband, I'll take it.

And I know I'm biased, but I think I looked pretty good.

Yes, I am so skilled that I can make a post about someone else's wedding all about me :D

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dispatch from the Garden - 1 of many

There's been many good days spent outside lately. I've been dodging raindrops until this weekend, where despite weather reports saying otherwise, Saturday was rain-free. And today was full sun!

The waterfront path is still on hold, for no reason other than things in the backyard have been more interesting. 

I managed to take a few pictures while I was out today. I worked out a process that helped me be more productive (spending 30 minutes doing an outdoor task, 30 minutes on an indoor task, or more accurately, a fun task, then a necessary task) I got so much done in the last two days!
I even had time for dog snuggles!

This following picture represents so much progress!

The square foot gardens!
The patio area at the top of the picture used to be covered in debris to be burned, much like the top left. We've gotten so far, but still so far to go! I mulched in between the beds, adding a newspaper barrier underneath to discourage the weeds from growing into my garden beds. The newspaper you can see at the front of the bed at the bottom left was where I ran out of mulch (I only had a part bag on hand) and used some rocks I had laying around to hold it in place. The plastic bag covering the peas and beans on the trellis was one of my tasks on Friday. Today I added cucumber, beets and radishes under little plastic cloches. I also laid the heavy black plastic that I'd pulled up from another part of the yard to prevent weed growth while I plan and build the new bed. 

I'm planning on elongating the bed on the right, I accidentally built it a foot short. So much for measure twice cut once :P But now that I'm trying to expand the amount of food I grow, the extra 4 feet will come in handy.

Elsewhere in the yard, things are getting a little more colourful :)
The first daffodils!
Last year I bought some pansies, thinking they'd be a nice pop of colour in a bed that I've not committed to, yet. When I bought them they were labeled as annuals, and yet, here they are, even more prolific than they ever were last summer. Minimal research has introduced me to biennials, so that's a thing I need to learn about now.

The Undead Pansies

I got a multi pack of colours, including orange and yellow
So things are progressing in the garden. I will try to take more pictures of the different areas I've been improving, but sometimes the work I'm doing it's obvious in pictures, like pruning, or weeding. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Good Hard Work

You get a blog post today because it's pouring rain and I'm stuck inside!

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden. Partly because I'm taking a break from the waterfront path. There's a lot of downfall and its harder to get through than I expected, and getting around it makes my skin crawl because fungus creeps me out. But also because I need to keep up on maintenance in a garden this enormous.

On the weekend I finally completed the long-planned expansion of the slightly shadier garden at the side of the house. I was shocked to find garlic - that I thought I had harvested last year - was sprouting. So I had to dig it out before installing the bed, which also gave me an opportunity to weed the area, a former flower garden left to the weeds.

The upper left is the old raised bed, containing asparagus, garlic and rhubarb.
The new bed is below. And yes, I ran out of soil. 
I've been a little scattered in my garden clean up. I raked out a bunch of beds (and had a few bonfires in the process), and decided it was time to trim Simon and Nick, the holly, again. In the process of also weeding around the holly, I started cleaning up around the pavers. And then I decided to add some decorative stones along the edge to soften it and make it look a little more intentional.

Its a work in progress.
The picture above hints at some other work I've done, trying to expand the paving stone area so we're no longer backing the bikes up on the lawn.

M wants three move above these ones, even.
The paving stone path that runs from our driveway to our shed is old, though it's still in pretty good condition, considering the possibility of heaving through our Canadian winters.

We do have one problem area, however. It appears a large rock (it's MUCH bigger than the 18"x18" pavers) was under one of the pavers which we removed, and it's heaved one particular section. M and I are hoping to lift these pavers, level the area, and lay the pavers again. Including one over the rock.

You can see the heaving, and the stone under the missing paver. 
Hopefully that solves our problem.

I'm desperate for a new garage. We could build one ourselves for about $5k (ouch), but we need to make a decision whether we will hire someone to lay a slab foundation, or whether we will have a wood foundation on a larger shed structure. Cost is going to be a huge factor, of course.

There will probably be lots of dispatches from the garden in the coming weeks :)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

DIY Waterfront (Too many words, not enough pictures)

So it's been a few weeks since I got home, and after recovering from 40 hours door to door, losing at traffic court after almost 2 years (what a waste), and hearing nothing back after the FIRST response from the plethora of resumes I've sent out, I was feeling a little... deflated.

I've continued to pound the proverbial pavement, applying for some interesting and hopefully lucrative opportunities, and have also begun investigating a really exciting venture with a friend.

I've also spent lots of time with friends, trying to be present, not let the doldrums effect valuable time with people I care for and who care for me. Fortunately I have the kinds of friends who I can be absentminded with and they get that its a now thing and not a me thing.

Something that has given me some overdue motivation is this plan M and I started talking about last fall.

We're making a path down to the water on an unassumed piece of land behind our house.

I wanted to do it over the winter but the forest floor is too dangerous when covered in snow. It's dangerous enough not covered in snow, since it's mostly made up of deadfall and trees. I've been slowly picking my way through the forest, first cutting out the trees that block the path, then cutting down the branches on the remaining trees so no one gets poked in the eye.

This picture is not helpful.
The above picture just looks like a forest. What I can tell you is this: Everything green on the bottom third is stuff I've cut down. The brown blob in the middle is the remaining stifled branches that occur in dense evergreen forests. They all need to be cut down to open up the path. I actually took this picture with a focus on the top portion of the image, so that I could maybe get my bearings from the water side, which was my next step in the plan. I needed to make sure I wasn't on the neighbours property, or listing to far towards the highway, since there's a specific spot on the waterfront that I want the trail to end at.

In the dense evergreen overgrowth I was making progress of maybe 2 feet every 30 minutes.

Today was supposed to be a day off, since the forecast was for rain, and I'm bone tired from my previous days efforts. But I got restless, and suckered encouraged M to join me in a walk through the forest by the water. Our neighbours son has created some trails he rides his dirt bike through, but eventually the deadfall takes over and it turns into a forest shaped jungle gym.

Oddly, we didn't find my trail even though we came out the bottom side of our brush pile (which the trailhead is beside). It turns out had we even looked right when we came to a specific pile of deadfall, we would have seen the marker I had left at the end of the trail. But after 20 minutes of hurdling spikey, pokey logs, I'd lost my inability to focus on anything but stabbing myself in the leg.

Slightly more determined, I went back to the end of the trail, and hacked away some more. In about 10 minutes, I was through the dense evergreens and into one of the clear, deadfall filled areas.

Suddenly I was able to make progress of about 40 feet in 30 minutes.

Until I couldn't anymore.

I had to decide whether the path would continue through a massive amount of deadfall, or through another stand of dense evergreens. I initially tried for through the evergreens, since I knew the cutting tools I had (pruners of varying sizes) would work, but after another few feet I hit more deadfall.

So I went back around to see if I could assess from the other side.

I had a companion with me this time, too.
Basically the conclusion is, eventually I'm going to have to saw my way through deadfall, regardless of which path I take.

So tomorrow, I'll head back out there. This time armed with bigger, better saws, and hopefully make some more headway.

I *will* have an accessible waterfront this summer! :)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Belle Paris! And Home at last.

My flight landed in Paris at 5:40am. Grateful that I didn't have to pick up my luggage, I headed for the nearest exit, and towards the trains. Now, I had done a LOT of research on how to get from Charles De Gaulle to the Seine. I was anxious about using the public transport of an unfamiliar city, alone, and as it turned out, in the dark. 

It turned out okay, though. I even made it to Notre Dame before the sun had made it over the horizon!

This photo needs so much editing :P
 For the next 3 hours I walked around the city. One of my big goals was to drink a fancy coffee and eat pain au chocolat by the Seine. Considering I was wandering around before even most coffee shops opened, I settled on this one.

Add caption

I couldn't see the Seine from my table, and they didn't actually have pain au chocolat, but the cafe creme was just what I was after. The gentleman who served me suggested some apple cake, which turned out to be a golden pound cake with apples on top. Still, it was surprisingly good.

The Louvre at the Pont du Carrousel

Pont du Carrousel

Look at that detail!!! 

Those balconies!

Magnificent sunrise
 I was walking in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. I knew it was about an hours walk, but that wasn't including all the stopping and looking I was doing. And because my grasp on the local public transit was tenuous, I knew that as far as I walked towards the iconic tower, I'd have to walk just as far back to the train station.

 But then, there it was, peeking over the buildings.

This selfie didn't work to well :P

Palais Bourbon

A not very good picture of the fun angles Parisians have to deal with :)

Eiffel Tower and Pont Alexandre III

After Amsterdam and Paris I now want to live on a house boat :P

Sainte Chappelle (spire) and L'Institut de France (dome) on the horizon.
Musee D'Orsay on the right.

Place de la Concorde

I cannot find any reference of what this building is.
But holy shit, look at it!

Musee D'Orsay

The Pyramid at the Louvre is just through that arch.
I thought I got a good picture of it, but I must have messed it up.

 L'Institut de France

In a guise of taking a picture of the Louvre's bell tower, I tried to capture the
automatic rifles these, what, traffic cops? were carrying. 

Fontaine St Michel

I had found my way back to the train station, and figured out which train I needed to get on to get back to Charles de Gaulle. The rest of it was smooth sailing. Once I was through security I had to check into my flight from Toronto to Halifax and I realized there was a pretty good chance I wouldn't make the flight.

On the flight out of Paris I had an upgraded seat again, and I slept for about 4 hours of the 7 hour flight.

It became clear to me around the time I was picking up my baggage that I wasn't going to make the flight to Halifax. I had declared that I had animal products (biltong, or dried game meat for M), which put me in the inspection line. I swear I do not understand the point of declaring items. The Canadian Customs websites states the following "If you do not declare, or falsely declare, goods, the CBSA can seize them." Except I did declare items, items that I checked the fucking website to make sure they were allowed, and they seized my stuff anyway. The thing that irritates me the most is that the only item, ostrich biltong, that was in question, was only one of three packages that were seized. The other two were not in question, but they were seized anyway.

I also managed to make the customs agent stab me with his pocket knife, cause I'm special like that.

Honestly despite my anger over the customs debacle now (15 people in line, 3 people doing actual inspections, many other customs agents standing around presumably doing nothing. Plus having my stuff confiscated when it shouldn't have been. Dude had seriously never heard of a kudu before. Read a book!), the customs agent I dealt with was very nice, and we laughed a fair bit throughout the process. He's just doing his job, and while he should have been more familiar with the rules he was enforcing, he was kind and sympathetic throughout the potentially stressful process.

But it was past my flight's departure by the time I was released. I found my way to Terminal 1, and asked an Air Canada agent what I should do since I missed my flight. I dislike Air Canada immensely. They charged me $175 for a "same day flight change" for missing my flight, in order to book the next flight to Halifax. Fortunately it was less than 2 hours away. I paid the extortion fare, checked my bag and got through customs.

The rest of the evening wasn't notable. I let M know I would be arriving late. I texted with Steph. I got on the plane and watched Lion until I landed in Halifax. M was there waiting for me after I got my luggage.

I had full intentions of taking a picture of him as we met again after 17 days apart. My brain was so fried I forgot.

But of course we couldn't just go home. We got stopped by some eager RCMP officer wanting to check M's license and registration at 11pm on a Tuesday. He made a point that he had some sort of special jurisdiction to pull us over where he did. Whatever, guy, just let me get my tired ass home.

I unpacked my bags and threw everything in the laundry. I gave M his port, which he opened and sniffed immediately, appraisingly. But I was more interested in taking a shower and getting into bed.

And so it ended, the second trip of a lifetime. There's so many details I've missed, I'm sure. And so much I've glossed over. But now that I have some time, hopefully some of the finer details can be captured, for posterity.

Thanks for following along. Hopefully you'll stick around and hopefully I can do something worth writing about ;)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Homeward Bound

Monday morning I woke up, and wandered around the yard, taking pictures. I had been keeping my eye on Doreen's famous fig tree, hoping to find a ripe juicy fig before I had to go home. 

Today was the day. Enjoying a tree-ripe fig.
After a leisurely breakfast, finishing packing the last of the laundry and, yeah, doing my fair share of pacing, we got ready to head to the airport.

A photo for the road
I took about 100 more photos of the mountains.
I couldn't get enough of the clouds.

In Canada people rarely see off their guests at the airport. Part of it is the fact of going through security. Part of it is the astronomical parking fees.
Neither deterred Doreen & Glynis from seeing me off. They laughed, kindly, at my eagerness to go through security. "Oh, it's nothing. You'll be through it in no time." I thought of my preferred airport, Hamilton's John C Munro, and their piddly, lovely, security set up. Still, the George Airport was unfamiliar and I just wanted to get through and calm down. Anxiety knows no logic.

Suffice to say, they had ever reason to giggle at me. I was through security in approximately 2 minutes and stood on the other side, flight delayed, and an hour to kill in an area probably with as many square feet as my home.

Getting on the plane in George.

I'm not normally a fan of pictures from the plane (too much like pictures from the car, which I'm also guilty of this trip). BUT LOOK AT THEM! The geography was mind bogglingly beautiful. Though, I suppose, that's not as apparent in these photographs.

The peninsula at the top is very likely Mosselbaai

The Outeniqua Mountains

Getting closer to Johannesburg

Landed in Johannesburg
In Johannesburg I did a lot of walking around. I had just over 2 hours to kill by the time I found my way through the terminals and security. I browsed some stores, I had a leisurely dinner at an airport restaurant, I paced to and from the departure gate.

Despite all of this, I didn't sleep a wink on the flight to Paris. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I had been upgraded to "Economy Plus", so I had a few more amenities and definitely more space than the flights East. But still, no sleep.

There's no time zone difference between Johannesburg and Paris, so I landed 11 hours later, nearing 6am, to embark on a whole other adventure....