Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sad story

Goldfinch at the bird feeder
The other day I heard a loud thud as a bird hit one of my living room windows. This happens occasionally as I have a bird feeder hanging in a tree nearby. I looked out the window but did not see any birds on the ground, so I thought maybe it just bounced and flew away.

But later I went outside and found the bird's body on the ground below one of the windows, it was dead. It was a Downy Woodpecker, black and white with a spot of red on the back of its head. They don't come often to the bird feeder but I do see one occasionally. Anyway, I left it where it was and went on to haul more dirt for the holes in the front yard. Later, I noticed that Hapi had been digging in my garden. I try to discourage that but she likes to bury bones and other edibles there. Since she hadn't been fed or given a bone in some time I wondered what she was burying so I poked my finger in the disturbed soil. It was the bird.

Proper thing, I thought, what I should have done.

Now, I wonder about that bird. Did it have a mate? Youngsters to feed? Did its mate wonder what happen to it? Did it mourn the loss? And if there were youngsters was the mate able to care for them alone? Or was she (or he) forced to abandon them for lack of a helpmate? An adult bird being killed at this time of year can have a ripple effect.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dirt Tales

In the ravine
I spent last weekend hauling dirt. The local Big Box building supply place had "topsoil" (it's a mix of stuff so not really topsoil) on sale at $0.98 a bag. I could only get 20 bags in the car at a time so it involved numerous trips as I required about 2 cubic yards of the stuff. I was going to order real topsoil which would have been delivered loose by truck, but I did the math and figured that the bagged stuff was comparable in price and way more handy to move around. Just so you know, it takes 30.6 25-litre bags to make one cubic yard (Yay internet!). Volume-wise I could have fit more than 20 bags into the car, but weight-wise I couldn't.

I took Hapi along for the ride(s). Just so happens that the building supply place is dog-friendly so she could go inside on-leash and wander around outside off-leash while I got my dirt loaded. Lots of dog treats involved. On Saturday there was a hotdog stand outside the store and Hapi snagged a couple of hotdogs, which she much prefers over dog treats.

From the parking lot you can get into the ravine where I used to take Hapi regularly for walks. So at one point we did that too. Still some ice on the ground there though, so it was a bit tricky. I don't go there very often any more.

When I was walking through the store a woman came up behind me and said, "Is this Hapi?" I turned and looked at her, she looked vaguely familiar but I couldn't quite place her. "Bodhi," she said. Oh of course, she's the owner of the big black Great Dane named Bodhi! I used to run into her often in the ravine. I asked after Bodhi but sadly he had died at a young age; she now has two new Great Danes. Hapi was scared of Bodhi because he was so big, about the only dog Hapi was ever scared of. But Bodhi was very friendly, he'd lean up against you to be petted and just about knock you over he was so big. Like a small pony.

Funny how I remember dog names but not their owners, I still have no idea what that woman's name is.

The dirt was for filling in a couple of sinkholes left from the sewer line excavation in the front yard last fall. So in between trips to the dirt store I was dumping bags of dirt into the holes. Two days of that and it was exhausting, I'd come indoors at suppertime and collapse. But the new soaker tub and Epsom salts came in handy. I was planning to put in grass seed when the dirt settled but one passerby who stopped to watch me work suggested a garden in one of the holes instead and I think I will do that. Not that I need any more garden beds, but I have too many hosta in the back yard that desperately need dividing so some of them could move to the front yard.

I ended up with closer to 4 cubic yards of dirt and composted manure (also on sale) when all was said and done, a lot of that is still sitting in the driveway awaiting good ideas for how to use it. Just couldn't resist the sale price. But I got the holes filled just in time for a major rainstorm to settle it all in, so I was happy with that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I turned 70 shortly after my friend died in the city. There was a celebration of life at her son's place on what would have been her 69th birthday, I went down for that. There was a good turn out. It was basically a party with food and drink, no speeches or anything. All her photo albums were out so you could go through them. I was impressed at what a record she left behind. I take pictures of dogs and trees and birds but she took pictures of people, a good half century of people. A lot of shared memories there.

My own birthday was the next day. Had a big party at a local brew pub, then the next day attended the 70th birthday of a friend at a local winery. A much more upscale affair. Then I had a second small party of friends in a cabin on the mountain. A local guy gave me a shadow box model of a boat that he made. I love his boat models.

The brew pub is actually a malt house, they malt grain for craft breweries to use in making beer. Then last year they opened their own little brewery and pub. It's out in the country surrounded by farmland, so a lot of their regulars are farmers. It's a nice place, very cosy. On your way to the washroom you can take a look at the malting operation.

Then a friend and I reserved a table for six at a local pasta place where once a week he has Burger Night. He makes 60 burgers, bakes the buns for them, and when you make reservations it's more for the burger than for the seat. He does two dinner seatings that night and when all the burgers are reserved that's it, there ain't no more. Right now Burger Wars is going on locally, but this restaurant does not participate because their burgers are so good that they would win hands down every time. On Burger Night you get one burger, one local craft beer and a salad for $17. Right now my favourite local beer is Wayfarers Hellene. The burger that night was a Pizza Burger, it had pepperoni and tomato sauce in addition to the usual hamburger and fixings. And they do a vegetarian version too, but when you make the reservations you have to specify whether you want regular or vegetarian so he knows how many of each to make.

I was invited out to two other dinner/beer events but I had to say no because all that partying gave me a gum infection and I guess at age 70 you can only push your luck so far.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

She has left the room

This morning, Easter Sunday and the first of April, a dear friend died.

I first met her in the mid-'70s, she was visiting her sister in the commune that I then lived in, and I was just returning from out west, newly pregnant with my last child. I thought she was a great person but was preoccupied with severe morning sickness, new single-parentdom, and the exigencies of living in a cabin in the woods on a commune. Eventually I moved away, first to town, then to another province, and then to another coast. But I returned many years later and reconnected with her. By then she had been married, separated, and diagnosed with a host of health issues that among other things necessitated dialysis three times a week. For thirteen years she lived with that, and if you know anything about dialysis then you know that that is an extremely long time.

Our birthdates were one year less a day apart in early April. Two years ago I went to Halifax where she was then living to celebrate our birthdays together. I stayed overnight on her couch and on the first birthday we went for a fabulous Italian dinner washed down with Prosecco at a great little restaurant near her home. On the second birthday we went for a wonderful brunch at another restaurant near her place. And throughout we just hung out and talked and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. I think that will always be one of the highlights of my relationship with her.

She loved good food and drink. She loved life no matter the adversity, and there was a lot of that. Since then she has been in and out of hospital, more in than out. I visited her in her various hospital rooms, frequently requiring "downing-up" since she acquired a couple of hospital-related antibiotic-resistant infections. At one point we had to wear bizarre face masks in addition to the paper gowns and latex gloves. In the end, the infection was what killed her, but her health was such that it could just as easily have been something else. She got good care in the hospital and I think she enjoyed the company, since she was fairly isolated in her little apartment in a city where she had few friends (most of her friends lived in the Valley and she had no way to get there, and we Valley people did not go to the city as often as she would have liked).

My mother died at home, we kids took care of her with assistance from the local palliative care. It was a good death as these things go, but sometimes death takes a long time and the stress of daily care and four siblings who are not used to prolonged proximity and the exigencies of taking care of a dying parent can be overwhelming. I know that the first emotion we all felt at the moment of her death was relief.

My friend died in hospital, where her basic needs were taken care of by hospital nurses and staff. The only restrictions on visitors were those in defence of her dignity and privacy, and mental and physical health needs. They were minimally invasive and took pains to keep her comfortable, I never got the sense that they were keeping her alive at any cost or that they were being insensitive toward her or her visitors. Her son left his guitar in her room so he could play it to her whenever he was there (and he was a very attentive son).

I am glad that her family had the time to gather around her at this time. I am glad to have known her, and relieved that as these things go it was a good death. A friend described it as "torturous", but I think that she herself was not tortured but at peace with her end. It was torturous for those she left.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What does a dragon mean?

I just got an email from a friend in my writing group who recommended reading a New Yorker review of a book by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have not read anything by that writer, let alone the book being reviewed (The Buried Giant). She mentioned layers of meaning within a dragon allegory. She thought of me because I am working on a fantasy that among other things has dragons in it. There was a quote from Ishiguro where he talked about the concept of genre (The Buried Giant is considered 'fantasy'), which he thought was essentially a marketing thing having very little to do with what he wrote or why he wrote it.

I guess I would agree with that, although I am not thinking in terms of allegory or genre. My dragons are characters in my story and I don't really have a particular idea that I am trying to convey with them, allegorically or otherwise. It's just a story. I sort of know where it is going, in the broad strokes, but the details constantly elude me. That's not entirely accurate. I have no problem writing the details, I am just not sure how they relate to what I hope the general trajectory of the story is going to be. When I sit down to write it is as if I am entering a different world, writing as fast as I can to record what I see and hear there. Sometimes I think I should write particular things or somehow massage the narrative in a particular direction. That trips me up, I soon find myself dealing with contradictions I'm not sure how to resolve.

I read somewhere else that the 'meaning' of art is in the eye of the beholder. When you look at a painting (or read a poem, or whatever) you are free to interpret it however you like, the meaning of that piece of art is up to you. The artist may very well have a point they wish to convey, their art may have a particular meaning to them. But you are not required to see it that way.

I'm on the third draft now, or maybe iteration 3.5, as at one point the story forked and then there were two separate stories. In an effort to rein in the complexity I am trying to ignore one of those forks and continue on in only one direction. I wanted to eliminate some of the characters (again, reining in complexity) but I have so far failed. It turns out that either a character up for elimination makes a very good argument for importance to the plot, or else some of the things I have previously written about that character are just too good to dump. One of the members of my writing group has started a genealogical diagram to keep track of my characters; I keep promising to provide a definitive dramatis personae, but so far it is just in my head. Too many characters, too many points of view.

A few years ago I participated in a writing retreat with a couple dozen other people. It was very productive for me, I got a lot of writing done. One of the other participants was also working on a fantasy novel, she already had one published. She said that finding a publisher for fantasy in Canada is very hard, there is certainly nothing available in the Maritimes. I doubt that I will ever publish, unless I self-publish, but I don't really care about that now. Not being concerned about publishing takes a bit of pressure off, I don't have to think about whether my story is publishable or whether there is a market for it. I also have no deadlines. I listen to the other writers in my group discuss these kinds of things and am kind of glad I don't have to take any of those concerns into consideration when I sit down to write. I can just enter that world and try to record what is going on there. It is enough.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What to do after late-season snowstorm

I do love my new bathroom. Every time I walk into it I feel great, I love a bath in the soaker tub and I even love brushing my teeth at the new sink.

Yesterday I was going to vacuum the basement floor, in preparation for replacing rugs on said floor. I started up the vac and then thought it was rather full of dust and I should clean out the vac first. I took it into the utility room to empty the canister into a garbage bag, only I missed; half the dust ended up on the floor.

OK, I thought, I'll just get the shop vac to clean up the spilt dust.

I hooked up the shop vac hose to the wrong outlet and instead of sucking it blew. Not only all over the utility room but also all over the entire basement, since all the doors were open. So much for vacuuming, now I have to wait for the dust fog to settle.

Big snowstorm on Friday into Saturday morning. After a month of pseudo-Spring we're now into Real Winter. But since it is March, Real Winter means heavy wet snow that one can hardly move with a shovel.

Hapi and I went to the Reservoir for a walk in the afternoon (after half a morning spent moving heavy wet Real Winter snow). Lots of trees down from the Real Winter snow in their branches, every one of those trees was rotten. The ponds looked like they were covered in ice again (they had been clear of ice for over a week), but it was actually snow floating on the water.

Waterdog tracks in the snow
In the evening I went to a friend's place for Carcassonne and pizza. I usually win but this time my friend trounced me in the first game and narrowly beat me in the second. She refused to play a third game. As a consolation she gave me a huge chunk of apple-ginger cake that she had made for the occasion, to take home with me.

I can live with that.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Hot and Cold

You're kidding, right?
On Wednesday afternoon the guys left, they had completed the job and left the place if not spotless at least tidy. I was so glad to see the last of them. Not that I found them unpleasant, just that I was glad to finally emerge from over six weeks of renovation and all that that entails. Bobby and I had a long conversation about single life, grandchildren, and retirement plans (he says he's going to get himself a motorcycle and tour Newfoundland). I had pizza and beer for supper. I laid Hapi's bed on the nice clean and reasonably empty basement floor and invited her to try it out.

She said, Are you kidding me? You want me to go down there?

She wouldn't go down, she slept outside that night. Thursday was delightful, I was so happy to finally have the place to myself. I decided not to tackle cleaning up the basement right away, instead I bought a few things for the bathroom, baked some bread, took Hapi for a long leisurely walk, and did some laundry. Just a nice boring day.

Late in the afternoon I ran a bath for myself in the brand new soaker tub. Earlier in the day I had turned up the hot water heater thermostat because the new tub is twice as big as the old one, so the water that comes out of the faucet is much hotter now. There was no cold water. Went down to the basement and opened the cold water shutoff valve that the guys had forgotten to turn back on. Now there was a little cold water, but only just a little. Not nearly enough to cool the now scalding hot water from the hot water tank. I ran as much cold water as I could but still the tub water was only just bearable. I learned that a very large tub of hot water takes a really long time to cool off and my body can adjust to a small tub of hot water but not to a very large tub of hot water. It was not a pleasant experience.

So after getting out of the tub (after a quick bath rather than a long leisurely soak) I called Bobby. He said the shutoff valve must be corroded and he'd come by on Friday to replace it. I had my writing group meeting on Friday morning so I hung around the house just long enough to let the guys in and then went off to the three-hour (usually) meeting. When I got home afterwards they were still there.

Uh-oh, I thought.

Bobby told me a long saga about trying to obtain a new shutoff valve, they had only just finished installing it.

He said, If you don't like swearing you better leave now.

After they installed the valve they tried the bathtub faucet. Still no cold water. Must be the cartridge he said.

So off they went in search of a new cartridge. I puttered around tidying things in the basement until they returned with the cartridge. Bobby installed it and turned on the faucet. Still no cold water. Now he was mad. He went down into the basement and peered into the closet where he could see the pipes under the bathtub, muttering to himself all the while. Not sure what he was saying, but apparently the next step was to tear out the ceiling below the tub and search for a kinked tube, something he really did not want to do. I was almost beside myself. Thursday had been so wonderful and Friday was turning into a nightmare.

Bobby decided it was time for a coffee and I seconded the motion. So the guys left for the local Timmy's and I made a quick lunch for myself and took Hapi for a walk. We were out for almost two hours. I was thoroughly stressed out about the guys being back in the basement and poor Hapi got a forced march as far out on the dykes as I could manage. Not too cold but very windy. She found some nice mud and waded into it up to her chest. Oh boy. Dyke mud is very stinky.

By the time we got home we were both exhausted and Bobby's truck was not in the driveway. There were small signs that they had been there (a screwdriver that had been in the bathroom was now in the kitchen) so I went straight to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. Lots of cold water! But no hot water!!

You have got to be kidding!!! I thought to myself.

I phoned Bobby and told him. He said he'd be back on Saturday to fix it. An easy fix he said.

Which is what he said when I called him on Thursday about the lack of cold water.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

No Boundaries

This week they moved to the upstairs. They are still working in the basement, they just expanded the worksite. Since the business end of the bathtub backs onto my bedroom they had to move furniture to cut a hole in the wall to access the plumbing, so I now have no safe haven from the dust and noise and workmen and tools strewn about. Plus, they found mould in some of the basement gyproc immediately below the upstairs bathroom (see photo above). The bathroom sink was leaking and I knew that, I just didn't know how long it had been leaking. Obviously long enough for mould to take hold.

Upstairs bathroom
They cut holes into the gyproc in my bedroom and in the basement ceiling to access the plumbing. All of the sinks except the one in the kitchen are disconnected, so the painter washes his tools there each evening. I brush my teeth there too. I thought it would only take a couple of days to remove the old bathtub and install the new one, but after a week it is still not plumbed in. Consequently I took a shower in the basement shower stall. But since they were painting in that room the curtains had been removed from the window, which is in plain view of the male student's bedroom window next door. There were no cars parked in their driveway last night so I took a chance. It's study break.

Downstairs bathroom
Bobby likes to spend his weekends with his grandkids so he tries not to work on Saturdays, but he said yesterday that he might come by this Saturday to do a bit of work. Oh joy. Once again, he thinks another two days and they will be done. Which is what he said a week ago. Since they are working in both bathrooms, I now know where all the publicly accessible bathrooms are in town. Washing up is a problem, but as long as I plan ahead I can make it to a reasonably private toilet.

Meanwhile back at the ranch my email to my financial guy to transfer money to my bank account landed in his spam folder and he didn't see it until I sent a follow-up email a week later. So I was unable to meet Bobby's weekly ransom demand.

The news both north and south of the border is crazy, but since my personal life is kind of off the rails the craziness in the world out there is just part of the scenery. Last night a friend called me to see how I was doing. When I told her that I have burned through most of what I thought of as my lifetime discretionary money fund, she asked me if any of the workers smoked. I told her that one of them does so she suggested that he might burn the house down and I could collect the insurance money.

She also told me that another friend of hers just pulled a live tick off her dog after a walk in the woods. In February. It is that warm now. She thinks it is just winter delayed, that sometime in March all hell will break loose weather-wise. I think she's wrong, that this is the new normal.

She says, Fine then, after the next big blizzard you can lead the Naked Yoga class in the school parking lot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Basement Saga continued

Backyard visitor
Mid-February, no snow on the ground, no snow in the forecast. Every time it snows there's rain right afterward and the snow is washed away. Weird winter.

The guys are putting my basement back together again. It has been a long haul, they've been here for so long I feel like I should be charging them rent. Everything that could go wrong did.

Now I have a cold, I'm hoping it won't last too long. The guys figure they have one more day of work down there and then I can start putting things back where I want them, but with this cold I have no energy for it.

Hapi is quite discombobulated by the change in sleeping quarters. Usually she sleeps in the basement but she can't now so every night she has to decide whether to stay indoors upstairs or go outside. Usually she chooses to go outside. I don't mind, but it seems that all our rain is happening in the night and I know she doesn't like being in her doghouse in the rain because of the noise of the rain on the roof. And if I'm asleep I can't let her inside, so she goes out into the rain and finds the muddiest spot available to lie down in. By morning she is soaked and covered in mud, then she wants to come inside. All her white fur is brown now.

The last few days they've been cutting laminate flooring to fit back together again; the dust from that goes everywhere. There's no point cleaning it up until they're done, which I'm hoping is tomorrow. Then they're going to come upstairs and do some work on my bathroom. They think it will only take a couple of days, but I remember a month ago Bob thinking the basement job would just take a few days. You just never know what kind of disaster you're going to uncover when you start taking things apart.

I went to an amazing house concert over the weekend, a woman who sings Edith Piaf. She's very talented, plays multiple instruments and has a gorgeous voice. Her partner plays guitar and he is amazing as well. It was enthralling. The concert was at her mother's place. The couple now live in Montreal and they came back home for three Valentine's Day performances. I really hope their talents are rewarded.

Last night I went to a talk and slide show about the railway children of India. The mother of the singer went to India over Christmas to visit Father Abhi who works with the railway children of Varanasi. They have a centre there where they house some of them and arrange for them to go to school, also they help find adoptive families or reunite children with their lost families. Most of them are girls, their futures are not good. Father Abhi heads up an organization (DARE) that does this work and also he travels India and the world to drum up support.

There is a small network of groups in Nova Scotia, Belgium and one other place that I forget. When he needs money for his projects in India he tells the network. Usually it is something very specific, say a small bus or some piece of necessary equipment. Then the network raises the money and sends it to him. Sometimes it can take a couple of years to raise the money. It is complicated, there are rules governing how money can be sent overseas and also how money can be received by organizations in India. By being very specific they handle the complications. So my little town is part of that international network, to help the railway children. Of course it is just a drop in the bucket, but I guess every little drop helps.

The slides we watched were very colourful, the presenter was quite fascinated by the brightly painted trucks in India and also by all the dancing. The children are taught amazing dances and they love it. Father Abhi has all these paintings and statues of an Indian Jesus, he looks like a Hindu guru or a buddha. The Christmas celebrations were extremely colourful and full of dancing and coloured lights and flowers. It was beautiful and strange at the same time, Christmas celebrated in a Hindu way.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thinking out loud at six in the morning

When I moved back to Nova Scotia in 2010 I bought back my old house. It happened to be on the market when I was looking for a place and, well, it was hard to resist. I knew the house had problems but I thought, "Better the devil you know..."

The main problem I foresaw was that the man who bought the house from me finished the basement. It had been an unfinished basement with water leaks, he fixed the leaks (or so he thought) and completely finished the area, putting in a full bathroom, a bedroom and a rec room. He also took out the old floor furnace and put in a full furnace with forced air venting into all of the upstairs rooms. He did a lot of work on that house, most of which I thought was a big improvement. But finishing that basement seemed to me kind of risky. I bought the place anyway, thinking that if it came to it I would tear out the work he did there.

As of last week, it has come to it.

This past year has definitely been my year to battle the element of water. I live in a province of weird geology and waterlogged soils, with as much water below ground as above, and plenty of it falling from the sky in one form or another. A building contractor once said to me that all of the houses on my street are really just little boats bobbing on an unseen river. Every time someone digs a hole in the ground, the river changes course, and there's always someone digging a hole in the ground.

Anyway, there was a soft spot in the laminate flooring in the rec room which I thought meant that there was a bit of rot in the subfloor due to the now-fixed water leak in the nearest basement wall. This past fall I found an excellent contractor who has done some work for me and I asked him if he could fix the soft spot. He said he could. He removed the laminate carefully so he could replace it after fixing whatever he found underneath and sure enough the subfloor was rotten, very rotten. He had a bad feeling about it and we discussed it, I gave him the go ahead to remove more laminate to see how far the problem went. In my heart I knew it was going to be bad, the time had finally come. So I was not as shocked as he had expected me to be, more resigned to the inevitable.

In a couple of days they had removed all of the floor in the rec room. They swabbed it down with bleach and said they'd come back when it was dry to rebuild the floor. That was three days ago and it is still not dry, in spite of fans and heaters. Bob the contractor came back yesterday to take a look and we discussed what to do next. I am sceptical about rebuilding, the thought of covering over that floor and not being able to see whether it is leaking or not scares me. Bob thinks he can fix it so it won't leak, he thinks it will be safe to rebuild. To that end he has saved as much as possible of the unrotten materials to reuse. But he also thinks there is more rot under the bathroom that will have to be dealt with.

Right now there is nothing to be done about that because all of the furniture and salvaged building materials are being store in there and the other two small rooms of the basement. He thinks the other two rooms are safe, it's just the bathroom that looks bad, and that can't be torn apart until all of the stuff stored in there (plus the bathroom fixtures and washer and dryer) are removed. But since there's no place to remove all that to, the bathroom will remain in place until the rec room is dealt with one way or another.

And then of course there is the small matter of money to pay for all this. The way I am looking at it is that eventually I will have to sell this house, I don't see it as my last permanent home. Having a basement in reasonably good shape is a good thing, the cost is an investment that will eventually pay off. Bob is a good person who does good work at reasonable prices, he has a lot of experience and I trust his judgement. I've had him do enough work for me that I trust him beyond simply doing a good job. So the timing of this disaster is not so bad, I at least am not scrambling to find someone to fix this problem and I did know that sooner or later this was coming.

Nevertheless it is not pleasant and I am losing sleep over it. I wish I could talk my brain into relaxing. I almost made it through this past night, but I woke at 4.00am with a severe leg cramp that forced me out of bed and that was the end of sleep for me.

What really worries me is exposure to mould, there is simply no way to close off the basement from the rest of the house until the job is completed. I owned and lived in a leaky condo out west and the exposure to mould caused a severe illness that lasted half a year, during which time I could not work or do much else; at its worst just getting from the bed to the toilet was a major effort. That scares me. The smell coming up from the basement scares me. The thought that this has been going on for years, probably since before I bought the house, and that I've been living over it all that time scares me. The fact that Bob's breathing changed within hours of setting foot in my basement scares me. Scares him too, he can't afford to get sick.

So sleeping is difficult.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Full on winter

The long pond before the snow
According to the internet most of Canada is experiencing record cold weather, with the exception of Atlantic Canada which is experiencing only "seasonably" cold weather. Well I am here to tell you that is simply not true, this is definitely not "seasonable". Maybe warmer than central Canada, but still not seasonable. If it were just the thermometer temperature it would be very cold (for here), but the constant wind just makes it that much colder. We had one day last week when it was not windy and a degree or two warmer than usual, making it positively balmy in comparison to the days before and since. Taking Hapi for her morning walk is a flirt with frostbite. I thought I had enough firewood for two winters (I try to keep a year ahead), but I've been burning through it at a wicked pace and we're only at the beginning of the winter heating season.

Ice, ice everywhere! A couple of people who walk their dogs regularly at the Reservoir have really nifty ice grippers, I see their distinctive footprints on all the trails. I managed to collar one of them and ask where they got their footwear, but by the time I got to the website where they could be ordered, they were sold out. My inferior ice grippers will have to do for now.

The long pond is frozen sufficiently for skating (15 cm/6 inches) and some brave souls have cleared the skim of snow from part of the pond and already been out on their blades. I don't know how they stand the cold wind! But they are mostly kids and we all know how fearless kids can be about cold (Where are your mittens? Why on earth did you take them off?!?). The uncleared snow on most of the pond is meagre enough for the kids to skate right over it.

This past year has been my year of water issues (I have a bit of a history in that regard). First there was the sewage backup. Then I had a basement flood in part of the basement that I'd never seen water leakage before. Sewer pipe replaced, drainage tile installed and a finally a sump pump installed. Then a few days ago I discovered that water pipes behind a finished wall in the basement had frozen. I got them thawed out but I don't know if they burst or not so I turned off the water to those pipes to postpone having to deal with it until the spring. I suspect that the hot water pipes are fine but one of the (three) cold water pipes is not. A problem for another day.

Hapi usually sleeps in the basement but lately has moved upstairs. I am not sure why. It could be she is lonely because I have stopped sleeping in the basement, but that never stopped her before. Although she is noticeably more "clingy" (affectionate) as she ages. It also could be that she is finding the basement stairs more difficult, but she still goes down to the basement, she just doesn't stay there. It is definitely not the cold, she still likes to spend the coldest part of the day--the hours around sunrise--outside sleeping in her doghouse. And she occasionally still spends an entire night out there. Her doghouse is not insulated but it is positioned out of the wind. If she lived forever I still would not figure her out, her doggy brain is unfathomable.

Is it safe?