Oh, what a beautiful day!

My goodness, how awesome it is out there today!

At the time I headed out to do my morning rounds, it was only -18C (about 0F), with no wind chill to speak of. As I write this, less than an hour later, we’re already warmed up to -15C/5F, again with basically no wind chill. We’re supposed to get a high of -10C/14F today. It’s going to seem tropical, after the past week!

I still wasn’t quite able to do my usual rounds. The wind has blown over many of the paths dug out in the snow. I decided it was a good day to test out the new heated gloves and do some digging, starting with the plow ridge across the driveway. My mother’s car had a hard time getting through it, yesterday!

Some of the cattens kept me company.

They love that tire that’s used to keep the doors from blowing open. It gets nice and warm! With how much warmer it is, I’m seeing them running around and playing, all over the place!

Along with the plow ridge, I also cleared the path to the compost heap. The wind had completely filled in parts of it, and the snow was brick-like on top, so that took a while. I didn’t even try to dig the path to the sign cam – too long! – but I had my nice new boots, and plowed my way through the wind packed snow. That was almost as tiring as shoveling! It’ll be easier to dig out later, though. The boots are awesome.

As for the gloves…

They are nice and warm, even without turning on the heat. They didn’t seem to get any more pliable by the time I was done, unfortunately. The long cuffs are great – except that they’re not wide enough to go over the cuffs of my parka, nor narrow enough to go under. So I ended up with both cuffs all bunched up. The stiffness of the gloves makes it hard to put on the second glove, but there was an extra problem. These XL gloves fit my wide hands just fine – but I have short fingers. So any time I tried to do something like adjust the other glove, it was hard to get a good grip with floppy finger tips! Plus, the touch screen sensitive parts on the thumb and pointer finger are slightly ridged and harder, so that gets pushed around more, too. I didn’t even try to test the touch screen sensitivity. I have to take a glove off to get my phone out of my pocket, anyhow, so there was no need – plus, just handling my phone with the gloves would be unnecessarily difficult. The last thing I wanted to do was drop my phone in the snow. I did get a lot of use out of the wrist straps while switching out the memory cards, pausing to get my phone out, or to dig out a tissue to blow my know while digging. I like being able to just drop the gloves and have them hanging!

It’s been quite a while since I switched out the trail cam memory cards. Today is the first time I saw the batteries on the solar cam at anything other than 100%! When I first opened it up and checked, it said the batteries were at 75%, but after I switched the memory card out it went up to 80%. Which tells me that it’s more about the cold. Much to my surprise, the older sign cam’s battery meter was still full bars. I suppose that makes sense, though. The gate cam is mounted on a stand in the open. It would have had the full blast of yesterday’s winds coming from the southeast. The sign cam is not only under a tree, but the sign it’s monitoring, as well as the trees across the road, would have stopped all wind from that direction, so it was quite protected.

It should be interesting to see the files over those freezing cold days! The camera that got stolen would do weird things when it got really cold, like turn everything pink. The new camera has had some cold spells before, but not quite like what we’ve had for the past week, so I’ve yet to get a good look at how it handles severe winter conditions.

Considering how many days of files I’ve got to go through, I think I’ll make some tea, first! 😄

The Re-Farmer

Winter doesn’t want to let go

We are slowly coming out of what should be the last bitterly cold night of the winter. Last night, we dipped to at least -33C/-27F, with wind chills in the -40’s C/F The sun room, however, never seem to get much colder than -10 to -15C (14 to 5F).

The cattens took full advantage of that.

My husband got this picture through the bathroom window last night. From what I can see, there is only one adult in the pile; Broccoli.

As I write this, we’re coming up on 9am. My desktop’s weather app says we are at -28C/-18F still, with a wind chill of -38C/-36F The app on my phone, however, says we’ve warmed up to -26C/3F with a wind chill of -33C/-27F We should warm up a few degrees before I have to try starting my mother’s car. She and I spoke on the phone last night and already talked about rescheduling her appointment, if I don’t think her car would be safe to drive.

While getting bundled up before doing the outside cat stuff, I noticed something that is a first since we’ve moved here.

There is frost on the doorknob of the main entry door! We do have a sheet of insulation between the doors, but it doesn’t cover about 8 inches on the knob side of the door. We’ve got frost on the bottom, and on the windows, but I’ve never seed frost on the doorknob like this before. Not even last winter, when we didn’t insulate the door at all, since the hinges were a problem and we didn’t want to open it if we could avoid it.

I just realized that’s quite the reflection of me with my parka tucked under my arm! 😄

I had another surprise as I fought my way past the barricade of cattens under the old kitchen doors to feed them. Several of them were wanting to get into the old kitchen (which is colder than the sun room right now!), including one of the tabbies. We have several tabbies among the babies this year and, so far, only Judgement, a brown tabby, has been socialized.

This baby?

I got to pet him.

And I don’t mean just sneaking a pet while he (or she) was eating, only to have him run away. Nope.

After filling a couple of kibble trays, he was still spinning around at my feet, so I started petting him. He was a bit startled, looked at me in shock – then started pushing his head against my hand for more pets!

After that, food was more interesting, but I’m just amazed!

Also… I’m not sure who’s baby this is. We have a dark grey tabby that’s got a bit of white on him, and we have one that’s almost a black tabby, also with a bit of white on him. There’s also a big, fully grey tabby with more spotty markings from the oldest litter that I haven’t seen around for a while. This tabby is smaller.

I’m so losing track of all the cats, but…

Is this a new one?

Unlikely, but possible. The only reason I even suspect it’s a new cat is because I was able to pet it!

I didn’t even try to do a head count. Even the brief time I was outside the sun room was brutal.

Ah, the irony. My husband got me an early Valentine’s Day gift – heated gloves. They arrived at the post office, yesterday. I didn’t dare drive either of the vehicles to get the mail, so I’m leaving early to do it before going to my mother’s.

I’m going to have heated gloves, just in time for the end of the bitter cold!

The Re-Farmer

Huge progress!

Do you see this lady?

This is Fenrir, calmly chilling on my bed, and NOT trying to attack Nosencrantz!

Yes, we have made HUGE progress.

Of all the cats, none are so determined to get into my office/bedroom – the isolation ward – than Fenrir. So many times, I’d open the door and she’ll teleport through in the blink of an eye.

Then immediately go searching for Nosencrantz and try to attack her.

Well, I’ve been trying to let her in more often, kicking her out as soon as she started behaving aggressively. I think she’s learning.

Last night, I let her in, and she just found places to nap. Or crawled onto me while I was trying to type. Before my room became the isolation ward, that was her favourite thing; to curl up on my chest while I was at my computer, and make it difficult to actually get any work done!

I even had her in the room while doing the evening feeding with wet cat food. She ate from a bowl right next to Marlee – Marlee!!! – and they didn’t growl at each other. She was even okay around Butterscotch, one of her adopted mothers. She behaved so well, I allowed her to stay in the room overnight.

Which worked until about 3am, when I was awakened by a cat fight next to my bed, and out she went.

With Fenrir behaving so much better, I’ve even tried leaving my door open and allowing other cats to wander in and out. Marlee isn’t too happy with that, but most of them ignore her growling.

Except Turmeric.

Turmeric may have calmed down a LOT since she was spayed, but she will still go after Nosencrantz and Marlee, with no provocation at all. I don’t see her going after Butterscotch, but I suspect that has more to do with lack of opportunity.

Still, getting Fenrir to the point that I can actually leave her in my room, with the door closed and unsupervised, is HUGE!

At some point, I want to be able to leave my door open so Marlee – who is very interested in the rest of the house – and Nosencratnz can go exploring. Butterscotch, too, though I don’t expect her to. She’s enjoying her retirement too much.

Now, if we can just get Turmeric on board.

The Re-Farmer

Bedraggled baby

This is what I found, when I was about to go into the sun room with the kibble.

One very bedraggled baby taking advantage of the empty heated water bowl!

Also, that has got to be the whitest nose I’ve ever seen on a cat. I think it may just be how the camera picked up the lighting. Particularly since the eyes look so light, too.

I am somewhat concerned about the long haired cats outside. None of them are socialized, really. There’s one that sometimes lets me pet him. We can’t get near the others. Their fur could get to incredibly matted. Even if we were able to get them to the point that we could pet them, I just can’t see them ever letting us brush mats out of their fur!

The Re-Farmer

Oh, that face

One of the things I like about letting the cats use the sun room for the winter, is looking out the bathroom window and seeing them all in a pile on the swing bench.

Sometimes, though, we see this guy.

He was loafed by himself by the old kitchen door and looking completely miserable. But then, he always looks miserable. That beat up face, though…

We really don’t want to encourage him to stick around. He attacks our own yard cats – even the females – way too often. And, of course, he gets them pregnant.

And yet I would love nothing more than to socialize him. Clearly, he’s had a brutal life. As long as he’s not bothering the other cats, we’re certainly not going to chase him out of the sun room in winter. As I write this, we are at -29C/-20F with a wind chill of -38C/-36F. The thermometer in the sun room was reading -20C/-4F when I was putting the food out. Far better, I’m sure, than the many shelters there are around the property, even besides the ones we’ve provided for them. Plus, there is food and warm water.

How can I possibly say no to that face?

The Re-Farmer

Bitter cold still here, and… oh. That’s why!

Well, that cold wave is still over us, and we are still getting temperatures quite a bit lower than what has been forecast!

Before I headed outside, it was -32C/-26F out there. The wind chill was -42F/-44F. I’ve been trying to wait a bit longer to head out, so as not to disturb the cats keeping warm in the sun room, but it hasn’t really been working. I am writing this more than 2 hours after the above screen cap was taken, and we’re still at -31C/-24F, with a wind chill of -43F/-45F.

Even in the sun room, the wall thermometer was reading -20C/-4F when I came in. That’s what our high of the day is supposed to be today.

I don’t think that’ll happen! 😄

I noticed that no cats have been sitting on top of the board supporting the light fixture we have set up, with the ceramic heat bulb. After giving the cats their kibble and warm water (the kibble outside is not being eaten much, while the kibble in the sun room is disappearing quickly – go figure!😉), I made a point of wading through the eating cats to reach the fixture and put my hand under to check the heat.

There was none.

I touched the bulb and wiggled it around, finding it moved as if it were loose in the socket. Very loose.

So I cut the twine that was holding it in place and flipped it over.

Oh.

That would do it.

I can’t really think of how this happened. Best guess would be that it was from their jumping onto the board to sit on it. While the fixture was tied to the frame of the mini greenhouse, so it couldn’t be knocked off, it could still slide from side to side. I suppose it’s possible it got jarred so many times, the bulb finally broke.

The flat panel heater my husband got puts out almost no heat at all. So there is no heat source in there at the moment.

We’ve ordered replacement heat bulbs.

Until then, I should look through our collection of lightbulbs and see if we have a 100w incandescent bulb. That can act as a mild heat source, too. Just until the new ceramic bulbs come in.

It makes me wonder if we should check the heat bulb in the cat house again. With the accumulated ice and snow on and around it, I’m not sure we’d be able to open it without cracking the frame. We’re going to need to do it at some point, though. I noticed the heat shield above the fixture has been bent up. Why the cats are going after something that’s attached to the ceiling and top of the wall escapes me, but… well… it’s not like cats need much reason for what they do! 😄

The Re-Farmer

Cancelled

I just got off the phone to cancel the vet appointment this morning.

By the time I was done, the temperature had actually dropped even further. Our van just isn’t safe in these temperatures.

The clinic’s answering service doesn’t take messages, so I had to wait until they opened to call and cancel. The receptionist had no issues with such a short notice cancelation. She had troubles herself this morning!

We will wait until the cold snap breaks, then book another appointment. Thankfully, grandma hasn’t been pawing at her face or making those glancing noises of late. We still want to check her out, but it’s not any emergency.

The forecast was wrong again. I just wish it were wrong in the other direction!

The Re-Farmer

Bitter cold, and it’s the little things that are going to do us in!

I am SO glad I was able to get the big shop done yesterday!

The temperatures were expected to go down over the next while, but still be just below average. Of course, the forecasts change constantly it still wasn’t by much.

Yeah, well… this is what we were at this morning.

Just in case the image isn’t loading for you, just after 8 this morning, we were at -31C/-24F, with a wind chill of -41C/-42F Our high of the day is still supposed to be -20C/-4F, which is actually our 30 year average low for the day, but the record low is -36C/-33F, so it’s still well within the norm. Will we actually warm up that much by this afternoon? I sure hope so, because we need to go into town! As it is, I cut my morning rounds down as much as I could, basically just making sure the outside cats had food and warm water, and that was pretty much is. I only counted 19 this morning. Most were in the sun room, but the ones outside were actually dancing around with their paws from the cold!

I’m really not looking forward to tomorrow morning. We have a vet appointment at 8:30 am, and it’s supposed to be about -28C/-18F at that time. Any wind chill on top of that will be brutal. We’ll be using the van for this trip because, for all the problems it has, it still handles the cold better than my mother’s car.

Speaking of handling problems, I finally got tired of one annoyance last night and did something about it.

I added string lights near my door.

This corner has the door to the old basement, and the door to my office/bedroom, and it is always really dark. It’s not too bad during the day but at night, even with string lights around the mirror hanging opposite my bedroom door, it is ridiculously dark. Usually, that results in tripping over or stepping on a cat at my door when I try to go in. Yesterday, it was an annoyance when I kept having to go into the old basement to check on things.

Also, those stairs really, really suck. And not just because my knees are shot.

The set of string lights I had on our Advent wreath got missed when the Christmas decorations were put away, so I added batteries and taped it around the basement door. It’s bright enough that I can now see the door handles, and even grey or black cats on the grey mat under my door (to protect the floor from their scratching).

As for why I kept having to go into the basement: noises.

Too many out of place noises.

Our well pump, every now and then, makes a vibrating noise when it starts. Of course, it stops by the time I get down to check it, and everything looks fine, but it really bothers me. At least it doesn’t make the grinding noise it used to. We have figured out that it would do that when too much water was being used at once, such as if the water for the shower was turned on too full. The pressure tank was being emptied faster than the pump could refill it, so it would start grinding. It means less water pressure while we are taking a shower, but that’s a small thing compared to burning out our pump and losing water completely. The vibrating noise is something else, though, and I can’t tell if it’s coming from the pump or the pipes to the tanks. Nothing has changed down there, though, so there is no obvious reason for it to start making that noise. It also seems to be a winter/cold weather thing, but I have no way to tell.

The pump has been going off more often, too. Even when no one is using the water, I would hear it start up. Some nights, I’ll be awakened because it’s turning on again. I’m the only one who can hear it, since my husband sleeps with a CPAP, which makes just enough noise to drown most things out, and the girls are on the second floor.

The problem is usually the toilet.

Ultimately, though, the source of the problem is our water. It is so full of iron and minerals, it’s messing things up. We’ll need to get a plumber in to fix the bathtub taps because the build up is getting so bad, the hot water tap leaks, even if only the cold water it turned on! When the plumber was here to clear the drain to the septic tank for us, he did take a quick look to give us an estimate, and he thinks he can fix it, rather than have to replace it, but we’d have to take off and replace the tub surround, since that’s the only way to access the taps.

It’s the toilet that is having more problems now. There must be quite a buildup inside the refill hose, as hardly any water flows through it, and it’s taking longer and longer for the tank to refill. The entire inside, which is lined with Styrofoam insulation, is coated with iron, which is also interfering with the flap. Sometimes, after flushing, the flap doesn’t seal right, so the tank keeps draining about as fast as the water is flowing to refill it, so the tank simply doesn’t fill. Unless someone happens to use the bathroom soon after and notices it – because there isn’t enough water to flush! – it’ll keep going for hours. Which is how I end up being awakened by the well pump going off repeatedly during the night! All that needs to be done is to give the lever a wiggle; the flap will settle in place and the tank will finally start filling. Looking at the parts and pieces, though, what I’d really like to do is simply replace all the innards. It’s all so coated with iron and minerals, that would probably be the best way to not just solve a couple of small problems, but keep them from happening again for a long time.

Which leads me to another little problem we’ve been having, thanks to our water quality.

The bathroom sink.

This still has the original tap and faucet set, from the mid 70’s or so. When the water flow starts to get bad, we usually just unscrew a piece from the faucet, give the parts a scrub, then put it back. If it’s really bad, we’ll soak the pieces in CLR for a while. The problem just kept coming back faster in between cleanings, though, and getting worse.

Last night, I had the pieces soaking in CLR again, but when I put them back, the flow was even worse than before the soak and scrub. I gave it some extra scrubbing, but that made things worse again, not better. I tried clearing the openings more directly but, again, it just got worse. When I put it back in place and almost no water could go through anymore, I had to do something more drastic! I took the part in question (I don’t know what it’s called) over to my craft table and tried to clear the holes with a pin. Which worked on one side, but not the other.

After much fighting with it, I managed to separate the pieces.

The grey piece at the top of the picture wasn’t too hard to clean. Especially when I was eventually able to get out the two other pieces inside. It was all so full of rust and gunk, each layer needed to be cleaned before I could get the next one out. The openings are large enough, the T pin I was using had no problem clearing them of scale and rust.

The real problem was the green piece.

The conical part you can see, with the fine mesh of holes, was still clogged. The holes on the bottom are even smaller, much fewer, and barely visible. I cleared them with a pin as best I could, but it was just not working well.

Eventually, I did get it to the point that the conical part started spinning around. Only then could I figure out where the pieces came apart. After much fussing – and the use of a tiny screwdriver – I was finally able to pop the conical part off.

Well, no wonder we were having problems!

Note that this is AFTER multiple soaks in CLR.

After wiping them down, I set the conical part aside to soak in CLR again, while I used the pin to clear the holes in the other part – holes that are much larger on the inside than the outside! Eventually, I got it to the point that I could see through all the holes when I held it up to the light. Not all the holes you see in the photo go all the way through. There’s just the circle of holes around the outer edge, plus another circle of holes half way to the centre.

Then I took the pin and cleared every last hole in the conical part.

By the time I was done and everything was put back together, it was 2am.

One of my daughters happened to be using the bathroom, so she put the newly cleaned part back together with the other parts and screwed it all back into the faucet for me.

Then we stood there and watched in awe over how much water was flowing through, as we let it run to make sure there was no CLR residue left. It hasn’t flowed this well in decades!

Now, if we could just get the toilet tank parts to flow as well!

At least this was a small thing we could take care of ourselves. There’s another new thing that is stressing me out.

The furnace has started making noises.

Of course, with this cold, the furnace is turning on more often, and staying on longer. This house is not very efficient, either, so we lose heat quickly. For all the time the furnace is on, the upstairs is still very cold. There’s only one heat vent for the entire second floor, and the girls have not noticed any real difference since the roof was done. Ah, well. It would have been nice!

Last night, I kept hearing the furnace turn on and start making a strange vibrating noise which – like the well pump – would stop by the time I hobbled my way down the basement stairs to check it.

I ended up turning the thermostat down, so at least the furnace would turn on less frequently, and not stay running as along. Oddly, after I did that, the vibrating noise seems to have stopped completely! Which doesn’t make any sense at all.

What we need to do is get someone to come in and give it a check, and do any maintenance stuff it needs. The problem is, we need to set aside funds for a replacement vehicle. Funds that would normally cover the cost of such irregular expenses. It becomes a battle of priorities over the dwindling “unallocated funds” part of our budget, since rising costs for everything else keeps chipping away at that, too.

It’s all these little things that are going to do us in. The well pump. The septic. The furnace. The taps. The toilet. The lights. The outlets. etc. All these accumulative things. Yes, it’s an old house. This sort of thing must be expected. Especially since there’s very little of this that we can do ourselves, and our resources are so limited.

So we try to focus on the stuff we do have control over, and juggle the budget to find ways to pay people to come in for the stuff we don’t.

The crazy thing is, a significant portion of these problems are caused by our water. It’s simply to loaded with iron and minerals. What I’d like to do is add a filter to the line going into the well pump. A simple filter would extend the life of all sorts of things! There are types that can be cleared without having to open it up to change filters, which would require re-priming the pump. Adding a filter is not going to be done until the pump is replaced, and we’ve already had three plumbers not want to do that (my brother already bought a new pump and all the fittings) due to the risk of the foot valve, at the bottom of the well, disintegrating and losing our water completely. That would turn a job of a few hundred dollars into a job of several thousand dollars, because of the set up we have, and the lack of availability of parts we would need. The valve itself is cheap. It’s all the other stuff that would have to be done to get to it that gets expensive!

Yup. It’s all those little things. They sure do add up!

The Re-Farmer

Rainbow sun dogs, and kitty in a bowl!

Wow, did the temperatures sure drop overnight! Especially with the wind chill.

It does make for pretty sun dogs, though.

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever seen rainbow sun dogs before, other than in photographs! The colours were much brighter in real life.

As I write this, we’re at -19C/-2F, with a wind chill of -31C/-24F. It’s actually gotten colder from when I was doing my rounds this morning! It was “only” -16C/3F with a wind chill of -25C/13F Our high for this afternoon is supposed to be -16C/3F with a wind chill of -29C/-20F If I could avoid heading to the city today, I would, but it’s supposed to get colder over the next few days, so this is my window.

The kitties are taking full advantage of the sun room, including this little shrimp.

The photo sucks because I was taking it through a screen window. This tortie has been named Phantom by the girls, because it has a black “mask” over one eye. She was so solidly asleep that, not only was I able to go into the room and set out kibble in various containers in the sun room, I was able to actually PET HER!!!! Just for a few moments before she woke up, saw I was touching her and ran off. Even then, she only ran as far as the door, then stopped to look at me, until I went over to untie it so I could do the outside kibble trays.

It would make life so much easier if we could socialize more of the females. I don’t like the idea of having to trap them, as that would make them even more distrustful of us. Still, it’s better than having so many litters of kittens again!!!

The Re-Farmer