The surviving tulips are starting to open!

This area had a double tulip collection planted, with 10 bulbs each of Orca, Pinksize and Double Brownie, and 8 bulbs each of Black Hero, Pamplona and Vanilla Coup planted in it, plus some Bulls Eye tulips off to the side. Aside from the Bulls Eye tulip (which Veseys no longer carries), we’re not sure which is which, anymore!

The tulips weren’t the only things starting to bloom.

The surrounding plum trees have exploded with flower buds!

Everything is about a month behind, but the flowers and leaves are finally appearing!

The Re-Farmer

Signs of spring, and an early Mother’s Day gift

I must say, the morning rounds sure are a lot messier these days! Any area that doesn’t have snow on it, is mud.

The cats are spending a lot more time on the roofs of the kibble house and shelter, the junk and wood piles, anything to be off the mud!

I spotted at least a dozen cats this morning. There are five of them crowded around that kibble tray on the ground. They’ll put up with the mud there, while I’m out and about. I didn’t see The Distinguished Guest, Sad Face, or even Creamsicle Baby, this morning.

The forecast for the next while has changed again. Predicted highs have gotten lower. We were supposed to get snow today and tomorrow – 5-10cm (about 2-4 inches) expected, as of last night. Now, they’re saying rain this evening, possibly some snow overnight, and none tomorrow.

I’m not complaining, though. This is the slow melt we need. The ground is slowly thawing and absorbing that precious moisture. It may be really messy, but I’m grateful for it.

Enough snow has melted that I can get into areas we haven’t been able to reach all winter. That gave me a chance to go into the old kitchen garden and free the top of a lilac branch that was still stuck in the snow.

The lilac is covered with leaf buds! This is the only double lilac we’ve got, and I’m happy to see it is doing well. As with all the other lilacs, it barely bloomed last year. It always amazes me, just how much damage that one cold night in May caused!

The nearby honeysuckle don’t seem to have any leaf buds yet. Those are closer to the house and in shade longer than the lilac.

While doing my rounds in the outer yard, I checked on the pump shack. A path had been shoveled to the door, but the snow slid off the metal roof, and now there’s a big pile that’s not worth digging through, as long as the cats can still get to the door. The door has a hole at the bottom that the outside cats use to get in and out. It’s gotten a lot bigger since I last checked it!

There is still a huge pile of snow in front of the pump shack, of course, but the lane cleared by the front end loader is actually starting to have green grass showing. There are also lilac bushes nearby. These ones are the common lilac, like what my mother used to make a hedge along the north fence line by the garden.

They do not have leaf buds.

At least, not anywhere the deer can reach.

Well, I guess I know why the deer were going down here, now. I did eventually see leaf buds, but they were well above my head.

Lilac is pretty hardy, though, and I expect they’ll recover and be growing new leaf buds fairly quickly.

Before heading out for my morning rounds, I checked the thermometer in the sun room, and it was just above freezing. From what I could see during the night, it seems to have stayed above freezing throughout the night, which is encouraging. The little bins with the tree seeds don’t look any different this morning; I don’t expect to see any change for at least a couple of days. Hopefully, that mold will dry up and die off, and we’ll see seedlings, but we’re not holding our breath over that.

On a completely different note, my husband, sweetheart that he is, got me an early Mother’s Day gift. It’s expected to arrive at the end of the weeks.

He’s ordered a Dutch oven set for me!
(image belongs to Amazon)

This is the Uno Casa Cast Iron Dutch oven, in the 6 quart size. (not an affiliate link) I’ve been looking for a cast iron Dutch over for a while, but haven’t been able to justify the cost. When my husband found out I wanted one, he looked up a bunch for me to check out, and I was really excited when I saw this set.

One of the key features of a Dutch oven for outdoor cooking is the lid design. They are flat with a lip around the edge to hold hot coals, so you can have heat above and below. The legs are another important feature. With many of them, the lids double as a frying pan or griddle, but this is the first time I’ve seen one where the lid has legs, too.

The final detail that sold me on this set was the lid lifter. I’ve seen them available separately, but not as a set. The reinforced tote is a nice little bonus, as is the downloadable cookbook.

This set is going to make quite a heavy package. Thankfully, my husband has Amazon Prime, so there is no shipping cost. It shipped very quickly, too!

I think this would be a great way to test it out.

I’d actually been eyeballing the Cabela’s Dutch oven, but I think this set’s design will be more useful. You’ll note, in the video, his Cabela’s Dutch oven lid is not recessed to hold coals. That’s not the one I had in my wish list, which was this one, which has the coal-holding lid. The one in my wish is a 14″ Dutch oven, which I think is larger than the one we are getting, though the description doesn’t say. A 12″ version that was recently added to their inventory is listed as 6 quarts, so I’d guess the 14″ one is an 8 quart size. The 6 quart size we are getting should be more than large enough.

I’m really excited about this!!

My husband is the best. ❤

The Re-Farmer

It’s a good tired…

You know, for someone who is a hermit by nature, I’ve been out and about an awful lot lately!

Today I was out again, after an unexpected change in plans. With the roads clearing up and the days warming up, my mother was wanting to finally visit her sister in the nursing home, to see for herself how she is doing. Every time I suggested a day, though, she would defer on making a decision, and then say that she’d go any time I had the time to take her. She just wanted me to give her at least a day’s advance notice. So a few days ago, after looking at the forecast and seeing that Friday (today) was supposed to be warmer, I called to suggest Friday.

Oh, I was thinking Sunday, she tells me.

Hmm. Apparently, I was supposed to know this somehow? 😀

So we arranged for a trip on Sunday.

Then last night, while I was on my way home from visiting my friend in town, she called. It was pretty late when I got home, but I got through to her before she’d gone to bed.

She had been talking to someone in her building. They told her Friday was supposed to be a nice warm day, so she thought that might be a better day to visit her sister, instead of Sunday, and was I okay with that?

Oh, Mom.

I still had the day open, since that was the day I’d suggested to begin with, so of course, I was okay with the switch, but my goodness, that was funny.

We timed it so that she could visit in between when they would be doing lunch and supper. I used her car, of course, and left early enough to put some gas in the tank.


I filled the tank in our van last night. Gas was at 174.9/L It cost me almost $50 for a quarter tank. This morning, gas was up to 177.9/L My mother’s car was closer to 1/2 than 3/4 full, and she has a smaller tank than I do. It still cost almost almost $40 to fill her tank, and I didn’t even fill it all the way. The nozzle kept shutting itself off, so I kept restarting it until the pump got to what I knew would be close, and it turned out to be just a hair under full when I stopped.

Of course, with gas prices going up, the price of everything else is going to keep going up, too. 😦

We made the trip to where my aunt is, and since they still require masks and I can’t wear one (my mother shouldn’t be wearing any, either), I dropped her off with her walker and helper her in to the doors, where they had someone set up at a table. While my mom was being tended to before being allowed in, I found a place to park. We’d talked about where we were going to eat after the visit, and I’d suggested a fish and chips place instead of her usual fried chicken restaurant. She’s not doing meat on Fridays, so she agreed. I’m pretty sure the chicken place has fish and chips, too, but she would have just ordered fries if we’d gone there. It’s a tiny place and has only street parking, so after I parked my mom’s car, I quickly walked over to see how busy they were and what the parking situation was like, before heading back to the nursing home and waiting for my mom outside.

Her visit with my aunt was much shorter than expected, so I wasn’t waiting for long. We headed over to the restaurant so she could fill me in on how it went. Unfortunately my aunt, who’s 98, did not recognize my mother. She doesn’t talk anymore, and she fell asleep while my mother was there. At least my mother got to talk to the nursing staff about her sister, and left small gifts for her for later.

These visits are very hard on my mother. Still, she was glad to have finally seen her, and talk to the staff directly about how she’s doing. My mother can’t navigate their automated phone system, so I’ve been the one calling the nursing home to get updates for her which, thankfully, they are allowing. I’m not on the list of contacts for my aunt, but my mother is, and I’m someone they recognize as speaking on behalf of my mother, so they can give me information. Still, it’s not the same as my mother being able to actually see and try to talk to her sister, in person.

I told my mother that, now that the roads are clearing up and the temperatures are getting nice, she can visit her sister more often, and that I would be happy to drive her. She started saying, what’s the point? Her sister doesn’t even recognize her. I reminded her it’s been a long time since my aunt has seen her. If she visits more often, she might start recognizing my mother. Plus, at least she’s be able to see for herself how her sister was doing. My mother said she would think about it, but later on the the drive home, she brought it up again as if it was something she’s just thought of herself, and said it would be good to visit more often, now that the roads and weather are better… 😀

The place we ate at is very generous with their portions, and neither of us could finish even half of the fries, so we boxed those up. My mother didn’t want the fries, so she suggested I could give it to the cats. She’d covered hers with salt and vinegar, and I didn’t think that would work, but I took them anyway. My mother took advantage of having access to a car and we went to a couple of places before I took her home. While we were doing errands, I got a message from one of my daughters with a photo.

They’d got a fire going in the fire pit and were having a wiener roast for supper! We’ve used the fire pit so rarely since we’ve moved here, due to fire bans and drought conditions, so I was really happy that they did that.

By the time I was driving my mother home, I was so very tired. Being around people too much just sucks the energy out of me, and with all the other errands we’ve been running in just the past week, I was pretty wiped out. I think I was even more tired than my 90 yr old mother! 😀 So I didn’t stay long after putting her groceries away. It’s a good thing I left when I did, because it was starting to rain! It was mostly done by the time I got home, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be driving on those roads any later in the day.

My daughters were still doing their cookout when I got home! They had the hardest time keeping the fire going, even with having access to dry wood.

The rain starting certainly didn’t help, but it didn’t rain enough to have to end their cookout, and it stopped shortly after I got back. I joined them for a while. It felt so good to be sitting at a fire like that, even with the mud all around the fire pit.

Then, since I had all those fries, the girls brought out cast iron pan to reheat them on the fire grill. I’m told they were quite delicious done that way! 😀

I didn’t stay out for too long, though, and left them to their cookout. I did pause to check out one of the little “lakes” that are forming in our yard!

Getting to the compost pile is going to be a bit of a challange!

We’ve got snowmelt forming a “lakes” forming all over the yard and in the paths we’ve dug right now! All that water, in between all that still-deep snow, is quite the sight!

We’re still supposed to get a bit more rain, then temperatures are supposed to dip below freezing overnight. I was going to say, I’m glad I won’t have to go anywhere for a few days, but I just remembered that we will at least need to go into town again to refill our empty water jugs. I really should have done it today, but it’s not something I could do while running errands with my mother. After that, we should have a few days “off”. I hope! At least until the middle of next week, when we’ll be dropping Turmeric off for her appointment at the vet that the Cat Lady arranged. Then, that same evening, we are now scheduled to pick up the freezer pack of beef I ordered last night. I chose their large “rancher” variety pack. The only item in the pack I know for sure will be in it is ground beef. I’m quite content with “surprise” packs, because we sometimes end up with cuts we normally wouldn’t think to get, usually due to the price/pound. Because it’s in a bulk pack, the price is by the pound for the whole thing, not for individual cuts, so we end up with a better price – and higher end cuts!

It’ll definitely be worth the extra running around.

Still, it all leaves me feeling so very tired. At least it’s a good tired, though!

The Re-Farmer

We’ll have to plan for this

Spring is still trying to show us it has arrived, though in a couple of days, winter is expected to come back for a while.

Which might make it a bit easier to deal with this.

This is the food path we dug to the vehicle gate. The meltwater fills this path, and continues down the paths to the back of the garage, and the outhouse.

In previous winters, we’d been able to keep this vehicle gate, and part of the yard, clear of snow so that we could still drive right up to the house. We had quite a bit less snow than this year, yet we still had “lakes” forming in this gate, and in that low area in front of the outhouse. Without being able to clear all that snow, plus the larger amounts of snow we got this winter, we’re going to be dealing with a lot more meltwater in those low areas.

That “river” of melt water is in the path we dug that was wide enough for my husband’s walker, to get to the front of the garage.

Here’s the rest of that path, all the way to the small gate. You can see where puddles are starting to form in the tire tracks in the snow. In previous years, this entire area would get filled with water. Which meant we could not get to the garage, either from the front or the back, without having to go through a large puddle of water and/or mud.

With the amount of snow we got this year, we can reasonably expect those areas to have quite a bit more water. If that happens, we may have to start parking the van near the small gate, so we can reach it without having to walk through too much water or mud. Another area that tends to collect water is right in the middle of the driveway at the gate. Which means we have to stand in water to open and close the gate.

Another reason why I’d love to get a couple of loads of gravel onto the driveway!

I’m okay with the cold coming back for a bit. As long as we don’t warm up too quickly, the ground will have a better chance of warming up and absorbing the moisture. Looking at the 14 day forecast, it looks like that’s exactly what we’ll be getting.

And for that, I am grateful!

The Re-Farmer

Another beautiful day!

Today was originally forecast to be only 0C/32F. Then the predictions were for us to be “5 degrees colder than yesterday’s high” – apparently we reached 8C/46F at some point!

Even as I was reading that on my app, we’d already surpassed that adjusted forecast, and as I write this, we have continued to warm up and are now at 6C/42F.

It’s awesome out there!

The outside cats are loving it.

I think the heated water bowl is working again. The metal bowls had iced over, though they weren’t frozen solid. The hole formed around the heated water bowl, however, was a pool was water. I’d chipped the ice and snow away from part of the cord so I could see if there was any damage (I couldn’t see any), so I had enough slack to move the bowl to a new location, out of the water. It had no ice in it at all.

We’ve been clearing snow off the winter sowing experiment as best we could. They all have holes in the tops for air circulation, but I did put snow inside them every now and then. That has completely melted away.

In comparing the 4 different types of containers, so far I like the milk just style (it’s actually a water jug) the least. The plastic is a lot softer, so if feels less stable, and the packing tape I used to hold the top and bottom halves no longer sticks to it. Other than that, they all seem to be responding to the light and temperatures the same, as far as I can tell. We’ll have a better idea of which type of container works best once the seeds start to germinate.

If the seeds start to germinate, I suppose!

Today is Saturday, which means the dump is open longer hours. Between the weather and vehicle troubles, we were way overdue for a dump run, and finally got it done today. The van was backed up closer to the people gate in the chain link fence for loading, but the packed snow of the driveway had softened so much, we almost got stuck trying to leave!

The part of the drive that bothered me the most, however, as the lane to the dump itself. I’m particularly paranoid when it times to tires. Between the vans we’ve had and my mother’s car, we’ve dealt with quite a few tire problems. I’ve had tires blow out on me on the highway. I’ve had to drive on a rim for blocks before finding a safe place to pull over. I’ve had tires suddenly and unexpectedly go flat on me (only one of which I could reasonably say was not vandalism). I’m far too familiar with how it feels to drive on a flat.

Driving down that lane was so rough, it felt like driving on 4 flat tires.

I was never so relieved to get back onto a muddy, pothole ridden gravel road than after we were done at the dump! 😀

Once at home, my daughter was sweet enough to take the time to clean the windows and lights on the van. They needed it!

I took advantage of the warmth and started digging out another new path. This time, towards the fire pit. In past winters, we were able to maintain paths around the entire house, a path to the fire pit, the area around the fire pit itself, and of course, a path to the wood pile.

This winter, even if we’d managed to start some of those paths, we couldn’t have maintained them. Maybe if the big snow blower was working, it would have been possible, but certainly not with little Spewie. There was just too much snow for that little electric machine.

One of the main reasons I want to clear a path to the fire pit is because the BBQ my brother gave us is there. We had a gazebo tent over it, but then a storm broke a tree branch on top of it, and the whole thing collapsed. It was still covering the BBQ and the picnic table, so we left it for the winter. My brother, however, bought us a new cover for it that is the right size; the one that was on it when they brought it over was for a smaller BBQ, and while we could get it to cover the important parts, the wind ended up tearing it to shreds, which is why I had it under the tent. So along with clearing the fire pit out, I want to be able to put the new cover on the BBQ, too.

This is going to be a multi-day job, though. For now, I just got a path about 2/3rds of the way to the fire pit. The warm weather is supposed to continue through into April, with the exception of 1 day that’s supposed to dip below freezing, so we’ll have plenty of good days to work on it.

The sun room, meanwhile, has been reaching almost 20C/68F during the day! The overnight temperatures are still a bit too chilly, but it’s going to be time to stop letting the outside cats have access to the room, now that their water outside is no longer freezing, and start prepping space for the seedling trays, and work out how to set up the new shop light.

I am so looking forward to being able to get more seeds started!

The Re-Farmer

A good day!

We are having another lovely, warm day today. Not as warm as yesterday ended up being, but still enough that things are melting.

Things are starting to look really messy and gross as the snow melts away to expose layers of dirt, but it’s so uplifting to finally feel “spring” happening, no one cares. Least of all the cats!

I checked the tracking on our Purolator package last night, and was happy to see that the replacement bands for our vacuum cleaner finally came in. I headed into town this afternoon to pick them up, which is when I saw the one unfortunate thing of the day. The first sign of trouble was when I saw two sets of headlights, side by side, coming towards me on the road – with a third vehicle on the side of the road in between. I started slowing down, of course, but so did the truck that was passing a car – which also pulled over to the side of the road!

When I saw the driver of the first vehicle on the side of the road get out and start walking around her car, I considered stopping to see if she was okay, but the truck stopped beside her to talk to her, so I kept going. Then I saw someone get out of the other vehicle that had just pulled over, which is when I spotted something on the road, across the lane.

It turned out to be a deer. The woman in the first car must have just hit it. The woman in the second car pulled it off the road.

This time of the year, we always see a LOT of deer crossing the roads. It makes driving unexpectedly dangerous.

Since I was in town to pick up our package anyhow, I made a quick stop at the grocery store. Bizarrely, the staff are still all wearing masks, as where most of the customers. Even outside, walking around by themselves. The psychological addiction can be very strong.

I was very happy to see one familiar face, though. A friend of mine that I used to work with, the last time we lived in this area, many years ago. She was just as pleased to see a face as I was. We chatted a bit about it, as well as the vaccine mandates that have also been lifted. Like us, she and her husband would be far more at risk from the vaccine than getting Covid, so the whole thing was very frustrating for them.

They have a farm to the north of us, so of course we started talking weather! Such a relief to see things melting. The amount of snow we got this year is not enough to make up for the last couple of years. Much will depend on spring. When she hears people complaining about how much snow we got this winter, her thought has been like mine: this is what our normal winter’s snow is! We needed more, to make up for last summer’s drought, and the conditions of year before. The response she usually gets to that has been comments on spring rains taking care of that, but she says we haven’t and spring rains around here for 7 years. Yes, we did get some last spring, before the heat waves hit, but nothing close to the average amounts. So these drought or near drought conditions have been around for quite a while now.

Of course, they garden as well, plus they have an assortment of animals. The cost of feed has been going up, and seed is running out. They’ve noticed lots of people diving into gardening as well, contributing to the supply shortages and increased prices (at least until the seed companies can catch up). As we were chatting, her husband joined us and commented on the cost of oats for human consumption. Seed oats cost over $17 a bushel right now. It used to cost about $3 a bushel!

Time to stock up on oatmeal while it’s still affordable!

Before I left the store, I picked up a lotto ticket. I figure if they can win the jackpot, so can I! 😀

Once at home, I opened up the vacuum cleaner and changed out the broken belt, and immediately started to vacuum my disgusting, disgusting floor. The carpet in my office/bedroom is a strange, felted sort of surface, and it probably 50 years old. It used to be in our living room, but when we got the current shag carpet put in, this one got slapped down on the floor of what used to be my parents’ bedroom, like a rug, with molding along the bottoms of the walls holding it in place. It’s severely stretched and lumpy-bumpy in places, and attracts dust, dirt and cat hair like nothing else I’ve ever seen! I was so thrilled to finally…

… break the new band on the vacuum cleaner.

It turned out I hadn’t quite lined the cover up right over the beater bar when I put it back.

I’m glad I got extra bands! If I break it again, there’s still a couple more.

It feels so good to finally have a red carpet again, instead of grey with cat hair. 😀

You know you’re getting old, when being able to vacuum a carpet is exciting.

Unfortunately, with the noise of the vacuum, all the cats ran off, including Butterscotch and Nosencrantz. Nosencrantz has started to explore the house more on her own, and has even visited the girls upstairs, but Butterscotch still hadn’t even shown an interest. Nosencrantz has made her way back and is settled down on my bed with several other cats, but not Butterscotch. Right now, I have no idea where she is!

Well, I guess that’s one way to get her to check out the rest of the house! 😀

The Re-Farmer


I just spent the past several hours, clearing snow out of the corner by the basement window, and hauling it away.

I am now stiff, sore and in heaven.

Gosh, I love manual labour. 😀

This is how the area looked after I last worked on the area.

Hidden in the snow in the back of the first photo is the basement window, and my first goal was to get that clear.

After many loads of snow was hauled away, I could finally remove the cover over the window.


We really need to replace the hinged roof that used to be over this window, supported by that post.

Also, I had a very enthusiastic assistant.

Agnoos was very excited to sit in the wheelbarrow, every chance he got!

During one of my many trips with a load of snow, I was amused to find this, in front of the main entry.

That is a Rolando Moon butt spot. She had been sitting there, enjoying some sun, in the one warm spot that was melting in the warmth.

And it was remarkably warm! I don’t know what the temperature was, but it was warm enough I had to change into a lighter jacket and hat, instead of my down filled part and toque. There was snow melting off the roof, too – and into the sun room, unfortunately. We never did find where the leak was before the snow hit.

Digging out the window was more difficult than I expected. The post is in the way, of course, but that high density plastic protecting the ground in front of the window was SLIPPERY!! Along with the ice chipper, I broke out a small, telescoping snow shovel that really ought to be in our van for the winter. It was small enough for the space, plus aluminum, so it could cut through the hard packed snow and ice, except for the very worst, which needed the ice chipper.

Once the recessed area was clear, the cover went back into place.

Then the ice chipped got a major work out.

I was able to clear right to the ground, breaking off chunks of hard packed snow where the path had been, and clearing along with wall. The downspout off the entry is now clear – and it was dripping!

I wasn’t done yet, though!

With water leaking into the sun room, and seeing quite a bit of melt happening on the roof, I broke out the telescoping roof snow shovel.

That thing can reach remarkably far!

You can now see an ice dam on the eave of the main roof, which drains onto the sunroom roof. Remarkably, the telescoping shovel could even reach onto there.

I seem to recall finding some sidewalk de-icer in the basement, I think. We’ll have to look for it. What I’d like to do (or, more likely, will ask a daughter to do) is make a long, narrow fabric tube and fill it with de-icer, then toss it over the ice dam to create a channel to the eaves trough.

Of course, that meant more snow to haul away. The openings into the shelf that are shelters for the cats were completely covered, and the shelves partially filled.

Once that was cleared, more chipping was done in front of the door, and along the sun room to the old kitchen garden.

That was some seriously hard packed snow.

Once it was clear, I pushed the sump pump hose through between the shelf and the window.

Now, it is back where it’s supposed to be, draining into the old kitchen garden, and nowhere near the well!

The diverter then got put back under the downspout. We’ll have to keep an eye on it, since it’s sitting on top of snow, so it’ll shift as things melt. Eventually, the rain barrel will go back into this spot.

Which is really a bad spot for a rain barrel. It blocks access to the garden. Ideally, it should be around the corner. At some point, we’ll work out a way to do that. Unfortunately, the last concrete block is tipping, likely undermined from the rain barrel being allowed to overflow. When we made a path along the west facing wall, it looked like the entire corner has been undermined. If it’s slowly sinking, that would explain the door frame being so off kilter, and cracking windows. We have spare windows in both sizes in the barn, but I wouldn’t want to replace them without making sure they aren’t just going to crack again! Both smaller windows, and one big window, need to be replaced. At least it’s just the inner panes on these double paned windows that’s cracked. The big window is just a single pain window, and has been since before we moved here. You can really tell the difference. It gets completely covered with frost, while the other windows remain clear.

So that’s the first are that needed to be cleared. Next, we have to clear the well cap.

That’s under the pile of snow you can see on the right of the photo with the door, and on the left of the photo with the newly cleared area.

It’s going to take a lot of trips to clear that pile, and it’s starting to get hard to find space to dump the snow without blocking areas we need to keep open!

We should be able to work on it over the next few days, though maybe not tomorrow. I think some pain killers and a break is in order! Plus, I got a message letting me know my mother’s car is ready, so we’ll be going into town to pick that up, and get the new alternator belt and tensioner looked at. And talk to him about the windshield wipers. And the EGR valve codes triggering the check engine light…

We really need a new van. Or maybe a truck, instead. As long as my husband can get in and out without too much pain, and there’s room for his walker.

If I’m going to dream about it, I want an extended cab F150 or Ram 1500 (both highest rated for winter trucks, last I looked), with a tow hitch and a plow attachment. With, of course, a plow and a small trailer to go with it. Plus a cap on the box, to protect our monthly groceries and supplies. 😉

In blue.

Because I like blue.

Oh, that reminds me. I wasn’t able to stop to take a photo, but while driving home from the city, the odometer on our van hit 456,789 km. 😀

Definitely time for something newer, and in better shape! Since we got this vehicle, the cost of major repairs could have bought a newer, less worn out, vehicle! It’s done well by us, though, all things considered.

Even if I did have to drive across three provinces while holding the door with one hand, to keep it from popping open, in spite of the Bungee cord rigged to hold it closed, when we moved out here!

Still, not bad for a vehicle I could pay for using my debit card.

The Re-Farmer

Feeling productive

Today was such a beautiful day!

While doing my rounds this morning, I spotted Junk Pile cat at the bottom of this icicle hanging from the rain barrel diverter, drinking from the little well created at the bottom. Even though we were still a few degrees below freezing, there was a trickle of ice melt, making it’s way down and creating a pool.

By the end of the afternoon, it was so beautifully warm! We easily went several degrees above the 0C/32F forecasted. Things were enthusiastically melting, and the outside cats are loving it!

We did city trips to stock up, two days in a row. As productive as those trips are, they leave us feeling completely drained. Today, I actually felt productive, with just a couple of short trips.

I had intended to go to the post office yesterday, and pick up deer feed and bird seed while I was at it. I ended up skipping it, because I just didn’t have the spoons left. Which turned out to be a good thing, since I completely lost track of what day it was. I thought it was Tuesday, but it was Wednesday, which meant the store – and the post office inside – had closed at noon. So today, I combined errands, starting off by heading into town to refill our 18.9L/5 gallon jugs of drinking water (we have 3, and refill when 2 are empty). For this, we go to our usual grocery store. Since that happens to be across the street from our garage, I swung by to talk to the mechanic. The van has been running well, so I asked about maybe just resetting the error codes. He suggested I call him on Monday (he was working on a vehicle at the time) and he’ll schedule me to bring the van in. Since it’s likely the crud he couldn’t reach to clean, come loose and getting stuck in the new EGR valve, he’ll take it off and give it a clean.

That arranged, I headed to the grocery store with the water jugs and, since I was there anyhow, I went through the fresh produce and meats sections, so see how things looked, and what was on sale. I’m sure we got a sale flier in the mail, but we don’t drive to the post office every day, so I tend not to see them before I actually go to the store. I was very happy to see asparagus bunches for only $2 each – they’re usually about three times that price – and grabbed some.

Well, that was just the start. Then I noticed other really good sale prices. It turned out they had some massive sales on a meat in particular. Some were half price, or even better. And no, this wasn’t old meat, but the fresh cuts they process themselves.

I ended up going through all the aisles and stocked up!

A lot of things that go on sale tends to be stuff we pretty much never buy, but this time I was able to pick up a whole lot of things we actually do buy, some regularly, and others only rarely or as a treat. I didn’t go nuts or anything, but with the city shopping we already did, our freezer, fridge and cupboards are now the most well stocked they have ever been!

I came to refill water jugs and left with a cart full! 😀

Having a hard time finding where to put all the food is a good problem to have!

I finished in town too quickly, though. The post office closes for an hour and a half around lunch time, so I just had to play a bit of Pokemon Go before heading back. 😀

The store the post office is in is not only where I pick up our bird seed and deer feed (they also carry the best hams), but it’s also a liquor store. Our older daughter has a birthday this month, and her gift came in. (not an affiliate link) So I picked up a case of Jamaican lager for her to use her gift with! We don’t really celebrated our birthdays on the days themselves, so she got her gifts right away. 😀

So now we are stocked up in food, deer feed, bird seed and beer. 😀

Today is also a day the dump is open for a few hours in the evening, and with our van up and running, we were finally able to load up all the garbage and recycling. We tried to keep up with it, using my mother’s little car, but not a lot fits in it, and we just weren’t able to make multiple trips per week. Or even one trip per week. More like one trip every two or three weeks. :-/

Using the van, one trip, and we were all caught up! We ended up going to the new pit, rather than the household bins I normally use. Normally, we would drive into the pit, but with the ice and snow, they seem to have closed that access off. What they have instead is a sort of parking area, where you can back your vehicle up to the pit (there are concrete blocks to make sure no one drives over the edge!) and the garbage is just tossed down the hole.

Oddly, people have somehow still managed to stack up a huge pile of garbage at the edge. It took no effort at all to make sure the bags rolled down into the pit itself, but nope. In the middle of the dumping area, people left their garbage piled high, right up to the concrete blocks.

So very strange.

It felt so good to finally get that job done!!!

Oh, and I had a nice little surprise this morning. My tax return came in. We won’t have to wait until April or May to get that garden soil! I called the company to arrange it and left a message. If all goes well, we’ll have the soil before the end of this month. I should be able to pick up a chain saw this month, too! I can hardly wait! Garden soil first, though. 🙂

Just a couple of relatively minor things, but yeah… it made the day feel so much more productive!!

The Re-Farmer

Well, half the job is done!

What a huge difference between yesterday and today!

At a time when we were at -28C/-18F yesterday, we were at -8C/17F this morning!

When I changed out Potato Beetle’s water bowl yesterday, which was up close to the heat bulb, I ended up with a shell of ice. This morning, there was no ice at all. In fact, when I let Potato Beetle out, I unplugged the heat bulb and took the water bowl back outside. There’s no need for him to be kept in the sun room anymore. The Potato is free again!

Oh, I managed to snag a photo of some visitors yesterday evening.

This herd has been coming by regularly! That group is the back is four deer, bunched together. 🙂

With the temperatures warming up 20C in 24 hours, I was able to do my full rounds before heading to the city with the van, to finally try and do a Costco run.

The van was running well and I had no problems, and yet, shortly before I reached the city (after about a hour of driving), the check engine light came on.


I kept going to the Costco parking lot, then plugged in my OBD II reader. I got two error messages this time.

The first error code, I’d had the last time I checked, but the second one was new. The app allowed me to look it up.

I got this:

SPECIAL NOTES: OBD II code with the definition “IAT [Intake Air Temperature] – B Circuit Malfunction / Exhaust Gas Recirculation Closed Position Performance” is mostly relevant to some General Motors (and a few European) products from the late 1990’s to the early / mid 2000’s, and is therefore no longer in common use by most manufacturers. Starting in the mid-2000’s, the “IAT [Intake Air Temperature] – B Circuit Malfunction” component of the definition was dropped, largely due to improved PCM programming, even though it still appears in many sources, including online lists of OBD II code definitions.

However, the transition from the definition “IAT [Intake Air Temperature] – B Circuit Malfunction / Exhaust Gas Recirculation Closed Position Performance”, to the definition most commonly used by many manufacturers for OBD II code P1404 today, “EGR Valve Closed Position Performance”, has NOT been smooth and/or uniform across all manufacturers, and it may still be encountered on older USDM applications and some European imports. The General Motors TSB below that describes a potential cause of this code on some older GM applications with the definition “IAT [Intake Air Temperature] – B Circuit Malfunction / Exhaust Gas Recirculation Closed Position Performance” is reproduced from official GM sources. Note that the “electronic noise” referenced in the TSB often originated in the Intake Air Temperature sensor.

Which basically tells me “our van is old”. :-/

For our specific vehicle, it means “Exhaust Gas Recirculation Closed Position Performance (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GM, Pontiac, Saturn)”

I also found this:

If the Check Engine warning light turns on or your vehicle fails an emissions test, have the powertrain of your vehicle undergo a diagnostic scan. If the scan provides you with trouble code P1404, then it means your EGR valve is stuck in the closed position. This will ultimately raise the combustion temperatures in your engine cylinders. The temperature gauge on your dashboard may even reflect this too.

The engine control unit constantly communicates with the EGR valve and will know whenever it is in the wrong position. Once you know that it gets stuck in the closed position, you must either replace the EGR valve or figure out if another component is causing the problem. Sometimes you may just have a clogged EGR valve which must be cleaned out. But this isn’t a treatment which you should perform alone. It requires someone with the proper knowledge and skills of automobiles to make it happen.

However, this is a completely new EGR valve.

I ended up texting a screencap of the error codes to the garage, then called him to let him know I’d sent them. He checked them out, then got back to me. After confirming that the van is otherwise running fine, and this is the first real trip I’ve made since the EGR valve was replaced, it is likely some carbon he couldn’t reach to clean out came loose. For now, I’m to keep an eye on it. If the van starts acting up, bring it in. Otherwise, it should just clear itself out.


So I went ahead and braved Costco.

I almost didn’t. The entire time I was in the van, I was watching the line that extended almost the entire length of the building. It was moving, but not very fast. I finally decided to go for it, instead of going to a Superstore or something.

Thankfully, this location is still somewhat sane. There were signs all over for “face coverings”, but even the ladies at the door were wearing face shields, not masks. They didn’t even blink at me with my Mingle Mask. So that was a relief.

This being Costco, I grabbed a flat cart. With so much to stock up on, I only got half the cat kibble and litter I normally would have – not only for the space on the cart, but also because I didn’t want to fully load the van with heavy stuff like that, quite yet.

I still got pretty much everything from the Costco part of my list; just not all in the quantities I normally would have. Still, the whole thing came out to about $750 – part of which went towards renewing our membership, which lapsed back in November. We’ve got an Executive membership, so I did have the rebate check on that. It didn’t quite cover the renewal fee, but that’s okay.

One thing I was able to find was a three pack of storage bins. I was on the look out for a bin to store our canning supplies, which are currently scattered about in various places in the kitchen. When it came time to pay, I told the woman that was going to repack the cart that she could use the new bins to hold things, if she wanted. She liked that idea and was going to, but the bins were Zip tied together. After seeing them struggle with the bins, I asked if she needed a knife, which she did, so I grabbed my little pocket knife out of my coat and went to cut the ties.

Behind me I hear a customer saying “It’s a good thing we’re not at the airport!” LOL

It worked out very well. When I got to the van, I repacked the cold and frozen items into insulated bags. All the other smaller stuff fit in the three bins, and with their lids, it made for a very efficiently packed van!

During the drive home, I paid close attention to the van, and it was running fine. If there was anything out of the ordinary, I’d say that the gas mileage was somewhat worse. That was it.

Once at home and everything was put away (so good to see everything well stocked again!), I went over the list and made up a new one for non-Costco shopping.

I’ll be going back to the city tomorrow for the rest, just to get it over with. One of my daughters will even be coming with me, as they have their own shopping list. Once that’s done, we will be fully stocked for the month, and need to only make trips into town for fresh stuff.

If that check engine light is still on after tomorrow’s trip, I’ll see about bringing the van back to the garage.

I am so looking forward to not needing to go anywhere again.

The Re-Farmer