Housework is Exercise – Get Dusting!

The 1998 poem “Dust If You Must” by Rose Milligan is going around the internet again. It starts with:

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Of course, painting and writing and pondering are quite sedentary activities. Cleaning is almost as good as going to the gym! An hour of sitting only burns 34 calories. An hour of vacuuming burns 170 calories. An hour of food preparation and cooking uses only 68 calories. An hour of dusting and tidying burns 136 calories!

It’s all in the attitude — housework is exercise. Slim your way to a clean home, clean your way to a slim body!
-Terri Guillemets –

When I first got a macro lens and was discovering all sorts of interesting ‘little’ things, I got a closer look at the dust on a table top.

Where did that dust come from, and what might it be made of? According to several sites I went to, dust comes in from the outdoors as particles on our shoes, or blown in by air movement. It can include dirt, pollen, mold spores, auto exhaust, fertilizer chemicals and residue from burning fossil fuels, to name just a few things. Clouds of dust can travel immense distances – so microbes, bacteria and virus like particles can arrive at your house without having to carry a passport from the foreign country that dispatched them.

Indoor sources of dust can include dried food particles (and the insects that feed on this), decaying particles of carpet, bedding and furniture, skin flakes (and the dust mites that feed on them), and dander off pets. Dust also includes chemicals that are used for a multitude of things, including flame retardants in furniture and pillows.

Dust enters our bodies either by breathing it in, or ingesting it. For people with NO significant allergies or asthma, normal dust may not pose a risk. Dust that can be dangerous is usually associated with particular products and/or occupations (asbestos, coal, silica, cement, grain, woodworking, etc.)

An individual’s tolerance for dust in their home is often simply a matter of personal preference. I don’t have an aversion to dusting and cleaning, so here at The Red House my Swiffer Duster and I breeze through a single room in about 2 minutes. I think the house smells better when I am done, and I like the look of a clean surface.

I am disappointed by those non-cleaning folks who choose to denigrate both the task of cleaning and the people who do that work. Adjectives like ‘clean freak’ and ‘uptight’ are used to describe people with clean homes, while ‘easygoing’, ‘laid back’ and ‘dust bunny’ are used for people at the other end of the spectrum.

The QuipperyOne blogger justified their dirty home by saying, “A dirty house says that the family that lives in it has more important things to do than clean!”

Really? What is more important than teaching the members of a family that the very essence of living is the cycle of doing things, then cleaning things. We paint a picture, then we clean our brushes. We bake a cake, then wash the dishes. We plant a seed, then clean our tools. We exercise, then wash our clothes. Why wouldn’t the family also vacuum the floors after they track in dirt?

Outside our homes, how would we feel without The Cleaners? Would we feel good about our workplaces if they were never cleaned? Would we check into a hotel room that still had dirty sheets and a disgusting bathroom? Would we enjoy our library or our community park if no one ever picked up the trash?

Your turn – Does the cleanliness of your home affect the way you feel?

How to Make Tree Branch Hooks

After I had made three Stacked Wood Christmas Trees, I had a large pile of discarded branches that were too big for the chipper and too small to make more stacked trees. Though some of the “V” shaped sections would have made excellent sling shots, I settled on the more mundane project of making tree branch hooks.

The Car Guy searched his stash of things he might need some day, and found some wood that I could use to make a frame. I chose to make one with an interior dimension of 8 by 20 inches (20.32 by 50.8 cm). Once the wood pieces were cut, we used a T-square to make the corners square, and an air gun nailer to quickly assemble the frame. (The Car Guy insisted on the T-square, because the way I was going at it, the frame was going to be really lopsided…)

I selected tree branches that had forks of about 45 degrees. Then I used a chop saw to cut  the branches into 8 inch (20.32 cm) long sections. I tried to vary the position of the hooks so that they would be at random heights in the frame.

Once I had the hooks all laid out in the frame, we used the air gun nailer to secure them in place at both the top and the bottom.

woodworking tree branch frame

We attached nail hangers on the back – one near each end – to keep the frame level on the wall.

I was really pleased with the finished Framed Tree Branch Hooks. The project may not actually be very practical, but it is pleasingly rustic, and is a nice reminder of the types of trees we grow here at The Red House.

I have one more wood project on the go – a twig chair. I had high hopes of making all sorts of twig things, but the chop saw is a seriously spooky tool that I’m getting less fond of as the days go by…

What power tool do you enjoy using? What do you shy away from using?

How to Build a Stacked Wood Christmas Tree

We saw Stacked Wood Christmas Trees at The Cross Roads Collective in Invermere, British Columbia. The Car Guy said, “We could make one of those, you know”, and I thought, “Sure we could, but will we?”

Many months later, we made our first trees. This is a project, though, that actually took many years to come together. This is why, and here are the instructions:

1. I married a man who keeps everything.

2. We bought a cabin with copper pipe plumbing that ran under the open underbelly of the cabin. The pipes sometimes froze and split if we had hard frosts after we turned the water on for the season. The Car Guy changed out the pipes for flexible plastic tubing that didn’t burst as easily. He brought the copper pipes home, because he might need them some day.

4. The Red House needed a new deck. The Car Guy built one, and salvaged any good wood, because he might need it some day.

5. A heavy snowfall broke many branches off the trees around The Red House. The Car Guy and I piled all the wood up in various locations on our property – because we might need it some day.

Salvaged deck lumber

6. Some day eventually arrived.  The Car Guy used the salvaged deck lumber to build the X shaped bases for the Stacked Wood Christmas Trees.

Salvaged copper pipe

7. He cut 4 feet (1.2 meters) off one of the 3/4 inch (1.9 centimeter) pieces of copper tubing.  Then he drilled a hole in the center of his X-shaped base, and stuck one end of the copper tubing into the hole.

Drilled hole

8. Then The Car Guy taught me how to use the electric chop saw. I went to work cutting the long broken branches from the trees into shorter pieces. (The longest was 3.5 feet (1.1 meters).) When I had them cut up into the right lengths, The Car Guy drilled a hole in the middle of each branch with his drill press. (The Car Guy has an excellent selection of tools that he buys because he might need them some day.)

Stacking branches onto the pipe

9. I laid out the branches in the order I wanted to stack them, then ‘threaded’ them onto the copper pipe.

Stacked wood Christmas Tree

Ta Da! The completed Stacked Wood Christmas Tree.

I also made a star for the top. I cut 5 pieces of branch, equal lengths and laid them out in a 5 pointed star shape.  The Car Guy used his air gun nailer to tack them together, then we nailed it to the top  branch.

Measure twice and cut once – there’s no board stretcher in the tool kit.
– Author Unknown –

The words ‘Hoarded Ordinaries’ came to mind when I watched The Car Guy drag this and that out from here and there until he finally had all the components to make these trees.

What sort of things do you or your spouse ‘hoard’ and what unanticipated use did you finally make from the stash?

Distractions – Three Hours Later I Found the Twist Ties

I just needed some long twist ties. I wanted to tidy up the cords that let the computer talk to the scanner. I thought I had seen the kind I wanted in The Car Guys’s office, so I went there and looked in the desk drawers. No twist ties, but I did find some circle drawing templates that would be happier if they lived nearer to my drawing desk. I needed a box to store the templates in, so I went downstairs to the box cupboard, and found the perfect container. Then I restacked the remaining boxes so that they would fit back into the cupboard.

After boxing up the drawing supplies, I continued the search for twist ties. There were 6 possible drawers in The Car Guy’s office where they could be. As I searched, I also spent some time resorting. Apparently there had been a bit of ‘dump and run’ going on.

One of the drawers contained The Car Guy’s pen collection, which reminded me that I had a box of pens in my multi purpose room that could be amalgamated with his pens. When I retrieved those pens, I also found my pen refills! I need a refill for my favourite Papermate Pen, but unfortunately the refills I have do not fit any pens I have.

I continued to search all the drawers in my room for twist ties. There had been some ‘dump and run’ happening there too, so I did some resorting. This resulted in many reassignments, primarily involving glue, rulers and scissors – which we have far more of than I had realized.

Still no twist ties, though. A general tidy up of my multi purpose room was now in full swing, and I found my stash of sewing machine needles and some feathers I want to use on a particular project.

I also found a few things that belong in the catch all drawer in the kitchen – which is where I found the long twist ties

And that is the story of why it took me three hours to tie up these cords…

I’m sure you have all had a similar experience – do share it with me!

Big Plans for a New Year – More Renos!

In ancient times, a summary of our past year might have been reported thus:

And so it was that the quiet husband and his overly talkative wife were together in a compact carriage for three full days on a trip that would transport them from the far southern state of the USA to the Canadian province of their birth. On the first morning, the man was finally able to break into the conversation, and he said, “We have been fortunate this year to have been blessed by Ye Olde Insurance Company who partially compensated us for our losses in last years flood. I think we should spend that windfall on another water related issue that I have long thought we should address—leaking eavestroughs at the Red House.”

Christmas 2014And his wife said, “Perhaps we could also get the fascia boards and soffits fixed too.” And  with that said, she spent many hours thinking out loud about colours and materials.

And so they drove on and eventually the quiet man broke in again. “I believe I have concluded an agreement with men more skilled than me to put up my ‘more than modestly sized metal shed’”. And his wife replied, “Do we have enough loonies to pay the contractor?” And the  man replied, “Yes, we do. We will use the insurance payout from the ‘one in a hundred year flood’ that our ark did not survive.” And the wife thought, “Perhaps I wasn’t aware of how large that insurance payout was…”

On the third day of the journey, the man said to his wife, “This summer I will paint the window trim, and we will both paint the house.” And the wife said nothing, for she was not enthusiastic about painting.

And it came to pass that when the man and his wife at last reached home, they discovered that a swarm of ungulates had descended on the pastures closest to their house and eaten everything that was green and everything that might have been green if it had been May or June instead of April.

And the woman said unto her husband, “I think the windfall should be spent on fixing the fence so that the hungry hoards don’t spoil my pasture ever again.”

Soon the man had secured a contractor to replace the eavestrough. And the wife asked the contractor about the fascia boards and soffits and the contractor said, “Your wish is my command… you should probably replace the shingles on the roof too.”

On the second week back in the land of snow, the husband realized how many lifetimes it would take him to paint the window trim and the house, and so he summoned a painter. By and by, the roofer, the shed contractor, the fencer and the painter were hard at work and, since no renovation is ever as it seems, an asphalt crew was needed too.

For 81 days tradesmen came and went and music of dubious merit rang from all around, as earnest young men with boom boxes laboured to make the home like new again.

At long last, all but a few items were complete, and the man and his wife were pleased with the transformation. And the wife smiled as her husband pored over the books of records to figure out how to pay for having spent the windfall many times over.


In the land of eternal sunshine and scorpions and snakes, another house was being renewed. The same man and wife entrusted the initially simple job to a talented young contractor. It came to pass that this house also had some hidden deficiencies….

The project proceeded in as timely a manner as possible when 10 change orders occur. After 8 months of labor by earnest tradesman whose music was also of dubious merit, the job was nearly complete. And the husband again pored over those books of records and cursed the day he had taken on the task of ‘keeper of the household budget.’

The End

PS: I started drawing something other than stickmen too, as you can see from my Christmas Card above.

How was your year? Got your Christmas cards in the mail yet?

Snow in September – Responding to Adversity

Snow in September – once the shock and sadness wore off, I  took my camera outside to see if there was an upside to this! There is also an Adversity Story to tell.

You’d like to eat on the patio? How about this nice table for four. So peaceful and quiet you can hear a pin drop. No mosquitoes.  No chance you will get a sunburn.

You think it is a bit, well, white out?

Here – some greenery… and pinkery too.

I got a phone call from a friend today. She wanted The Car Guy’s advice about how to deal with a dangerous snow laden tree branch that was hanging over her power line.

She had phoned her hubby first (he’s out of town) and told him she wanted to knock some snow off the branch with a broom or something, and maybe even remove the branch, but she didn’t want to become an electrocution statistic.

Her husband’s response to her story was not very helpful – that is why she called the The Car Guy. The Car Guy gave her a list of actions she could take, and asked her to phone him back later so he knew she had survived the procedure.

He also offered to do the job for her. But my friend is a ‘do it myself’ person, so she proceeded to turn off the power at the pole, knock a bunch of snow off the tree branches, remove the most offensive branch and get the power turned back on.

But that was the easy part. She also had to spray WD40 on the lock on the box that housed the power switch; then use bolt cutters to cut off the lock because it still wouldn’t work; employ miscellaneous tools to straighten the thingamagig that got twisted when she cut off the lock; and clean up the pot of dirt that got smashed on the floor when she was rummaging through the garage trying to find one of the six or seven tools she needed to get the job done.

When she finally phoned us to confirm the task was successfully completed, she said, “If I had a blog, this would sure be one of the stories I would tell!”  I smiled, and thought that she would probably have to edit out a few expletives before her grandchildren could read her “Overcoming Adversity” story.

At the end of my adversity story about Hail, I said “Do you ever ask yourself why you live where you do? What roots keep you tethered to a place that seems so determined to make you want to leave it!?”

One answer is – family and friends keep us here. But it is also the adversity that makes us stay.  Each time we face another weather challenge, and we are wildly or moderately or slightly successful at coping, we are re-energized.

By trying, we can easily learn to endure adversity.
Another man’s, I mean.
– Mark Twain –

The flower I captured is a Hollyhock. I take good care of my hollyhocks, yet they struggle to survive and usually flower just before the first snow takes them out of the game. My ‘do it myself’ friend was the source for these hollyhocks. She ignores hers, and they grow like weeds at her place. I guess Hollyhocks thrive on adversity too.

Hail – An Abrupt End to the Veggie Garden

I’ve planted a vegetable garden just about every year of my adult life.  Some years the produce is bountiful. I get so many zucchini that people who come to visit lock their car doors – they don’t want to end up with the zucchini stowaways that I slip onto the front seat when they are not looking.

Some years, though, parts of the garden go missing. The white tail deer are especially fond of beans, lettuce and carrots.  One year an underground rodent of some description ate many of the potatoes.

The most destruction, however, comes from a hail storm.

Hail! We could hear the distinctive plonk sound on the roof as each white pellet fell from the sky.  Within minutes the ground was littered with battered leaves and drifts of hail stones.

Hail stones – pea to ‘mothballs on steroids’ size.
The hail created ice dams at the bottom of each downspout.

The damage to everything green was extensive.

Shredded sunflower leaves.
hail damage
The remnants of a white lily.
Hail stones caught in the branches of the spruce trees.

And the Vegetable Garden – the photos are too gruesome to publish…

I can’t remember ever having two hail storms in one day, but four hours after the first storm, another rolled in. The sound of the hail on the roof warned us that these hailstones were even larger than the ones from the earlier storm.

Hail stones 3.175 cm (1.25 inches) across.

Hail this size is scary.  It was a relief once it finally stopped! By then it was too late in the day to go outside to assess the damage,  so we contented ourselves with merely mopping up the few spots inside the house where the driving rain/hail had entered through a leak in the roof and under one door.

The next morning we surveyed the damage. Plants with big green leaves don’t have big leaves any more. Plants with little green leaves have fewer leaves. Plants with narrow green leaves – less damage. Thistles – seemingly unscathed.

The mosquito population seems undiminished…

Our roofer will arrive eventually to fix the leak and check the shingles and eavestrough – but we are far from being the first in line. Other homes were hit even harder than us.

Storms come, and are so personal, they seem to know your address and have the key to your house.
– Reverend Jesse Jackson –

Do you ever ask yourself why you live where you do? What roots keep you tethered to a place that seems so determined to make you want to leave it!?

Harley Survives. Will the Honda Lawnmower?

When we last saw the Harley Davidson in August 2012, it was being loaded onto the back of a truck. Bent and broken like it’s owner, the bike was no longer The Car Guy’s concern. The Harley’s destiny was in the hands of the insurance company.

Then – we got a phone call from our Son-in-law a few months ago. “I’ve found your Harley,” he said. “Not only that, it is repaired, and is being sold by the same guy here in Alberta that I bought my Harley from. If that isn’t coincidence enough, the guy who is selling the bike is the guy who repaired the bike, and he did the work this past winter in Phoenix Arizona!”

Phoenix – that meant the Harley had spent the winter in the same general area where The Car Guy had spent the winter recovering from his damages. But there is even more to the story. The guy who repaired the bike has a son who lives right next door to The Car Guy’s dad. It really is a small, small world!

The Harley survived, but will our Honda? This Honda lawn mower is 30 years old. It spent the last 3 years out at the cabin, and was one of the items The Car Guy salvaged from our flooded cabin last weekend. So far all he has done is pressure washed it, but starting this week, he and his Dad will start to dismantle it and see if they can bring it back to life.

“Why bother?” you might ask. Indeed, why.

Maybe it is because it has faithfully mowed our lawns for 30 years, and it deserves another chance.

Maybe it is because we were raised to reuse, recycle, fix and make do – long before it was the popular thing to do.

Or maybe it is because there was so little we could salvage from the flood, that anything is better than nothing, and something is a nice reminder of all the happy days we spent there. Mowing the lawn. We didn’t have much, so it wasn’t really a big job. But it smelled so nice when it was being done, and it looked so nice when it was finished. And every time we fire up this mower again, we will be reminded of all our neighbours, and the sounds of their mowers on those happy sunny days when all the mowers on the street came out for a quick run around the yard.

Consider the many special delights a lawn affords: soft mattress for a creeping baby; worm hatchery for a robin; croquet or badminton court; baseball diamond; restful green perspectives leading the eye to a background of flower beds, shrubs, or hedge; green shadows – “This lawn, a carpet all alive/With shadows flung from leaves’ – as changing and as spellbinding as the waves of the sea, whether flecked with sunlight under trees of light foliage, like elm and locust, or deep, dark, solid shade, moving slowly as the tide, under maple and oak.  This carpet!
–   Katharine S. White, Onward and Upward in the Garden, 1979

Hail – Weapons of Mass Destruction

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
Percy Bysshe Shelley – ‘The Cloud’ –

The Weapons

The Targets – Front Yard

Back Yard

The Damage: Pink Peony

Yellow Iris

I’m getting rather paranoid whenever I see a rain cloud, what with the Cabin Flooding, and this rather horrendous hail storm that hammered my home and garden.

Now and then simple country raindrops are tempted by a dark cloud full of icy sirens to stay aloft for a while.