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Monday, November 22, 2010

it's back

the bloody awful stinking cold is back. already. a couple of weeks ago i was walking along the creekside trails with the dog, shuffling lovely fallen leaves in the autumn sunshine and loving life. but winter has returned suddenly and without preamble. there's already 6 or 8 inches of snow. we're expecting -30 tonight, and it's only November. i was out crawling around under the radiator of my truck in the dark last night, hunting for the cord to the block heater. how does it always manage to disappear over summer, and why is always it black as an oil company CEO's heart outside the first winter's eve when i realize that i have to plug in the truck? i think i plugged it in twice last winter, it was that mild. and certainly not before late in December. my heart quails at the thought of what it will be like in February, after a start like this. and what my utility bills will be like if it's this danged cold all winter.

i hate winter. as my joints get older and creakier i hate it more and more. if we were meant to live in cold we'd have lovely thick pelts.

which brings me to one of life's pleasant diversions. the lovely dog. he's turning in to a very nice boy. he now weighs 35 lb (@6 months old, so some growing to do yet), and had his first trip to the groomer's today, in order to excavate for eyes. as he's a 'non-shedding' breed, his hair grows continually, so he needs regular haircuts. he's so wiggly and friendly, i don't dare go anywhere near his face with a pair of scissors. i can manage to trim his main parts, but i'm fearful of blinding him if i attempt facial hair. so, off he went, and made a whole bunch of new friends there. the down side of the lovely dog, which i should have twigged on long before i did, is that he needs to be walked. several times a day. which has been most pleasant so far. but the thing i didn't foresee, and really should have, was the walking him in the bloody awful cold. i hate the cold. he, however, seems to love it. if i were more like him, and had several inches of thick, curly R40 fluff all over my body, and webbed feet that appear to serve as excellent snowshoes, i might be less grumpy about it, but, no matter how long i go without shaving my various body parts that are inclined to sprout fur, i'll never have an R factor of more than .05, and my matronly physique sinks through, straight to bedrock the minute i place a foot on the wretched white stuff. "think positively", i tell myself. spring is only 5 or 6 months away.... maybe 150 or 200 sleeps. oh god, that's forever. if i don't freeze to death, i'll die of old age before it warms up.

another hopeful diversion was a Canadian Home Builders' Association jury i was asked to sit on, to determine the winners of the annual awards for excellence in home building. i was really excited about this, thinking there would be some innovative, imaginative, exciting homes. well, there might be..... i didn't actually get to see the homes. i got to spend 4 hours wading through several dozen binders full of pictures of homes, in a room in a high rise with a wall of glass that bled every BTU that may have originated in my proximity to the sub arctic outside. kept my coat on the whole time and wished i'd worn my hoody, snow packs and long johns instead of 'official personage' garb. i guess the photos are meant to streamline the process, which used to take most of a week to actually visit every entry. but i couldn't make out anything really exciting from the photos.... and the real disappointment was that the judging criteria made no mention of innovative building techniques, materials or designs. nor any suggestion that there may be value in environmentally sustainable materials or methods. zero mention. in bloody NORTHERN ALBERTA where it's regularly THIRTY OR FORTY BELOW ZERO for grueling months on end, and there's real value in building with energy savings in mind. some builders made mention of energy conscious features they'd built in, but there was no criteria for giving credit for doing it. and, most disappointing of all, they were pretty much all the same. 'higher' categories were just bigger, with more expensive materials. pretty much the same styles, very little variation in floorplan. it was very clear what's 'in' these days, cuz they all had it. my little bitty low budget condo done in discounted and recycled materials is more interesting than any one of them. builders in this town are just plain boring. it's all about the status quo, which is mediocre and conservative at best. certainly not cheap, with granite countertops and exotic woods, but everything looked the same. builders seem to think everyone WANTS their homes to look the same, and i suppose they're right.... they build what sells. blah.

but this isn't just a rant. there's good news too. i've convinced my board (with winter budget control in mind) to reduce my hours to 4 days a week for Dec, Jan & Feb, which is very exciting. i've nearly got all the bits and odds (how can one person possibly have so much STUFF?! i downsized before i moved!!) sorted into their appropriate rooms (except the basement, but we wont go there.... unless laundry needs URGENTLY to be done) and am working on final trim and lights, etc to finish things up. the creative juices begin to flow. will post a shot of windows i painted white-on-white for a sort of frosted glass look, in lieu of draperies when i took the hideous clattering vinyl vertical blinds down in the living room.

once i get the trim all done, and ugly 'boob' lights replaced, i see quilts, watercolor painting and calligraphy in my future. i've already started my first batch of home made soap.

if you tell anyone i said this, i'll swear you're lying, but.... there's a possibility i might even start cooking real food again.


Cicero Sings said...

Ice to see a post from you -- and such a fun one too. It's bloody cold here too and walking the dog IS a problem. Yesterday Colleen had to clean at the church socwecyook both our dogs and let them race all over the basement room chasing balls! Not fresh air but exercise at least. It is the wind makes it so cold.

Glad you're lovin' your pooch. Pooches are the best -- I don't know what I would have done without my Mingus. Such good company -- even if they need that walk EVERY day. Of course the walk ends up being really good for us too.

True innovation in housing would be nice. So many rows of ticky tacky that all look the same -- usually even dull boring colors!

Glad you are down to 4 days a week. Nice. Two days off just isn't enough. For a while I worked a little longer each day and got every second Friday off. It was great.

gfid said...

cicero - you're a breath of fresh (warm) air! i've discovered a doggy daycare (which i would, not so very long ago, mocked heartily) that's very reasonable, that i'm going to check into possibly accessing during cold spells. the Maestro gets stir crazy if he can't just RUN... even when he gets lots of long walks. work days...actually, i'm now down to only 5 day weeks, as i teach violin one day / week as well. and it's only temporary, during the slowest winter months @ the ReStore.

clairesgarden said...

no snow here yet....and I don't want it!! can't believe you get such cold as normal.
why do you have to plug in the truck?
I am thinking you need a sled and dog sized you can bundle up in thermals and get towed around!

gfid said...

claire - oh, sure, you can laugh about the dog sled. i actually DID travel that way for the 6 years i lived in the Yukon. (and loved it.... i was much younger and more tolerant of the cold)

because vehicles won't start in intense cold, as the oil in the oilpan freezes into a block of black ice, we install block heaters to keep this from happening. a block heater is a kind of electric blanket for an engine. it provides enough heat to keep the oil in a liquid state, so the engine can turn over to start. as heat production requires a lot of electrical power, this can't be provided by the vehicle's battery without draining it, so the block heater has a short electrical cord attached to it for plugging in. this isn't needed in the summer months, so cords are generally tucked up out of the way then, to protect them. parking stalls in northern cities usually have numerous electrical outlets designed into them for this reason. it's very common (especially early in the winter) to see someone who's rushed off to work, not quite awake yet, with an extension cord dragging from their vehicle as they go, because they forgot to unplug it before driving off.

susan said...

Hello, my friend. Apologies for not coming by sooner.

I understand your aggravation about the tedium of home design in general when there are so many better ways of building and renovating now that could serve to light people's lives a little more. I sit here in our modest apartment in a big building (420 units) that was erected in the '60's and look across the park at buildings that aren't much different from this one even though they're newer. I think they don't consider doing anything more innovative because they're apathetic. Things have always been built this way so we'll keep on doing it no matter how wasteful. It's maddening.

I am glad to hear you've been given the go-ahead to cut your work days back to four a week. I think three would be ideal but four isn't bad at all. I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures of your place.

Lastly, it turns out the local ReStore is across the water in Dartmouth, so not so easy to get to. I hope to go over and check the place out one of these days.

gfid said...

su - i had to giggle @ your squatty potties.

some builders are apathetic. some are just lazy, and some are greedy, as innovation adds to costs.

this week is crazy w meetings, etc. 4 day weeks start in Dec. then i get some ME time, and will post pictures. (and maybe make some too)

ReStore - i'd love to see pictures of it, when you make it there. if you tell folks in the store you're taking them for a friend who's a ReStore manager, they'll understand completely.

clairesgarden said...

well I'm glad I don't have to plug my car in!!
mine wouldn't start on thursday, friend came over yesterday and its not the battery its a sticky starter I have now to 'hit it with a stick', don't you just love technology!!

Seraphine said...

i don't know why designers don't just rebuild houses from 200 years ago, with thick walls and small windows.
most people keep their drapes shut anyway.
and with big-screen technology, who needs windows anyway?

and gee, i'm impressed that your car lasted all summer on one charge.

i bet your dog is zero-emission too.

gfid said...

claire - i like your level of technology, lol. if it doesn't work, hit it with a stick :0)

sera - old world construction with big screens.... i like it. the dog seems to be a high methane producer. perhaps i could insert a tube, fasten on a bottle, and collect it.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Granny F

First of all congratulations on securing the 4 day week; that will make a big difference. Sorry to hear it so b…. cold.

Builders are a disappointing lot, I talk to several over here and they all tell me the same story of people preferring extra room to investing in energy efficient design. I think it is much the same the world over in the developed world. Your dog sounds delightful!!

Best wishes

gfid said...

Lindsay - there seems to be some connection in the business community here, between increase of 'disposable income' and decrease of rational brain function. Puppy is lovely. i can't imagine life without him now. 4 day week is now in place (for 3 months) i'm SO looking forward to it.

linda said...

oh lord, how does any living human being LIVE in weather like that, in cold like that for months on end...i am a calif. native, sorry but i am, and still am here so i am a wuss when it comes to weather but come on, how do you lay out and fix a truck, on the ground under it, no less, and not just die there? well, i did love the pretty sparkly on the previous post and apologies i have not been UP here in awhile...i'm glad your autumn was lovely for a few minutes anyway...the buildings not being more strict in their codes for keeping the vital INdoors where it belongs, is appalling and barely believable excepting i know people and nobody ever wants to spend more money nor think outside their box...remember the song "little boxes on the hillside" from the 60's? i don't think we are too far apart in age, well maybe a decade and a half but anyway...i think city planners still think this way.

this is enough for one comment. :) stay warm and hoping you grow and thick crop of, if i had to do that, i would be up a creek without the proverbial paddle! xox

linda said...

that should have read "vital HEAT" ....ahem...ok, carry on... xx

gfid said...

linda - so nice to hear from you! i don't think anybody sane lives in this climate.... self included. mostly crazies who are so keen to be insanely wealthy they'll put up with, and /or do anything. .... little boxes, made of ticky tack, and they all look the same. yes, i remember; mine is brown, but it doesn't look the same on the INSIDE - i think we're pretty close in age probably.

linda said...

i just realized i don't think i have you on my blog list...must remedy that right now. xox keep warm!!

susan said...

I remember my father having to plug in the block heater every night.. and he shoveled all the snow from the drive and the outside stairs and walkways. At least he usually had help shoveling the private road that ran between the 8 or 9 houses where we lived. I'm not even going to talk about the first winter in that house when he went back outside every night after dinner to hammer down the sandpoint for the new well. It almost makes me cry when I think of how hard he worked and how I wish I'd been a nicer teenager.

gfid said...

what's that they say about hindsight being 20/20? and teens have their own very real problems.... it astonishes me that any of us survived the tidal wave of hormones and changes that is adolescence.