Getting Butter

Door to cellar canning shelves looks on, biding its time.

Door to cellar canning shelves looks on, biding its time.

A short post this morning, gentle readers. This past week has mostly been a waste of clock juice with the pain and dizziness I’ve experienced from taking it on the chin a week ago. Yesterday was the worst. Exiting down a side aisle right after we’d sung the anthem, I scrawled a laconic note — Too many drugs, not enough breakfast. Gone home. — on the choir room blackboard and left.

I am happy to report, however, that last night the unbearable (yes I’m a wimp) swelling finally abated. So let’s get out of the sick room and into the breakfast room!

A few weeks back, having finished some Willa Cather stories about Nebraska homesteaders, I decided to take some “handwork” with me for my weekly visit to Merrilee. Said handwork consisted of twenty-five pounds of apples, which the two of us prepared while we blethered on for two hours before proceeding to the piano room.

Once home again, the quartered apples filled my big stockpot to the level you see in the first photo.

But not for long. After a few hours they were reduced to three litres, half of which I placed in a deep bowl and smoothed with the stick blender.

When I mixed the two textures together, the Apple butter had just the consistency I was looking for. Adding ground cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, along with a dash of salt and one cup of sugar, I scraped it into a three-litre pot and set it in the fridge till the next day when I heated it up and canned it.

A spoonful of apple butter on a bowl of plain yogurt is a luscious thing, especially when chewing is not on the menu.

Don't worry, Merrilee got a jar of it too.

Don’t worry, Merrilee got a jar of it too.

Farewell

(Photo by David Galbraith.)

(Photo by David Galbraith.)

We had come to say goodbye.

The church was packed. Sounds of sniffling and nose blowing and grief coughs pricked the air like the lights of fireflies.

Just think what it’ll be like at her funeral someday.

No, God hasn’t called Jennifer home, he’s just shuffled her down the street to work in Ontario. After the church of her also-a-minister husband closed, he found a calling (aka a minister job) at a church there, and now Jennifer’s search has also succeeded. Our congregation would’ve liked to have kept her till after Christmas, but we’re happy that Jennifer and her husband and their children will be back together again in one household (and maybe even unpacked) for the Yuletide season.

Now Jennifer has made it very clear in Council meetings that ten years is pretty much the maximum length of time any clergy should stay at one church. After that, just like fish or houseguests after four days, things start to go bad.

And Jennifer spent ten years at our church.

And during that time, she fulfilled — nay, she aced — the task set before any fresh clergy: she shook out the dust of stodginess, opened the windows of generosity, widened the picket fence of inclusion. (She may have even loosened the screws on the gate hinges, to make its falling look like a happy accident.)

E.g. and I were married at that church, with about half the congregation in joyous attendance. That would never have happened before Jennifer’s incumbency.

The anthem chosen for Sunday, Jennifer’s last day, was one that she and our choirmaster, Tucker, had agreed summed up her basic message. The piece is called “Christ Has Broken Down the Wall.” It begins and ends with one of our sopranos singing those words alone.

Jennifer stood on the far side of the chancel, facing the choir, as we sang it. We knew why it had been chosen, and we sang it with all our hearts. We held up fine until the very end, when our soloist’s voice caught halfway though her final line. Christ broke down the walls; the choir broke down, period. Sheila tore her kleenex in half to share it with me.

Four Walls Up and One Wallop

October 28. Camera-shy Carl applies the final piece of strapping to keep Maud plumb.

October 28. Camera-shy Carl applies the final piece of strapping to keep Maud plumb.

During the fortnight after Carl’s last visit, I worked about 20 hours before ridgeboard and rafters were finally fastened into place.

Testing, testing... (Photo by E.g.)

Testing, testing… (Photo by E.g.)

This morning, as a fine granular snow fell, I was outside before 8:00 to tarp those rafters and attach as much plywood as possible against the two inches of rain due to begin before lunch.

Long shot. Note red ridge cap. The rafters are under there, honest.

Long shot. Note red ridge cap. The rafters are under there, honest.

Before all that, though, I gathered up the sides of the tarp that protects the floor, pulled it to the doorway, and poured the snowy puddles out onto the ground. Being very pleased with the grey old chunk of 2×4 that had held down the tarp on the windward side, I lovingly set it back in the same place.

Never underestimate the gratitude of weathered wood.

The floor re-tarped (just in case) after today's work. Note the piece of grey wood.

The floor re-tarped (just in case) after today’s work. Note the piece of grey wood.

Having laced together two large tarps down one of their short sides, I hauled them up the tall ladder which was still inside the building after the ridgeboard’n’rafters job. Spreading the tarps with their laced edges running along the ridgeboard, I put a screw through them at the windward end and and another in the centre, and tacked one ridge cap over them. Then I moved the ladder, keeping it inside the building, to lean against the lee-side wall so I could tack down the tarps and second ridge cap at that end. I stood on the ladder with my back to it, facing into the building.

That’s when the ladder slipped.

There was no time for fear, only a gasp before I hit the rafter, sixteen  inches in from the leeward wall.

Hurricane clips withstand high-velocity winds and chins.

Hurricane clips withstand high-velocity winds and chins.

Once it was clear that the ladder would slip no further, I climbed down and stepped outside. My jaw wasn’t broken; my teeth were fine; my skin wasn’t even grazed. The only damage was a gash at the base of my inside lower lip.

Holding a handful of snow to my chin, I wondered how much worse the accident might have been if that silvered piece of 2×4 hadn’t been there to prevent the ladder sliding a further three and-a-half inches. Then I brought the ladder outside the building, finished fixing the tarp, and one by one attached the five remaining pieces of plywood.

Lee side. The doorway hasn't yet been cut from the right-hand panel. And yes, I moved the plastic "wicker" seat into the building before finishing this wall.

Lee side. The doorway hasn’t yet been cut from the right-hand panel. And yes, I moved the plastic “wicker” seat into the building before finishing this wall.

By 11:30, the flakes were large and damp, falling quickly under their own weight, transitioning towards rain. I tarped the doorway, called the dogs, picked up my coffee cup, and headed into the house.

"Say g'night, Maud."  "G'night, Maud."

“Say g’night, Maud.”
“G’night, Maud.”

Life’s Little Ironies

The cut was so bad it underwent a 24-hour application of bandaid.

The cut was so bad it underwent a 24-hour application of bandaid.

Dear Carl,

You’ll be happy to know that while you’ve been resting up from your back injury, I’ve continued working on Maud’s Place. I’ve missed your second set of eyes — the woes of the ridgeboard cradle really discouraged me — but the ridgeboard is finally up and the rafters are in place.

The blind wall next to the garage is sheathed, as is the top half of the opposite wall, and work has begun on the doorside wall. I’m placing the plywood panels on that wall long-side vertically, so as to cut the gable triangles from the rectangles that get removed to make the doorway. Am I ever glad I decided to centre the door on that wall! It makes the cutting so much easier.

This week I, too, sustained an injury. Not surprising, really — four hours work on Tuesday, six on Wednesday, and eight yesterday, up and down ladders, drilling, sawing, anyone who isn’t used to that amount of effort could have an inattentive moment.

Well, on Wednesday I had mine. I cut my finger while washing the lid of a cat food tin.

Get well soon!
– Dandyknife.

More Maud on Monday!

So how windy is a nor’easter?

Well in our neighbourhood, we got a day and a night of 50- to 70-km winds.

Great, you say, but what does that look like?

Ah! Glad you asked. It looked like this.

The plastic muskoka chairs blew over.

The plastic muskoka chairs blew over.

One of the gold-painted chairs was blown 40 feet into the lower backyard before E.g. piled them all here.

One of the gold-painted chairs was blown 40 feet into the lower backyard before E.g. piled them all here.

The heavy door left over from the lean-to debris was blown from its spot against the garage wall and knocked into the framing of Maud's Place.

The heavy door left over from the lean-to debris was blown from its spot against the garage wall and knocked into the framing of Maud’s Place.

But the funniest evidence of high winds was this little knot. Make that BIG knot.

But the funniest evidence of high winds was this little knot. Make that BIG knot.

This was E.g.'s souvenir from Oregon, a set of shiny strings on a stick on a hook to hang outside where the rainbow sequence of colours will shimmer in the summer breeze. We brought it in last night as soon as we could stop laughing at the sight of it. It's hanging from a floor lamp for its before-and-after portraits.

This was E.g.’s souvenir from Oregon, a set of shiny strings on a stick on a hook to hang outside where the rainbow sequence of colours will shimmer in the summer breeze. We brought it in last night as soon as we could stop laughing at the sight of it. It’s hanging from a floor lamp for its before-and-after portraits.

Untangled. Not your typical straight rainbow. How charmingly a propos.

Untangled. Not your typical straight rainbow. How charmingly a propos.

Take the Bartolini Challenge

Playing with your heads again, gentle readers. It really is already Thursday.

So he says, Here’s my recipe for vodka-infused pasta sauce.

So I says, I don’t do vodka. Got one with root beer?

So he says, You come up with one and then we’ll both know.

So I says, You’re on.

This one’s for you, Chicago John!

Ingredients. Just one dried chilli, the fresh peppers are bell peppers. Greenery is from shallots growing on the windowsill. The blue cheese, a bit of a snoot, avoided the photo.

Ingredients. Just one dried chilli, the fresh peppers are bell peppers. Greenery is from shallots growing on the windowsill. The blue cheese, a bit of a snoot, avoided the photo.

I decided against including garlic in this recipe. I wanted to caramelize the onions in the sorta-fennel-flavoured sugar-water, aka root beer, and didn’t want the garlic confusing the issue.

Soften the onions in olive oil over medium-low heat. You want the pop, not the heat, to brown them. Pour the tinful of pop into the pan, and let it reduce till it looks like this -- about ten minutes, I think it was.

Soften the onions in olive oil over medium-low heat. You want the pop, not the heat, to brown them. Pour the tinful of pop into the pan, and let it reduce till it looks like this — about ten minutes, I think it was.

The rest of the job was even easier. Empty the tomatoes and paste into the pan, stir in seasonings in their usual amounts, chop the peppers and toss ‘em in, and turn the heat way down to cook gently till you’re satisfied with the look of it. Mine simmered for two hours till E.g. arrived home.

The snooty blue cheese gets its comeuppance.

The snooty blue cheese gets its comeuppance.

E.g. described the sauce as “rich” and “dark”. We don’t normally put sugar in our pasta sauces, which may be why she thought it tasted more like prepared sauce from the grocery aisle than usual. I thought it was fine.

I had planned to serve it with leftover bbq chicken bits, but forgot, so the blue cheese was deployed instead. Nice salty-sweet contrast. Minced shallot tops for colour.

The next day, the leftover sauce went into a batch of Weight-Watcher Zero Soup rescued from the deepfreeze, along with the chicken bits and a leftover cupful of CJ’s black-rice risotto. I called the concoction “Zero-Plus Soup”; E.g. loved it!