Monthly Archives: February 2021

Wash Day

I have had to wash my “barn” jacket after I put an egg in the pocket and then managed to squish it before I got it into the basket. I know better, but it was going to be there just for a second. A handful of slimy egg and broken shell is an unpleasant discovery, and it was -12C at the time, so it started to freeze on my hand. Yuck.

I told my mother what I had done, and said my first thought was what her grandmother, Eva, would have said if she had witnessed my folly. My mother said I would have been scolded, for an egg in February was a rare thing. Eggs were preserved in a solution called water glass in the fall, and were only used for baking over the winter. I don’t remember people preserving eggs, as by the time I was born in the mid-60s, most people had electricity and refrigerators, and mostly bought their eggs from a store.

I once visited a Second World War exhibition at a museum in Ipswich, England, and they had a section on food on the home front. Unfortunately, the egg preservation experiment hadn’t worked properly and we arrived just after they made that discovery, and the smell of rotten eggs was certainly evocative of another time.

I asked my mother if gathering the eggs was one of her chores as a child, and she said it wasn’t. The hens were Eva’s domain and she probably didn’t trust my mother to not drop the basket. Stuffing eggs in your pocket would have been bad form.

My mother said her chores were looking after her own bedroom, keeping her little brother out of trouble, and sometimes doing the dishes. On the day when The Family Herald arrived, Eva would read all afternoon so that when my mother came home from school, the dishes from the noon meal (called dinner, never lunch – lunch was a meal before bedtime!) would still be on the table waiting for her to wash them.

And how did you wash dishes in rural PEI in the 1920s? In an enamel dishpan at the kitchen table. You took the dishpan off a nail in the pantry, took it to the woodstove, and decanted hot water from the tank on the side of the stove. You would swish a bar of homemade soap in the water to make suds, wash and dry the dishes, and put most of the dishes back on the table for the next meal. The dirty dishwater would be poured down the sink in the pantry in winter, or perhaps out the back door onto a plant at other times. Nothing wasted, ever. Water was pumped by hand from a hand-dug well, so it was precious.

Homemade lye soap, made by my great-uncle Elmer Hardy in the very kitchen in which my mother used to do dishes. Hard on your hands, but cleans like the dickens!

Those water conservation methods have passed down to me through my mother. I don’t use a dishpan every day, but have used a dishpan during very dry summers and poured the dishwater on flower beds. I will throw water from washing floors on the front porch to clean it off, or onto a flowerbed. I don’t have a dishwasher, so when running water to do dishes, I usually collect the cold water that comes first in a watering can for plants, a kettle, or in a jug.

And I moved from using liquid dish detergent back to swishing a bar of soap in the water a few years ago. I don’t see much difference, except for the lack of bubbles, which I have read come from chemicals added to make you feel like the cleaning part of the soap is working. I use a vegetable glycerine soap from Bulk Barn that has no wrapping and almost no scent, and my dishes seem clean enough. I sometimes add slivers of soap from the shower or sink to the glycerine soap in soap shaker I have.

All this rambling from a broken egg.

Modern soap shaker/swisher. You can just hold a bar of soap in your hands, of course, but this makes more bubbles and has a nice rattle.

Mugaza

One of the many things I’ve learned as a Kiva volunteer is that refugee camps aren’t just for short-term temporary lodging. People live their whole lives in refugee camps, go to school, run businesses, get married, have babies. There are an estimated 26 million refugees around the world, and half of them are children.

I edited a Kiva loan today for a man in Kenya named Mugaza. He’s of Somali descent and has lived in at least two Kenyan refugee camps. He is now living with his family in Kakuma camp, operating a grocery store and employing eight people.

UNHCR says the population of Kakuma camp is just over 188,000, meaning there are more people in that one camp than all of PEI. They have schools, medical facilities, and around 2,500 businesses. There are even football teams playing in regional leagues.

I can’t stop thinking about Mugaza, so I went back and made a loan to him. If you want to learn more about Kiva and how to make your first loan, here’s an invite from me.

Relapsed Presbyterian

By coincidence, today finds me being more Presbyterian than I have been in, well, forever. I was baptised and confirmed in that denomination, and my mother remains a steadfast adherent, but I stopped going to church in my teens when I received unsatisfactory answers to good theological questions. That was an upsetting decision for my parents, and I’m sure my mother hopes I will return someday. I can’t see that happening, but I learned, probably too late in life, to never say never.

In my ongoing whittling down of the stuff in our basement, I decided to send some copies of The Presbyterian Record from the 1950s and 60s to a better home. The national church archives had a complete set, but a church museum in Toronto said they could use them. These sat in the basement of our old house for four decades and in this house for nearly twenty years, and no one has even looked at them. It has taken all my willpower to not start reading them as I box them up as I’m afraid I will find some reason to keep them.

In other Presbyterian activity today, my mother’s church forwarded their annual report to her via my email. My mother has happily been the treasurer of one of her church groups since 1947, and her short report tidily sums up her long memory, the quiet deeds done by people of faith, and the once-in-a-generation-or-two impact of this pandemic.

Don’t Smash That Button

I’ve used this Instructable a few times to revive temperamental remote control buttons, and it is a very satisfying and easy job. Getting the plastic case apart is usually the most difficult part and just takes a bit of patience.

A bit of tinfoil from my hat.
Bonus tip: single use super glues can be used more than once, just stick some Blu Tack on the end and hack off when you want a little dab.

I fixed our DVD player remote yesterday and was surprised to see the original batteries from 2006 were still installed. They feel very light (7 grams less than a Duracell), and look like cheapies, but must be the best batteries ever made.

0% mercury, 100% magic.

Weather or Not

I was surprised to see the precipitation observations I report every day as a CoCoRaHS volunteer being taken as gospel by Environment Canada, as per this info box in an article about the latest snowstorm in The Guardian:

The Guardian, February 9, 2021

Later I read that CoCoRaHS volunteers are “Environment Canada-trained” (we aren’t, or at least I’m not) in this CBC PEI article:

It seems the source for all this officialness is an Environment Canada daily weather summary for PEI, and there’s my 12cm in Foxley River once again:

Environment Canada does not operate CoCoRaHS, though they are able to access the data, which is free and open to all. They do say at the bottom of the report that it “may contain preliminary or unofficial information”, and that would be me, the Foxley River unofficial official.

I know that at least a couple of the PEI CoCoRaHS volunteers are highly trained, one a former military meteorologist and another a NAV Canada air traffic controller. I suspect the rest of us are just weather nerds with a little time on our hands.

The CoCoRaHS volunteer training is self-directed, a handbook, articles and videos all available on their website. To be a volunteer, you have to commit to submitting observations every day, ideally at the same time each morning, and you need to purchase a rain gauge from them. If you are going to measure snow, you need a ruler and a snow board to take the measurements from. That’s it.

I have a couple of diaries my great-grandfather Ernest Hardy used as the keeper of the Little Channel Lighthouse. He had to record the time extinguished and lit the light each day, and he also recorded the weather. He was sort of unofficially-official, too, like me.