Polar Vortex

We are in the throws of a weather phenomenon here in Ontario (and elsewhere) called the polar vortex.  It was -22 C (-7.6 F) when I got up this morning, but it felt like -35 C  (-31 F) this morning and now the temperature is at a nice balmy -19 C (-2.2 F).  I am not at THO and I have to admit this is one of the rare occasions where I am happy that I am not.

For those of you who do not live in a cold climate let me tell you that with this kind of cold it goes right into your bones, it is painful.  For the dogs it is torture every time they have to go outside because the cold is so deep that it burns their little feet.  Our newest rescue lived his entire 5 years locked up in a cage at a puppy mill and is just being house trained now, but for him this cold is new and dreadful.  His little feet are not tough so within 10 -15 seconds his body collapses on the ground because the pain in his feet is so deep.  We go out with them and carry their tiny collapsed bodies in and treat their feet again with Blistex.

Thankfully there is a warming trend coming, but not before it reaches -40 C (-40 F) tonight, which is ironically where our thermometers meet.

If I already had my wood stove installed I might have actually driven down to THO to stay for a few days.  I would go without the dogs though because I don’t know how easy it will be to make the house warm.  Knowing it is coming makes me look forward to next winter already.  Finding out how it will work has a lot of fills me with anticipation.  That I know my Greyworks Stove is on its way makes me very happy indeed!  But… I will not install it until the end of the spring rains because I have some unique plans in mind.

Before I close, I want to introduce you all to Dieter, who has been through a lot.Dieter napping in the January Sun

Categories: Dog, Dogs, Nature, Off Grid, Ontario, Tiny House Ontario, Winter | 11 Comments

Tiny r(E)volution and the Giant Hoax

Tiny me has the pleasure of being interviewed by the charming and hilarious Drew (Andrew Odom) and my wonderful and inspiring twin Laura (LaVoie) of Tiny r(E)evolution.  Their funny and vastly entertaining Episode 37 interview with yours truly is here.

The unanswered question after the interview… is it too wild to live there full time?  Made me laugh a little (okay… a lot).

It is not all the fault of our American friends that this “WILD UNTOUCHED FREEZING NATION” is the understanding you have of Canada.  It is in movies, TV, books and truthfully from a Canadian perspective we like to emulate that we are all Bob McKenzie’s living in igloos to our American neighbours.  We can’t help ourselves!  We find it funny to keep this joke running.  So I vacillate between answering truthfully or taking the Canadian stance and to pull your legs.

Not that Canadians are liars, but we do enjoy telling a fish tale and afterward giggling… I am no exception.

So there are two equally good response questions…

1. Do I have to build THO a customary igloo covering in order to protect it from the elements and use sled dogs to get around 10 months of the year?


2. Do I live less than 50 km from the US border and have the same weather as New York?

I won’t answer rather I will show you the map of weather zones (for planting) and let you know that THO sits in the yellow zone that is right above Lake Ontario.

Planting zones in North America

The map will tell you that at THO we can expect similar winters to people who live in parts of Kansas and New Mexico.  It can also expect easier winters than those who live in North Dakota and significantly better than Minnesota.  We really don’t experience very hard winters in the most populated areas of Canada.  In fact, is is not until you get North of the 60’th parallel… beyond the tree line… where actually people once did (a hundred years ago) live in igloos.

This said, if you want to sleep in an ice house, in Montreal they build an ice hotel in the winter and you can rent a room there if this is your kind of thing.

THO is roughly 25 km (15 miles) of paved roads from Kingston.  The city itself has a population of 125,000 people.  Kingston is a foodie town with lots of creative people and amenities.  It is also the home of the Ivy League, Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College which makes it a very vibrant intellectually rich city for it’s size.  It has a lot of tourism not just because it is pretty, but because it sits at the Thousand Islands and the tri-county region is not only the home of these islands it also has over 1000 lakes so there are cottages everywhere.  It is also where the Rideau Canal starts and goes up to Ottawa.

I invite you to visit the city and partake of its culture and sites.


Honestly, there is nothing dangerous that is keeping me from living in THO… it is just a matter of having the money to install a well, a pump, getting running water going, having regular heat, a septic bed to put waste water in and of course, a shed to store my igloo building kit in.

I am getting there a little at a time.  For now… I stay there a lot of the year and paint the town.


Thank you Drew and Laura for having me on!  It was a pleasure and an honour to speak with both of you.  I hope you will get up for a visit sometime!  Don’t forget to pack your snow suit!

Categories: Kingston, Ontario, Tiny House Ontario, View, Winter | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments


This evening I noticed a small worm in the Tiny House, brown with antennas, winding slowly across the floor.  I caught him a piece of tissue and set him outside despite the rain and cold.  I think that the chance of survival is better in the natural conditions that it left.  I realized when I let him out that it is my first evening since building Tiny House Ontario with circumstances the way they are.

It is different because it is cold enough that I had to turn on the tiny camp stove to heat the place.  And I was curled up under the 12v light and reading when I noticed the peaceful travelling worm.

This year the cold left early in spring and seems to be starting early too.  Last year, I was here at this time but did not need the heat.  I left THO when it got cold and I visited here, during the colder weather only when my husband was able to come along with me.  We used the heater last year too of course.  Still, it was so dark, we just sat here with the dogs by candlelight.  The half light always forced us to to either talk or to go to bed because the darkness does not allow much in the way of entertainment.  In our case, reading or a game would be the favorite pass-time in the non computerized world of off grid Ontario.   After dark, cold or rain light is a requirement for us and now we have it.  Frankly, the light makes it so much more pleasant here.

Even so, the heater is a reminder that winter is coming and this Tiny heater will not do the job.  Sadly, the time approaches when it is time to close up.  I hope that a Dickinson falls from the sky!

Categories: Forest, Magical, Off Grid, Ontario, Simple living, Tiny House Ontario, Winter | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Preparing for Night

This morning, the first talk I want to see is at 11:00. This gave me time to walk around this land before the drive to Kingston.  The nights are colder now; falling in the single digits, but under the blankets I am cozy while I read Teja Cole.  I slept well this past night, even so wake tired from the big thoughts that fill my mind.  The words of all these artists at once is overwhelming but worth it.  This freshness in air has forced the thinnest and most unprotected leaves to put on their brightly colored coats, the rest of them will not be far behind.

I walked over to my garden and was disappointed and surprised.  I suppose I should not be.  Powder mildew is taking over the squash plants.  I had never seen powder mildew in all my years on the farm in the giant gardens of the women who grew all the food for their family.  Now this mildew finds its way deep here, into the untouched forest to attack the plants.  I wonder from what biotechnology hell it pounced out, ready to kill what we we want to grow for ourselves.

The days are too cold now for the tomatoes to ripen, but there are a lot of vegetables and herbs still there.  These strong beauties are still a thriving food source, but I will have to cover them soon if I am to have the opportunity to enjoy them.

All through these woods, the small asters poke their small sunny purple faces up out of the forest floor.  It is a beautiful time.  As though nature is a fresh faced child being tucked in by mother nature for a winter’s night.

All reminders that I must prepare for the coldness that living brings.

Categories: Environmentalism, Food, Forest, Kingston, Nature, Off Grid, Ontario, Open your eyes, Sustainable living, Tiny House Ontario, View, Winter | Leave a comment

Through The Thicket

The first time I went to look at the land was before I purchased it.  It was a cold fall day, and was pissing rain.  Not to be dissuaded, I went through the brush and found that about half way in there was a wall of thicket, of what the locals call prickly pear. The great barrier of it went on as far as I could see to the left and right of me; I wanted to get through to see what was on the other side.   Tenaciously, I pulled my coat sleeves over my hands, and began to push my way in through the canes and their sharp little thorns.

They tied themselves to me, through my clothes and into my skin.  I was the soft side of velcro and still I pushed my way though.  What was about 200 foot wide band of the stuff felt more like a mile.  My cousin Ernie says that this Great Wall has been there forever, that he would hunt rabbits there as a kid, and with great success.  Truthfully, there are still grouse, partridge and rabbits by the plenty in these thickets; since then, I have cleared a small path through, so that I can walk back to the ridge without the pain of being caught in bramble.

When I finally arrived to the other side, I was thrilled that I persevered.  It was just as I thought.  The woods opened up and I found it just the way I expected to.  The back 7 acres is all Carolinian forest, hardwood trees as high as the ridge itself.  It opens up and is as beautiful as can be back there.

I can’t help but reflect on that adventure and how it strangely mirrors life.  It is not just in nature that you have to push through a lot of difficulty, sometimes getting poked by the ugliness of life until you bleed.  The fact is that a lot of life is similar to being caught in a giant rose bush, you just have to escape it to get to the great stuff.  Generally, I think that those who go through the biggest prickly patches, are very often the people who have the most to offer; they are the hardest workers the ones who know how to live.

I bought the land, and then not long after I built Tiny House Ontario.  I located it right before the thicket at the place where I stood wondering if I could get through a few months before.  I did this not just because I want to preserve the sanctity of that wonderful deep woods, but because I wanted to face the obstacle in that land.   There are great rewards in this location, mostly the constant movement of animals around me, who I hear much more often than I see.  I am surrounded by life, by those who are amazingly well sustained by the difficult landscape.

On my most recent winter visit, I was out walking with Liisa.  We were nearly at Tiny House Ontario, perhaps 50 feet away.  She noticed this, not me and stopped to take this image.  It captures the density of the prickly pear.  You know, when the leaves come in and you stand right here in my little woman made clearing, you cannot see the Tiny House at all.

Mostly though, I chose this spot, because all year around the prickly pear stands, and reminds me that I can get through the rough patches.  I know that I can survive even the deepest injury and I can live with the scars too.  Survival is often tough but the great openings at the end of the rough patches, make the trip worth while.

Categories: Nature, Off Grid, Ontario, Open your eyes, Simple living, Tiny house, Tiny House Ontario, Winter, World | 2 Comments