Okay, it's been nearly a week (already) since my sister and her family left. On Tuesday, Kevin and I drove my parents to the airport in San Jose. They didn't have very good luck with their flights. On the way here, one of their flights was cancelled and they had to return the following morning and missed half a day of their organized tour. Once in Costa Rica, they had a great time. They were on their tour for nine days (company is Caravan Tours and my parents highly recommend it) then at our place for a week. It was nice that they were able to overlap with my sister's visit, too.
While my sister and brother-in-law were here, I learned how to prepare and serve foods without gluten... and without cheese! The two things I love. But, it's awesome that I can accommodate – without sacrificing flavour – guests who have certain diet restrictions. We do what we can with the resources we have.
Since Tuesday, Kevin has been back at it, working on the property with Martin. He transferred the baby trout from the concrete container to the small pond next to the hatchery... and so the cycle begins. The 'baby' trout that were transferred from the small pond into the large pond last August are now weighing in at 2/3 of a kilo. They're no longer 'babies', that's for sure.
Kevin has also removed the nets that help filter the leaves and dirt in the sediment pond and has power washed them cleaned. They were due! It's amazing how much muck accumulates over time. Good job done!
Martin has been busy chopping the trees that fell in a strong winds two weeks ago. We didn't want him making all that noise when my family were visiting, so he postponed the task until Wednesday. Kevin's been helping him with lugging the logs under cover in the wood shed. This wood is alder, which burns cleanly. There's so much of it, we can afford to get rid of the other wood that seems to smoke out the house every time we burn it. I'm not a fan. Now, we don't have to be stingy with the alder logs... there's lots!
And while Kevin's been busy catching up on farm chores, I've been working on reformatting my book. The writing, editing and proofreading are all done, yet there's a catch. I've uploaded my manuscript to Kobo and it translated my Word document into an ePub file. Perfect. I knew this was the process, but I didn't realize how time consuming (yet again) it would be to fix the formatting changes. The one thing I'll say is that Kobo client service has been great! I email my questions and get a thoughtful and helpful response back within a day (sometimes within hours). Writing a book is new to me, but dealing with technology, file formats, etc. is really new to me. What has happened is that while I've been typing away in my Word document, I've been clicking the 'Enter/Return' key to create a line space... sometimes between chapters, I've tapped twice to add double spaces. It looks aesthetically pleasing and it's what I want it to look like when people are reading my book. Well, little did I know that every 'Enter/Return' equates to TWO spaces in an ePub format. They call that a 'hard return'. So if I want two spaces, it means it will actually be FOUR spaces, which is huge! And, there's no way of correcting this error within the ePub format. I have to go back to my Word document and fix every 'Hard Return' by backspacing, making sure there are no spaces at all and then pressing Shift+Enter, which I'm told is considered a 'soft return'. It will leave a single line space. Also, I have to add my cover picture to my Word document before formatting it into an ePub file. Next time (if there is a next time) I'll know better. The learning process is not the problem... I like learning new things. It's the time it's taking that is driving me crazy. Oh well, I'll I can say is soon, people, soon... I hope!!!
Oh, and on Wednesday evening, while Kevin and I were watching TV (and working on reformatting my book to be ePub friendly), we felt an earthquake. It was strong enough for the drinking glasses to rattle on the shelf. It lasted at least 20 seconds. Then a few minutes later, we felt an aftershock. It was the first true blue earthquake that actually felt like what I imagine an earthquake to feel like. It wasn't scary. We prefer little and often than infrequent and BIG.
The temperatures this week have been reaching 28°C/82°F nearly every day, with no rain whatsoever. The nighttime temperatures have been dipping as low as 5°C/41°F. We're loving every minute of it. We're following the weather reports in Ontario, Canada and England and we feel sorry for our family and friends who are suffering through such harsh conditions. It's the last day of January... only six or so more weeks and hopefully the polar vortex will disappear.
We said goodbye to my sister, Lyne, brother-in-law, Eric, and their son, Cody, yesterday. It's hard to believe time has come and gone so quickly. They flew out of San Jose at mid-day and we hope they make it back to Southern Ontario safely. We're hearing how bad the weather is back home. The wind and snow are wreaking havoc and the airports are cancelling flights. We hope they get home safely and on time.
My parents are here until Tuesday morning, when we drive them back to the airport. It sure will be quiet around here when they're gone. We've had such a nice time. But, it's not over yet, before my parents leave, they will be going on a coffee plantation tour in Santa Maria... at the world's first carbon neutral coffee plantation and processing plant. So the fun continues a little while longer. I think Mum and Dad would say that they've had a good trip in Costa Rica... and Kevin and I are happy about that!
We have large watermelon-like vegetables growing wild up near the sediment pond. Martin and Clara told us they're called 'chiverre'. This vegetable is an important staple during Holy Week (Easter). They cut it up, boil it, add lots of sugar and render it until it's a fig mush consistency and use it as filling in pastries. When my sister, Lyne, saw them, she said she thinks they're like a spaghetti squash. I asked her if she knew how to cook them and she does. She said that the ones she's bought in stores are considerably smaller, so she cut up half and baked it in the oven, then used a fork and started to rake the inside flesh portion. It looks like Chinese noodles. She then added some brown sugar and butter and let it bake for twenty or thirty minutes. It was delicious. It's great to know what to do with them... we have so many! And it's gluten-free so if I ever have guests (like my sister) who cannot tolerate gluten, I have a great alternative. Woot!
My sister, Lyne, showing me how it's done! Thanks, Lyne!
A couple of months ago, we had a few trees in the pasture cut down... they were all alder, which we are permitted to cut. Martin's friend and his crew came by to cut them and removed them off the property as well. The deal was we would get a 1/3, Martin would get a 1/3 and Martin's friend who was going to be doing the cutting, removing and milling would get 1/3 for his trouble. It was a good deal for us, we didn't have to pay to have the trees cut down, removed or milled. We were just happy to have the area cleared away. So, last week, Martin's friend drives down unannounced and delivers a truckload of wood. Then he came back earlier this week and delivered another truckload! That's a lot of wood. Kevin stacked a lot of the wood flat under the guesthouse to get it out of the way. It's freshly milled, so it needs time to dry before we can use it for anything.
On Thursday, our friend, Luis Alfonso, came by unexpectedly with planks of wood for a project Kevin will soon be working on. Kevin wants to build sliding doors for the carport so we can close and lock it. These doors will match the ones he built for the garage. It will look nice and clean, I think.
The wood we were expecting from Luis Alfonso was supposed to be dry, but he told Kevin he's running out of space at his lumber yard. He had to deliver it to make room. Luis Alfonso runs the lumber yard in Santa Maria and knows all about drying wood. He told Kevin that wood must be dried vertically, with space between each plank. It should not be left outside in the sun or they will dry too quickly and warp. They must be under cover. We don't exactly have much room either... certainly not vertical covered space, except the carport. So guess what Kevin was doing all day yesterday? There's more wood than we know what to do with, but Kevin's so happy. We're talking hundreds of dollars worth of wood for free. He doesn't know what he'll used it all for yet, but he's a guy with tools... he'll think of something, no doubt.
Normally, December is the month of windy days. The wind carries the heavy rain clouds away and makes way for the dry summer. December wasn't particularly windy, and we've had rain on and off all December and early January. We're still getting lots of sunshine, but it's not unusual for it to rain a little bit every day. Today, the wind picked up and reminded us just how strong it can be. Kevin and I were sitting having lunch when we noticed the tops of the trees swaying back and forth. All of a sudden, we see a tree snap and fall. We quickly run to see if any damage occurred. We find the tree lying beside the river, but not in the way of anything. Phew. Then, later, Kevin and I were hiking on our trails and we heard in the distance a 'crack' and then another tree went down. We weren't anywhere near it, but we did hear it. There was a tree close to the guesthouse that was creaking and Kevin wasn't happy with the uncertainty, so he and Martin took matters into their own hands and chopped it down. It came down easily as though it was ready to fall. Again, it falls in the right direction, far enough away from the guesthouse, which is obviously a good thing. Martin will cut the trees for firewood.
Tonight, while we're sitting inside, we can hear the wind howling while the windows rattle. It appears the December winds are a month late... better late than never, I guess. These winds will probably last a few days then subside... if it follows last year's pattern.
Kevin cleaned the skylight this morning... it's been a year since he cleaned it last and it was time. It was a lot less dirty than last year, but still needed doing. It looks so nice when it's clean. It's such a nice feeling.
And while my man was busy letting the light in, I was making mango chutney. I've never made it before so this was a first for me. I'm not particularly good at following recipes, I tend to check what the ingredients the recipe calls for then winging from there. Sometimes it works... sometimes, not so much. This time though... I nailed it! Kevin and I ate it like a salsa with tortilla chips, and we wolfed it down. It was amazing! Yeah, I'll be making that again! I would be great on chicken or mixed in fajitas. Heck, it would be good on ice cream! (Okay, maybe that's going too far.)
Wow, it's been four days since I've written a blog entry. Days are just slipping by. January will be gone before I know it! Whoa, baby!
After saying goodbye to our last guests, we had a lot of catching up to do on the farm. Kevin's been restoring the little trailer that was destroyed in the carport fire way back in the spring. He bought some sheets of aluminum and has been cutting and bending it between homemade jigs. It's a lot harder than he anticipated, but he's determined and doesn't give up easily. I'm sure it will loo awesome when it's done. I'll post pictures as soon as he has everything put together.
I've been working on the last few edits of my book and starting a brand new website (completely separate from this one). People will be able to buy the book off Kobo and my website. I'm hoping it will all happen soon!!
Other than that, the weather has been cloudy and cooler than usual for January. Yesterday it rained most of the afternoon, which is very odd. The weather is a bit freakish all over. Southern Ontario has been experience particularly cold temperatures this year... -30°C, which hasn't happened in years! Climate change is affecting us all, I guess. We're happy we don't have to deal with it, that's for sure!
We got a phone call on the weekend from my sister, Lyne, and brother-in-law, Eric, and they said they're coming to visit us in ten days! Yay... and then my parents arrive on Jan 22. Lyne and Eric will be overlapping my parents' visit by a couple of days so we'll have a lot of fun
I have to say, 2013 was a great year for us. I can't think of anything negative... that's not to say we haven't had some challenges, but overall, when I look back, it all seems pretty rosy. We've said goodbye to our last guests today... they arrived in 2013 and left in 2014 – a great end to a great year and and awesome way to start the new year. We can't wait to see how 2014 unfolds. We look forward to welcoming my sister, Lyne, and brother-in-law, Eric, in the next few weeks, then my parents.
Here's what they wrote in our guestbook:
Dear Anne and Kevin (and the animals)
Thank you so much for sharing your little piece of paradise with us! Your warm care and Hush Valley Lodge were perfect to catch our breath after a long trip through Costa Rica. The hospitality and the delicious food made us feel as if we were coming home. Than you for the special care on the day that I got sick and for the unforgettable special attention with New Year's Eve.
Catching my own dinner was a first – and it was fun! We wish you all the best in this special place and throughout this exciting journey!
Nathalie and Mikey
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
P.S. If you're ever in Holland, our house is your house :)
WE WILL BE BACK...
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
Click here to pick up your copy of Anne's book! It's all about their adventure and the establishment of Hush Valley Lodge: from leaving their middle-class suburban lifestyle in Canada to reinventing themselvess in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica. Check it out and if you enjoy it, please spread the word! Thanks!