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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Here Comes the Sun!

"It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it." ~John Burroughs, American naturalist and essayist, 1837-1921

     Today is day two of total sunshine! What a difference it makes to heart, soul, energy--especially solar energy. I woke this morning about thirty minutes after sunrise to find my batteries which usually read anywhere from 12.6 watts to 12.4 first thing of a dark and brooding winter morning, reading 13.5 and full of happy solar energy. Yes the lack of cloud cover coupled with glorious sunshine means the temperatures are colder and the canal wore a thin rime of ice across the surface but for An Alaskan, or a Canadian for that matter, the cold is relative. While it dropped to -2 C/28F last night, it isn't even comparable to the eight degree Celsius thaw my dear friend Bryce Lee enjoyed in Burlington, Ontario, Canada yesterday, bringing the temperature up to a whopping -30C/-20F! Lake Ontario is frozen with an inch and a half thick lid of ice. The wind chill makes it feel soooo much colder. Mind you, In Alaska the children still pile on their outdoor gear and have recess outside until the thermometer drops below -20F.
     A few days ago my daughter Jesse posted a meme on FaceBook asking "What is your favorite memory about snow?" Bear in mind my favorite oldest child hates being cold and wears sweats pants and and shirts until it is 80F/26C outside! No Joke...
She posted: "Yeah,’s pretty if I don’t have to be out in it but since I am forced to leave my house it’s a cold, gray land of suck."
Last moonlit walk by haikus*, via Flickr I responded:  Oh I have so many!! I love the smell of snow in the air. I love the soft, muffled sound it makes as the world is blanketed in snowflakes. I love the way the landscape appears clean and pristine after a fresh snowfall; how sharp edges become blurred with an accumulation of snow. I love moving across the ice on skates and the scriiiiiitch sound of my blades on the ice. I love spinning on ice skates!! I love sledding in the snow. I love the way the cold plants roses on my cheeks that last for hours after I've gone inside. I love making snow forts and snow people and dressing them up. I love making snow ice cream and eating it with my grandsons. I love the tradition I started when my daughters were small, of playing a certain piece of music which sounds like snowflakes dancing, to celebrate the very first snow fall ( I love the sound of children's happy laughter echoing across the snowy playground. I love the way playing in the snow makes me feel more alive. I love the memory I have of driving on a date, down to Girdwood from Anchorage, Alaska on a beautifully clear moonlit night two days after a heavy snowfall. The full moon reflected off the snowy mountainsides and rounded foothills; the dark road was a shining ribbon glazed with ice stretching out in front of us for miles, undulating as it wove up, over and down the landscape along Cook Inlet. It was one of the most breathtaking sights I've ever seen. I love the way snow cozies the world like a down comforter when I am snug and warm inside by the fire. I love the muffled sound of snow on the boat roof. It sounds like hundreds of small children's fingers tapping at random against the metal. I love how 12 feet of snow slows but does not stop life in Alaska--it just makes you resourceful about getting where you need to go and thankful to return home again. I love the way the snow covered landscape on short, clear winter days paints a sunset that appears to light the snow on fire with reflections of crimson, orange, and gold and then fades to a soft, serene pastel of muted blues and pinks before dusk gathers in. I love the way snow covered Spruce trees appear to be draped in sugared frosting. I love the glitter of hoar frost gathered on every twig and branch, outlining the world in sparkles. I love traveling by dog sled across the snowy ground, the schhhusssss sound of the sled runners mixed with the muffled pad-pad-pad of a dozen Husky feet and the way the dogs bay with high pitched excitement when they know they are going on a run.
Image result for snowshoe softball
 I adore gathering vehicles around a snowy, pristine field, passing around a bottle of Schnapps, and slipping feet into the creaking binders of snowshoes to gallop on giant's feet across snow up to our knees to play a game of snowshoe baseball. I love the crackle of a good fire and the smell of wood smoke on the wind. I love following the Iditarod sled dog race each March as it blazes a 1049 mile trail across the northern snow and ice. I love the delicate peeping chorus of Black Capped Chickadees gathering in a mass to strip a suburban shrub of its freeze dried berries or the sharp lonely caw of the Raven echoing across the barren landscape of frozen snow. I love that the Siberian Yupik Eskimo's have 40 terms for snow, the Canadian Inuit have 53, and the Inupiaq of Alaska have 70! There is not one thing I don't love about snow and I am thankful I was born and raised in Alaska-- the Great Land which fills my senses with memories of winter. xxx
 My favorite picture of me and Les was taken in January 2013 when we were iced in at Blisworth on the Grand Union. We went for a walk with friends on a snowy winter day. I discovered that Les didn't know how to make snow angels!! I stopped, looked at him with incredulousness on my face and slowly fell backwards in the snow and began to move my arms and legs. I held out my hand and Les pulled me upright and viola!! A snow angel. He was enraptured, bent over with laughter, just like a little kid. 
Stormguard Secondary Glazing Film - 6sqm | Robert Dyas
     My friend and fellow boater Ray Oakfield (NB Stronghold), left a comment asking for more information about the means by which I winter proof my windows, so here you go Ray: I always use a window film which is cut a bit larger than the windows, held in place with double sided tape (don't use the flimsy stuff that comes with the film. Les always bought wide, heavy duty double sided tape from Poundland in rolls of four for a quid). Once the window film is secured a hair dryer on low shrinks the film and makes it taut, blocking out the cold air and sealing the warm air inside making it as much as ten degrees warmer as soon as the film is in place. This film is available in the UK from Wickes, Argos, Robert Dyas, Home  Base and B&Q and online from Amazon.While this method works superbly, it does leave a residue of stickiness from the tape that builds up on the window frames over the years. I will be sanding our window frames this year and painting them a lovely cream to match the curtains so I have decided to have Perspex (plexiglass for Americans) cut to fit over each window and then purchase a good rubber seal from Seals Direct to fit all the way around the edge of each Perspex sheet. Then I will either install picture frame turn buttons which will hold the Perspex in place but make it easy to remove, or I will drill holes in the window frames and screw the Perspex sheets in place each winter. Either way will do the trick in creating double glazing and it will do away with the sticky tape on the window frames. Now I just have to figure out where to store them during the spring and summer!!
     Okay on to the next odds and sods as my hubby called these left over bits and bobs that are not necessarily directly related to boating or are to short to make a decent blog post: Coca Shell for composting loos. Our dear friends and fellow boaters (and the very fist boaters to install an Airhead Marine Composting toilet on their boat over here, blog about it, and the rest as they is history!) Ken and Sue Deveson have located a stockist who has tons of bags of cocoa shell much. Here are some pictures of Ken accepting a delivery!
To order cocoa shell go to the website www.tommytopsoil,com. Their phone number is 01422831112. Their address is Pine tree Farm, Hubbberton, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorks, HX6 1NT. If this is too big an order for you alone then go in with a couple of other boaters and get it delivered somewhere you can all moor up together and divide the bags among yourselves. This stockist does offer a discount on order of 10 bags or more.
Finally, tea bags. I discovered recently that tea bags are only 80% paper fiber and the rest is plastic! No matter what shape your "bag" comes in, it is sealed with plastic. The only brands to use 100% biodegradable materials is TeaPigs© which has moved from Nylon mesh tea pyramids to ones made from Corn Starch and Clipper over here in the UK.
     It is amazing what one learns when trying to avoid developing cancer from environmental pollutants. When my Oncologist and my Homeopathic Physician both told me to avoid using a microwave on my food and drink I knew I needed to pay attention. After all it is seldom that conventional medicine practitioners and alternative medicine practitioners agree on anything. So when they do agree I tend to listen. Another item I was warned about by both of them is heating any food or beverage in plastic or consuming anything which comes in plastic. 
     Why? Because plastics are notoriously unstable chemical compounds unlike glass which is inert. When plastic is heated it releases volatile compounds into the air, water, and our food and drink. Now think about all those cups of tea you've been consuming over the years, not to mention all the bottles of water you've drunk. Yeah I know, you may find the bottled water in the grocery store on a temperature controlled shelf or a cooler but do you know where those bottles have been stored for the many months before they reach your local grocery store? If they have sat out in the sun for any time at all then don't drink the water!!! This is why I have a good stainless steel water bottle and fill it at home. Now I know a lot of folks are going to pooh-pooh this and say, "Well you cannot avoid it and I've been doing this for years and I am fine," however bear this in mind: our immune systems can only tolerate so many hits before they are overwhelmed and fail to protect us. Cancer is a change in the cellular level of your DNA. It starts with one cell and generally takes many years to grow into a tumorous mass large enough to be detected or to cause mayhem in your body.  I was told that the ovarian cancer growing on my right ovary had been slowly multiplying over about 26 years. I was 52 when they found it. I would have been 26 when it began to grow from just one cell on my ovary and interestingly enough I was 26 when I started experiencing hormonal issues and pain in my right ovary every month, which my male GP's ignored. One last thing to consider: When my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1993 the statistics were one in eight would develop the disease in their lifetime. When I was diagnosed in 2008 the statistics had jumped to one in four. When Les was diagnosed in 2013 the statistics were one in every two of us would develop cancer in our lifetimes. Cancer used to be extremely rare hundreds of years ago. I have gone to loose leaf tea and I have to say, it is amazing how different it tastes from the same brand (PG Tips) that I used to buy in enclosed rounds. It tastes better without plastics. Do your own taste test!! I dare you.


Judith Emery said...

What a lovely read about your memories and experiences of snow. Your words took me right there with you. And I love that photo of you and Les, I can just picture you making your snow angel. The rest is certainly food for thought. Take care and keep warm. Love and hugs. XXX Judith nb Serena

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Judith! Staying warm and dry; you too!

jaq xxx

Marilyn McDonald said...

Hi Jaq,
Love the word pictures of the snow addiction, but don't really like the actuality, except in short bursts on a visit to a mountain here in NZ ...

Would the stickiness from the tape come off with meths or isopropyl alcohol?

Re the plastic - I am giving it up as much as possible, particularly the teabags, which I only recently found were partly plastic. My reason for ditching them was environmental but the health one is just as powerful. We bought a tea maker recently - looked everywhere for a teasmaid to be placed beside the bed - lazy brats that we are! But the tea maker is excellent and leaf tea does taste lots better, we are finding. No use on the boat tho as it's electric, so it'll be the kettle and the teapot onboard!

How's the job hunting going?

Biggs hugs, Mxx

Sue said...

For those residue sticky bits on the frames use Zoff you get them in little sachets. They used to sell them in chemists like Boots but no more are they on the shelves.

You can, however, get them from the internet.

I call them sachets of magic, they easily tackle anything residue and sticky including plasters on your skin!

stevefree said...

Since we struggled to get coco husks we have used the wood chippings used for hamster cages. Works perfectly well and you can get good boater size bags at places like Wilko for just a few quid.
For the double glazing - do your hopper windows have the triangular metal mount for when they are open. If so does it go over it ok? How would you deal with this on Perspex?

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Marilyn,

I'm glad to know you have mountains to go to for a snow fix, and so you have the best of both worlds.

With regard to the sticky residue left by the tape, my main issue is that anything I use to remove it may likely remove the paint as well. I have been advised to paint the window frames as there is too much water damage to sand them down and varnish them.

I was amazed by the difference in the taste of loose leaf tea with bagged tea. Welcome to the loose leaf tea club!

The job hunt is not going very well. I arrived here to find that the DWP closed the JobCEntrePlus in Nantwich recently, however they do offer appointments at the Nantwich public library two days a week. I need to have an address in the Nantwich area in order to receive services here so I am working on this piece currently. I was set to make an appointment with the JobcentrePlus and cruise into Nantwich to moor up but now the boat requires more work and I don't know how long it will take to complete so I am holding off on that piece. I am hoping things will improve once the work is done, I can get into Nantwich and get these pieces in place.

Love and Biggs big hugs to you and David,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hello Sue,

Lovely to hear from you and thanks for the info on Zoff. I Googled it and it appears to have been developed for removing adhesives from skin, i.e. stoma bags, surgery tape, plasters, etc. Have you ever tried them to remove adhesive residue on wood?

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the tip about pet bedding. I know a lot of boaters are using them in lieu of cocoa shells. It is good to have choices, especially one that is easily found and inexpensive.

I do have those hoppers and yo are correct--they do stick out beyond the window frame! I hadn't thought about that. Well now then, I guess I will have to stay with the insulating film. I just hope there's something out there that will remove the residue without taking up the paint. I may have to give Sue's recommendation of Zoff a try.



stevefree said...

Hi again,
If you need a postal address in Nantwich the launderette at the Nantwich Basin Marina offers the service for £120 a year
A tip I read to remove the tape was to heat it with a hairdryer they said it left no residue

Boatwif said...

Your explanation of why you love snow is absolutely superb! The writing is full of tremendous energy and the relish of fond memories. I love it! The content is a whole new angle for us wet Welsh wimps used to a temperate climate and so suspicious of snowfall that we gaze at it in amazement - then hunker down inside for the duration!
Love and hugs,
Sue /Boatwif/nb Cleddau

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Oh Steve you just made my year!! Thank you so much for the tip about Nantwich laundrette. Woot!! I will try the hair dryer too.
Jaq :)

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sue,

I am so pleased you enjoyed this post and even if you don't like snow you can enjoy it vicariously with this piece.

Cold and wet here today so I am hunkered dow inside. Will move tomorrow and turn around and then moor up somewhere quiet again for a few days. I've baked Pumpkin Cake for the fuel boat. They should be passing me again tomorrow.

Stay warm and dry!

Love and hugs,

Jaq xxx

Bryce L. said...


MAJOR Change...
one and one half inches (NOT feet) of ice out on Lake Ontario.
Hamilton Harbour "was" frozen solid to the same depth of ice.

However now January 9, 2018 the ice has melted and there is once again open water.
Mind it is very cold water!
Looking at the temperature for tonight the temperature will plummet to well below freezing once again.

Mike and Philips on NB Garnet having lived in this vicinity are also aware of the freezing
and thawing of winter here. Such weather can play havoc with medical conditions
that vary with the rise and fall of outside temperatures.

Bryce L.
Burlington, ON

Sue said...


I have been using the stuff for over 20 years maybe more and it will get rid of any sticky residue from anywhere. I am sure I must have used it on wood at some time!

My main use for it now is for bed mats.. Teehee I bet you wonder why I use them.

I use them on the floor of the boat where the collies come in. They are trained to stop and stand on them they are the most magic things for soaking up wet on their paws. They are also brilliant in the engine bay lining that with them under the oil in case of drips.

Anyway they have adhesive bits on them and sometimes they come away from their backing and stick to the floor. It is almost imposible to get up unless of course you have ZOFF in the cupboard and one quick wipe and it is gone!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,

Thank you for the clarification. I've fixed it on the blog post. I must have been still thinking about Alaska and how thick the ice gets--thick enough for the rivers to be used as winter highways but those who travel via sled dog and snow machine. Instead of spring we have "Breakup" in which the ice begins to melt of the rivers and move with the current once more.

I am glad to read that it is warming up a bit over there in Burlington and the immediate area. Take care and stay warm and dary,,

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Okay Sue, I will order some Zoff this month in anticipation of spring cleaning! I knew about the bed pads. I had loads of them left after Les died and I have them down in the engine bay to soak up oil while I am changing it. Using for the dogs is a good idea too.

I hope you and Vic and staying warm and dry!

Jaq xxx

Boatwif said...

Boatwif was never a wimp in the snow. After our childhood in west Wales we moved about quite a bit.
We spent 5 years in the north of Scotland. We were a 2 toboggan family one for shallow snow and one for deep snow! Lowest temperature we experienced in Scotland was -23C. Love the snow and the fun especially cold dry snow. Draw back is the thaw.
Keep warm,

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Ken,
Well I must say I wondered about that statement in her post. Sue has always struck me as a strong, vigorous and outdoors type! Oh tobagganing is such wonderful fun!! Remind me to tell you the story of the toboggan ride with my 70 year old Welsh grandmother. AT -23C you've experienced true cold too. Wet snow is the most fund to play with but dry snow is best for skiing!

Love Jaq xxx

Carol Ives said...

Jaq I love the snow too. One of the best holidays I had on a narrow boat was one snowy March. We got up to see 4 inches of snow so decided to stay where we were. We stayed tucked up with the heating on, catching up on DVD’s. Even though I am in Turkey I can still get a snow fix on the Antalya road, which passes through the mountains. Much love Carol

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs