Old Valentines Memories

Art by Marion Rose

These vintage Valentines sure take me back. How I loved it when my mom came home from the store with that February purchase: a thin box filled with a vast variety of silly cards. Images of a billy goat, a choo-choo train, a steaming kettle… which one would I give to whom?

The first few favorites were easy to pull out and name for my closest classmates. Plus one for teacher. One for my mom and one for my dad. Then I’d resort to simply copying names from the class list to the remaining cards, occasionally worrying an odd kid I avoided might get the wrong idea when getting a card from me saying I’d ‘choo-choo-chose you’!

Ah, childhood. The things I worried about then. How I miss those simple things now. So here is today’s nostalgic trip down memory lane, brought to you by this snowy, housebound camper! Cheers



Feeding and Watering the Birds

Art by Dean Crouser
Art by Dean Crouser

Winter around my part of the prairies is bitterly cold. Lately the daily high has only reached around -25C/-13F.
Therefore, to look out my frosty kitchen window and see birds busily grooming, drinking water from our de-iced bird bath, and pecking at seeds is quite astonishing. How they manage such cold is impressive. I feel like the least we can do is offer them some food and water!
The old lilac outside my kitchen window shelters a handmade bird feeding house (made by my eldest son when he was 12, with his dad). Up in the branches hang an old seed ball (too messy…) and a suet feeder (love these!). The daily entertainment and satisfaction my family gets from viewing the variety of local birds that come to feed and drink here is worth every penny.

ground-flicker-and-jayOffering a few peanuts is all it takes to get Blue Jays and Northern Flickers to visit my yard. Buying nuts in bulk helps keep costs down. After we get the huge bags home, we cut them open and pour into airtight (and rodent-proof) plastic bins and store them in the garage. I transfer a manageable supply to a couple of ‘upcycled’ yogurt containers to keep outdoors near the feeder.
water-de-icerThe de-icer was bought at a local wild bird store but I’ve seen them at Amazon and elsewhere. A Google search should bring up local sources for you. They range from $50-$100 but if you enjoy watching wildlife, it’s worth it. The water is more popular than the food! Finding an unfrozen source of drinking water is challenging for birds in this winter weather.

Vintage Tin for Survival

Fireside Point by Darrell Bush
Fireside Point by Darrell Bush

Thrift stores and old antique shops can hide great treasures if you look diligently enough. Especially tiny treasures. I’m always on the lookout for small tins and was delighted to find this old Regesan Catarrh Pastilles tin for $1! Thinner and slightly larger than most mint tins, this container is just long enough to hold my manual can opener. While not perfectly water-tight, this well made tin snaps tightly shut and is unlikely to open in your pack or pocket, and the shiny interior is useful as a mirrored surface to signal for help.

Items include:

  • Tin itself, useful as a reflective signaling device
  • 6′ (2m) paracord, can also be unwrapped into 7 strands
  • 2-square-feet of heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Manual can-opener with spoon
  • 200′ of heavy gauge fishing line
  • Earplug as storage/bobber for 2 fishing hooks
  • 2 bundles of 7 waterproof matches with striker paper
  • 2 foil-wrapped petroleum-jelly-dipped cotton balls
  • 3 large safety pins (can be bent into fish hooks)
  • Polysporin ointment in sealed tube
  • Bandages and package of gauze
  • Small amount of medication

Tiny enough to tuck into a shirt pocket, this compact tin helps one to be just a bit more prepared in case a hike in a new wilderness area takes a wrong turn and the unthinkable happens. Lost! Of course it’s no replacement for a proper backpack filled with crucial components to help you stay safe overnight (or longer) in the backcountry, but this little tin is small enough to be an EDC (everyday carry) and it’s a lot better than nothing. The matches alone can be life-saving.

Petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) swabbed onto a cotton ball is an incredibly helpful fire-starter. You provide the flame and once it catches, it burns for several minutes. This is immensely helpful in windy conditions or when dealing with imperfect fire starting material. Rip a small hole in the foil, pull out a bit of the fluff and twist it like a wick. Light that thing and you’re good to go.

While my attempts at paracord braiding haven’t been successful yet, I am practicing. I want to make a pouch to slide the tin into, with a carrying loop. I look forward to continuing to improve my survival tin making skills, and will share my journey here. I’ll also be sharing about a couple of different folding saws I that I use, my favorite hatchet, plus other items I bring everywhere… just to be safe.