Wednesday, December 23, 2009

water water everywhere

Have you ever been desperately thirsty? Drink out of a mud puddle thirsty?

My brother in law was visiting. It is a treat, his company, travelling far and sharing his time with us. So with his arrival the celebration began. After an evening sharing many beer and a bottle of wine we tucked in for the night. It is then, that I experienced thirst like no other.

I was travelling, visiting kitchens of folks with no faces, but with a feeling of familiarity and friendship. Other places unknown, new to me. All quite pleasant, and all with one thing in common. Water. As dreams often take you, chopped and pasted together with little continuity, there I was gulping glass after glass of crystal clear water. It sparkled and shined like the sun, magic in my hand.

Then I woke up. My breath like dust in my mouth.

Nothing dries you out like wine. It sucked water from each cell that forms my being. Certain if I were to glimpse my image reflected at me I would see a shrivelled mummified creature. I dared not look when I passed the mirror hung on my bedroom wall. Instead, searched for my robe and traipsed upstairs at 2:00 am. A glass is left on the counter, I grab for it and fill it. Eyes half, closed, brain only functioning with one purpose, screaming WATER at me, I gulp it down. Then realize the off taste is due to the dried milk from the previous user. It was the glass Owen had used at supper.

This has happened to me before. Well, not the dream, but the desperation from thirst. Far from a water source, and not fussy about the ownership of water bottles, I drank what was left of each I could find. Mart's, Reiley's, Owen's. Owen's bottle was last. It wasn't until the last few gulps remained that my brain stopped screaming WATER at me, and I was able to process other things. Unfortunately it was to notice Owen's snack floating in the water that remained.

The next day, the ache in my head reminded me of my dehydrated state, but after the milky drink, my gag reflex won out over my thirst. I had returned to bed to finish the night in a fitful sleep without another drop.

The moral of this story: Make sure you drink plenty of water after wine, and kids backwash.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

there is nothing fast about fasting

It doesn't even cross my mind most evenings. No big deal. But tell me I can't eat, and it's a whole different ball game. I had to get blood taken Monday morning and this required that I fast for at least 12 hours. Twelve whole hours.

My dad had a heart attack when he was 43. Blocked artery due to high cholesterol. He didn't have a high cholesterol diet or anything, was a fit healthy guy. But his body lacked the ability to properly rid itself of excess cholesterol and so the inevitable occurred. He's fine and dandy today and will celebrate his sixtieth birthday next August. This little tidbit into my personal background is why I had to starve myself for twelve hours and get blood taken. To try to avoid the whole heart attack, near death experience and all that. The starving part is the reason I haven't done it sooner.

We are generally late eaters. I only get home around 5:30, so supper isn't on the table until 6:00 at the earliest. You would think that eating a full supper at 6:30 and not eating again until breakfast would be no big deal. You would think that, but you would be wrong. As soon as the clock passed 7:00, the fast began, and regardless of how long ago I ate, my stomach growled. My kids were helpful and oh so kind. They kindly ate their bedtime snacks next to me. Taking their time. (I think they took their time more to avoid bed than to tease me, but still.) I was a dog at their feet, trying not to look, but sneaking a darting glance and swallowing quietly.

The next morning I woke early, dragged my butt out the door and drove the 20 km to the hospital, only to realize as I arrived, my papers were sitting on the side table by the door. Forgotten. So much for getting this done early. I turned around and went home, fetched the papers and drove back. I wasn't fasting again. The idea was to get this done and enjoy a nice breakfast before work. Instead I was waiting in the hospital ready to chew off my arm, certain my stomach was starting to dissolve its own lining, going on hour 14 of my fast. Poor suffering children of Africa, I feel for you, on my pathetic journey of not eating for one whole night. I hadn't even missed a meal yet. But the mind is a powerful thing.

There are good things and bad things about small towns. Bad thing: we have no family doctor. Good thing: there are no people, and therefor, no line ups. I was in and out before Breakfast Television even broke for commercial. Had the best breakfast ever! Only a bagel, but the best bagel on earth I am certain. I even got to work on time. My ordeal was over. Since I no longer had to fast, that evening, after a wonderful supper, I never ate another thing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

let the games begin

I thought it was over at 9:00, but there was no sign of kids leaving so I went in to find my budding teen. I pulled the door and entered another dimension. The semi-formal junior high dance. The air was hot, the music loud and I felt old.

The girls took the opportunity to show off bra straps or lack there of, and more skin than the dress code regularly allows. They floated around in dresses, limping from shoes too big, heels too high. Officially initiated into the world of womanhood where, for some reason I've not yet understood, vanity outranks comfort. Some were beautiful, in dresses well suited to them. Others, I can't believe their parents bought them that getup, let alone allowed them to leave the house. They each had a try practicing their skills for the mating game. Some dared join in, other ran away in swarms of high pitched giggles.

I couldn't help but laugh to myself at the display.

The guys pretended not to care. To not notice. Practicing skills themselves. The brave using the slow dance as prime opportunity to take a turn playing the game. Most boys walked faster when a slow song started. Either searching for, or avoiding a girl. I couldn't tell which. A few brave pairs dared the next level and held hands. The girlfriend taller than the boyfriend. Dragging him along with her throng of friends. I asked Martin why a boy would subject himself to it at that age. "Because you got to hold her hand" was his answer.

Eventually the last song was played and the game was over. The budding teens returned to being just kids and found their parents for a ride home.


I find it interesting. Like a study of social behaviour. To watch from the outside as Reiley enters what will be the most socially challenging years he has yet encountered. To see it all from a different perspective. Sometimes the reality I see now is vastly different from what I remember of that age. I worry for Reiley, but remember that as an adult it will all mean much less.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

dog farts and other foulness

No one needs to even deny it when the smell comes wafting around the room. So heavy is the stench it is slow moving and lingers long. There is no question the source. If a human were ever to create a smell like a dog fart, they best be on the way to the hospital. It could wake us from a deep Saturday afternoon nap on the couch. Clear the room regardless of the activity. Cause everyone and everything to repel, except the dog herself. She sleeps through it. Her own brand I guess. I think I've even witnessed the leaves of the plants curl.

My Shady Lady is the prettiest thing. She trots through her day the epitome of happiness. A glimpse of her makes me smile. Her fluffy feathered tail bobbing this way and that. Never still. But a few days ago she rolled in the nastiest of all nasties. Even after a bath the stench of something dead remains. Not a skunk, that might be pleasant in comparison, more like the intestines of a skunk. Pretty as a picture, all that is missing are the stink lines. She's even rolled in fresh manure patties.

She doesn't stink all the time. Most of the time she's super soft and carries no oily dog smell at all. But when she finds that perfect spot outside, her taste in wonderful smells and mine differ widely. How can such a pretty girl smell so bad?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

a stamp in time

Reiley and Dad were wrestling on the kitchen floor. A scene that plays out more and more often these days. I sit by pretending not to care, acting as official judge, but I can't hide my smile. I love having boys. Owen jumps in, or more like jumps on the heap. He's not really noticed, his 40 lbs. He lands a few punches, but really it's like watching a mouse beat up an elephant.

Dad pins Reiley in some wrestling position, leaving his butt exposed. Always cheering for the underdog, I coach Owen from the sideline. "Spank Reiley's butt Owen, spank him!" Reiley wiggles and squirms to avoid what's coming. Owen laughs then asks "What's a spanking?"

Reiley and I were watching TV, the Olympic Cheerios commercial where the boy mails an athlete a post card. Reiley admits to me "You know mom, I don't know how to do that." "What?" I ask "Mail something?" "Yeah, I can email him, but I don't know how to send paper."

I imagine 30 years ago, I be viewed as a failure as the matriarch to this family. Failing to enforce dicipline and teach life skills. Owen doesn't know what a spanking is, Reiley can't send a letter, and well, the dog has never had her nose stuffed into a puddle of pee. I'm glad times have changed, but I really should teach the boy what a stamp is.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brotherly love

What is it about seeing our siblings hurt that tickles our funny bone so? When I retell the story I break out into full belly laughter. I can't help it. I'm giggling now as I write this.

My brother had (or has) a ganglion on his wrist. A bump the size of a golf ball filled with fluid until it's hard. To the old folks it would be better known as a bible bump. Reasoning behind the name is that to get rid of it you need to hit it as hard as you can with the biggest book in the house. In the old days that would be the bible. Mart used to have one, until he hit it has hard as he could against the leg of the desk. It's never come back since.

Being the concerned sister that I am, I thought we should get rid of this irritant, and who better to help my dear old brother than me. Owen's hard cover children's bible was the perfect tool for the job. He sat on the edge of the bed with his arm on his knee while I lined up and took a few practice swings for aim. Maybe he didn't think that I would do it. Maybe I didn't think I could really purposely hit someone as hard as I could. But what do you know, it was easy. I swung as hard as I could, and hit him as hard as I could, without hesitation. Too bad I missed the bump and hit his hand instead. That's the risk you take when you get your sister to act as a doctor I guess. In my defence he did give me permission. All I could do after was wipe away tears of laughter. My broken words of sorry, offered through my hysterics were little comfort. But it was funny as hell. I'd never before got to hit my brother that hard without getting pummeled afterwards. I probably won't get the chance again. It was a sweet victory for a little sister.

While visiting this side of the country, which only happens once per year since he lives a whole continent away, we fell into our old rhythm. It was good to have him home. To hang out again. It was even better to laugh my fool head off at his expense. There is no love like that for a brother.

Monday, November 16, 2009

a theory

I love animals. Not in the save all the kittens and puppies kind of way (but all the power to those of you who do). More in a scientific study of the species kind of way. They interest me. I like watching their interactions and place in the world. I find it amusing to catch mirror images of humans in them. To remind me that we aren't so far removed from our old animal selves. We aren't necessarily at the top of the food chain, or the intellectual chain as we so like to think.

Driving down the highway, have you ever seen tire tracks that for no apparent reason take a 90 degree turn into the ditch? Straight stretch of road, then bam, in the ditch. I've always wondering what would possess someone driving at 110 km/hr to suddenly crank the wheel to the right and head for the weeds. On my way to a friends house the other night, I came up with a theory. Raccoons.

Raccoons are interesting things. I love their dexterity, ability to learn, resourcefulness and cunning, but that is where it ends. I have no affection for these guys beyond an interest in watching their paws work like hands and watching them make easy work of opening a latch to a garbage can. There is a second between 'huh, cool, he figured it out' and chasing it away, sticks, rocks and curse words flying. Raccoons and I have a bit of a history.

While camping in Kejimkujik national park, we packed up for the night, stowed our food and things away and tucked into the tent. I've just found that sweet spot in the bed that is perfectly comfy and warm, and sleep is taking over, when a few campsites away I hear rustling. Rattle of pots and pans, the scrunching sound of plastic bags, boxes being upset. The sound progresses campsite to campsite, heading our way. Then I hear them on our picnic table. Just outside the tent. I wait. No big deal, we've put everything away. So they'll lick a spoon, who cares? I didn't care until I heard the unmistakable sound of our cooler opening. I have never jumped from bed and scurried out of a tent so quickly in all my life. I jump/fall from the zippered opening, flash light in hand. "AHhhrrrrr! Get the fuck out of my food!" Two steps out of the tent I stop and see 5 raccoons staring at me in my underwear. Stunned looks on their faces. One on the picnic table, one with his paw in the cooler, 2 more around the edge of the campsite and another not more than 3 feet from me. All frozen. They didn't move. I took a step forward, stomped my foot. So did the raccoon. What the hell?! I'm in a stand off with a raccoon. A big raccoon. Apparently they get quite fat off people food. Go figure. In a flurry of throwing rocks and more cursing I win the stand off and they retreat to the woods. I place 20 lbs of fire wood on the cooler and tell them to fuck off and go back to bed. They woke me up twice more that night, but never got past my clever barricade on the cooler. So hooray for me, I'm smarter than a coon. All they got was a loaf of bread.

So it's with mixed feelings the way I developed my theory on those tire tracks. On a straight stretch of highway Mr Raccoon scuttles out onto the road, changes his mind, changes his mind again, and line dances back and forth in front of me until he finds his way under my tire. I saw him. I saw him do his little dance of indecisiveness. I could have tried to avoid him, but then I'd be doing a zig zag myself. In a car. Going fast. And I'd end up in the weeds with headache and a 90 degree skid mark in my wake. Maybe that's what people do. Try to save the cute little animal. Instead I held tight to the wheel and hoped Mr Raccoon would get his ass off the road, or at least decide under the truck would be better than under the wheel, but no. With a considerable thud he's hit. Sorry about that Mr Raccoon, I didn't wish you dead, but better your hide than mine. You should have stayed off the highway, and out of my cooler.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Master Hobbes needs a watch

Animals can tell time. Incredibly well. Back when I was working on a dairy farm, I could set my watch to the cows. Each morning at the same time, they were in the same place, doing the same thing. Perhaps most wouldn't find this as much a display of their ability to tell time, but more of their eat, sleep, chew cud lifestyle. Maybe a better example would be dogs. My childhood dog Sandy, would wait outside on the doorstep each day, at the same time, waiting for my bus. She even learned my soccer schedule.

So knowing how habitual animals are in their own way, and how well they can tell time, I feel bad when the time changes. Twice a year, Hobbes, our never misses a meal cat, gets frustrated and, well, down right mad, when we stop feeding him on time. Each night in our house, the dog and cat get fed at 7:00 pm, after we've done our supper. It's been 2 weeks since the time changed and Hobbes has not yet adjusted. Instead, he sits starring at the door to the closet which holds his food, at 5:30. (He has always preferred arriving for supper early in case the waiters choose to accommodate him.) Come 6:00, he is insistent we've made an error, that we are late. And how dare we treat him this way! Meow meow meow. It's a good thing cats cannot move things with their minds. Though I think they are still trying to master it. If so, the closet door would open and food would pour into his bowl. Until he masters it, he will sit and stare at the door and curse us up and down, voicing his displeasure. Meow meow meow for an hour. He has an amazing ability to tell us exactly how pissed off he is, just by the slant of his ears and squint of his eyes. After an hour and a half, he has few kind words for us.

Poor Hobbes, I think he'd vote to not change the time each season. Hopefully he'll adjust soon and stop giving his servants the evil eyes and cold shoulder.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gobble Gobble with 1 horse power

There was a glitch in the sending off of the bull. He wouldn't get on the trailer. (Someone must have told him where it was going.) After a muddy morning walking the field, trying to convince him, and a small mental break down, a plan was scratched out. After a phone call (well, 3 if you count the ones to my Mom asking for guidance), one day and two nights, a corral is made. Mr. Butt has a new pick up date and hopefully (because I'm not exhaling until he's secured on that trailer) he'll be on my plate in 2 weeks.

What excites me about all this (because lets face it, this bull is old news, and wearing me down) is that we had 30, 13ft rails delivered to make this corral which we didn't need all of. So now I have the logs I need to build a movable poultry coop! I'm very excited because I love poultry but it isn't allowed on our property to roam free. They poop everywhere. Everywhere. Front steps, lawn furniture, BBQ, etc.

We didn't get any chickens or turkeys this year for 2 reasons. First we had enough on our plates and secondly because even though they can't roam free, I didn't want them stuck in one place with no fresh ground, grass, bugs to scratch and eat in. Mom made a movable coop years ago, but she has tractors and whatnot to haul the thing around. A friend even visited a farm with the same idea. But I didn't, and therefor, was stuck. Until I had an epiphany and realized I've had the horse power all along.... Bud! He loves hauling stuff around and he can pull heavy stuff. So in my design there will be a place on each corner to hook a rope that I'll then hook to the horse and off we go. Since Bud can be a finicky sort, I'll practice before I put the turkeys in, just in case he takes off. I wouldn't want roadkill in the field.

I'm all excited for spring now. I'll have turkeys again, which are so fun. They will be free range, or fit the definition having fresh grass and bugs each day. Plus our neighbour told me he'd love to buy one, so I already have a sale. Thanks giving and Christmas will be extra tasty next year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Earning my keep

The bull is going to the butcher on Thursday. Yahoo. I like seeing the finished product of a years work. He is a beautiful 14 month old boy. Yummy eating for 4 lucky families this winter. The only sad part is the cow Stella and the horse Bud are going back to Yarmouth for the winter, since I have no barn yet. My financial plans still rely heavily on winning the lottery. So I have to hang up my coveralls and saddle for a couple of months.

Since I've had to wait until now for the critters to go home, they've been out in the pasture. In case you didn't notice the grass stopped growing a couple of weeks ago. Since their arrival in spring, I've had to buy 4 round bales of hay. Two back in August when they were staring at how much greener the grass was on the other side of the fence. Green grass I hadn't finished fencing in. So 2 weeks of hay got them by until I could open the gate. The other 2 bales fed them the past 2 weeks since the grass declared it winter.

When cutting grass, be it for hay, haylage or silage, nutrients are being removed. Without putting fertilizer of some type back on, the soil will quickly loose it's ability to grow anything but weeds. Because I have no equipment, or money, and would like to stay as natural and as close to organic as possible I've not been able to put fertilizer back on. A great farmer/agrologist/consultant told me that people have to earn the right to harvest a crop. I'm ashamed to say that I have not fully earned that right. The cows and horse do fertilize as they go, but not enough to even out what is being removed. I was hoping for wood ash to put on the field, which is organic, natural, and oh so good for the soil. But October decided it wanted to be a mansoon for halloween and the fields are too wet to get anywhere near with a tractor. Next year.

The good part of all this is that the left over pooped on, walked on hay that the animals didn't eat (which is a significant amount) was piled to rot all summer. Since this hay was cut very late, the grass had gone to seed. So now, I have something to give back to the soil. The very grass that removes alot of nutrients when harvested also gives it back. This rotten peed on, pooped on grass is now spread out, fretilizing the field and reseeding at the same time. Areas that the horse had paced down to the bedrock now have green grass growing. Hooray. This had turned out to be a very good use for this old hay. Some of it went in the garden too. That should help break up the clay and improve the soil structure.

The goal for next year is to have the back field fenced off and do a better job of rotational grazing. Because wood ash doesn't supply any nitrogen, I'm fiddling with the idea of frost seeding triple mix to add clover to the fields, which will hopefully help it produce its own. Wood ash will be used next year and everyone will end up happy. I'll have earned my crop, the cows and horse will have better grass and the soil will have the nutrients it needs. All naturally.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stone age hunter

I don't know where I get these ideas, but they make sense to me. Well at least at the time they do.

Have you ever read the children's book Little Red Hen? The hen decides to make bread, so she plants the wheat, threshes it, mills it, then bakes her bread. The other farm yard animals laugh at her, so in the end, she doesn't share. Sounds pretty easy. So I figure I should find out just how much wheat you'd have to plant to get enough flour to bake bread. Forget that I don't have a mill. What difference does that make. They did it in the old days. Last summer the lawn was mess of tall grass because we decided to build our house in a hayfield. The mower really couldn't handle the 4 ft grass, we needed a tractor and a hay mower. Since we don't have a hay mower, I figured Dad's old scythe would work just dandy. It did in the old days.

In case you're wondering I did learn that inventions and modern technology were born by need. Hay mowers and grain mills were no exception. But I still fall back to the old tools. It's a problem. I'm working on it.

Mr (or Mrs) Coyote was in our field last evening around supper time. Just standing there, taking his time wandering through the field. No worries at all. Not even the least bit skittish. We watched from the kitchen window as he tracked through the grass, under the fence and into the pasture with the horse and cows. The nerve of this guy! How bold is he! I don't want him around. I don't want him for the safety of our cat, our dog and all future animals that come onto our place. Coyotes are all fine and dandy, and quite pretty really, but they belong in the woods, away from people. They should be scared of people. So I went outside. Me and Mr Coyote were going to have a little chat.

I walked right up to the fence, maybe 50 feet from this fella and he stood there. Just stood there. Looking at me as if he were there just to check out the local entertainment. So I picked up a rock and walked into the field. Circling down wind so I had the advantage. If I could have I would have liked to sneak up on him and scare the living daylights out of him. But as Martin noted to me earlier in the evening when speaking of my diabolical plan, that perhaps sneaking up on a wild animal who hunts for a living isn't the smartest thing to do. But it would be funny. Or fun. Probably both. I wanted the coyote to be scared of us, thus leaving us alone and minding his own territory. As I got closer he moved away, back towards the woods. I would have kept chasing him, but the two deer who live in our field showed up and blew my cover. Not that an open field and a graceless human have much cover. But I didn't want to chase away the deer, just Mr Coyote. So I reluctantly went back inside.

Back in the house, Martin asks what I was doing. I'm sure he was watching and laughing from the window at the sight of his wife tramping through the fields after a coyote. Because you know, he's good that way.
"Did he turn on you" he asks
"No, I just didn't want to scare the deer. Besides, I had a rock"
"A rock. What did you plan to do? Defend yourself with a rock?"
"No, throw it at him. But I couldn't get close enough"
We don't own a gun. But Owen and Reiley were playing with a sling shot. Perhaps if I could practice and get good enough at aiming I could hit him with a rock. That'll scare him off.

Mr Coyote didn't go anywhere. Our little chat was not effective. He stayed in that field staring at the house until it was too dark to see him. Probably wondering who the hell that strange person was coming after him in the field. He'll be back though, if nothing else for the entertainment. But I'll be ready, with my stone age tools. A rock and a slingshot. That'll teach him.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the brink of teen

Remember being on the cusp of 13? I remember. Grade 7 and the first peek at being a teenager. First year in a new school. Lockers. Walking the hallway between classes. Real sports teams. More than one teacher. Crushes and note passing. Wishing mom would buy me the cool clothes like the cool kids. Wishing I was pretty. That I would grow boobs. That a boy would ask me to dance.

I was a sad thirteen year old. No particular reason I could put my finger on then, but likely the last three things on that list had alot to do with it. It was a big deal being in grade 7, on the verge of teenhood. As if I didn't get it right in that first year, the next 6 years would be ruined. I never was a social butterfly, always awkward and with few close friends I trusted. Watching the other girls trying to learn how to fit in, how to get a boy to like me, how to be. Then failing miserably at it. Like vultures, the other girls would swoop in at the scent of my weakness and pick at me until I bled. I did well in sports, I was strong, did well in school and oddly enough never had a real issue with self esteem. I found I was no comelian, but I was great at building thick skin and had attitude to spare to fend off the vultures. Who eventually left me be. But thirteen was hard. Lonely. And it did shape the rest of my teenage years. Luckily they only lasted 6 more.

Now, looking back, that year really had little impact on my current self. A blip on my radar that I can on remember bits and pieces of. Insignificant in the long run. (All though I still don't like girls. They're just mean at that age.) But all in all the worries I had then were a light load to the realities of life. I seem Herculean now in comparison for what I carry on my shoulders each day.

Reiley is there in those shoes. He'll be thirteen in another month. As a parent I see my boy, not a teenager, not the same boys I remember, that I had crushes on back then. He somehow seems younger than I was then. Reiley is socially very strong. He has lots of friends, girls crowding together when they see him and giggling and running off when he smiles their way. He's well balanced, funny and treats people nicely. With him, I don't worry about the things that I had trouble with back then. School however, is hard. Very hard for him. He has a learning disability which affects more than just his spelling. I see it in his organization and his ability to plan. Keeping up with homework and projects and making sure he brings the right books home is a challenge. All he wishes for is to have it easy like his friends, to slide through school, to just get it.

I forget how huge this year is in his life. What is feels like from the perspective of a kid on the brink of teen. I talk with him and lift the load from his shoulders to mine, and then I remember. I feel how heavy it is. But it too, will only be a blip on his radar in 18 years.

Monday, October 19, 2009

for you

I dare not whisper his true worth to me. A treasure I want keep all to myself. They would try to steal it for themselves if they knew our souls were one. That such a thing is possible, that such a power exists.
He is so much a part of me, I forget he cannot hear my thoughts.
I thank the gods each day. Praying they won't take it all away. And leave me to crumble, forever cold and hollow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perfectly perfect

I know they're in there somewhere. Buried under the dirt. Probably playing in it. Ah well. They're being quiet and are out of my hair.

I visit here mostly when I'm happy. When I have a happy memory of my life or day or kids, I want to save in ink (so to speak). But this picture painted here, when you step back and look, isn't the whole truth. Just the pretty stuff. Any online life which only shows the pretty stuff, isn't telling the whole truth. Even if you eat nothing but caviar, it still turns into shit. In every life there is shit. KD or caviar. Maybe shit is too strong a word, maybe just dirt.

Our real lives reflected is 4 people in a lived in house. Me, Mart and 2 boys. I've spent hours cleaning only to have it undone in seconds. With each joyful step they drag dirt in. Don't even mention the dog. I put on my slippers so my socks don't stick to the floor and kick the kids outside to get them out of my hair. Most days we open the front door and kick off our shoes. Somewhere handy to the closet is acceptable. Have a seat on the couch, put our feet up on the coffee table. Watch out for the toys and dishes from last evenings drinks and snacks. Pull the dinky car out from under my butt. I asked them a hundred times to put those toys away... We don't mind the dust bunnies formed from the dogs shedding hair. If we stomp the floor nearby they frighten and move into the corners to hide. They really are more afraid of us, than we are of them. We will coexist until the next time I get a chance to vacuum.

Mom calls Thanksgiving morning to ask that since my photographic brother in law was visiting we should get a "nice family picture in the fall colours". I bristled at this, sitting with my morning coffee still in my robe, sporting the hairdo the pillow gave me. It just felt like work. To get everyone in the house dressed, in clean clothes, at the same time. Stand and smile, outside, without getting dirty on the way (Owen is 5 remember). A chore. That is what I call that. So I didn't' move from my chair, and after a few short words, hung up the phone with mom and finished my coffee.

Why can't we just send real picture of us? These 'nice' pictures really don't reflect who we are. When do you ever see Owen with brushed hair and a clean shirt? Maybe for 2 minutes, between his bedroom and the kitchen, between dressing and breakfast. I have always preferred rubber boots to shoes and even when I try I can't quite manage fancy.

The day before, we all walked down the path through the woods for a picnic. Roasted hot dogs on the fire and drank hot chocolate. Surrounded by fall leaves, highlighted by the crisp fall sun. The bright yellow a dazzling contrast to the dark wet earth of the forest floor. Between stick gathering, fire making and hot dog roasting, Uncle D and his soon to be wife snapped pictures of us. The real us. Happy as can be in rubber boots and coveralls, mud splashed on our play clothes, hair scattered from the wind. Owen may have even had ketchup on his chin. Shady was wet from finding every puddle around, twigs stuck in her fur. He tail never stopped wagging.

The pictures turned out great. I hope the group shot counts as a "nice family picture", because it's the truest family picture she'll get. If mom wants a fancy, perfectly smiling, perfectly coiffed, perfectly perfect family picture, I'll just steal one out of the frame at a store.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

For the love of God, play something else!

Dearest local radio station;

I understand the morning crew wakes up at ungodly hours to bring entertainment to the community of people within range, and therefore may not be capable of making difficult decisions or ones which require thought. Certainly my brain does not begin to function until the sun rises and burns away the fog. Your grand library of music probably makes these decisions even more difficult with so much choice.

I prefer to wake up in the morning on my own, but since my boss frowns upon tardiness, I use the alarm clock. The jarring beep beep beep is simply too much for me. At it's sound I jolt from the bed and run outside half naked in the belief that the house is aflame. So instead of giving myself a heart attack each day, I wake up to music. To your radio station in fact. The problem I'm having is everyday at the same time, I wake up to the same thing. So I write to you to ask that you provide extra coffee to the morning crew, or something, to help wake them up so they can navigate the great hall of music and make new choices. Enough with ZZ Top at 7:10 am. I can't take it anymore.

My dreams scatter at the sound and no matter how determined I am in remembering them, I fail. What is worse is how the song creeps it's way into my day. Standing in the shower, half asleep, pretending it's heat is that of my bed, I hear the song repeating in my head. It claws it's way into my brain and digs the talons in to hold on all day. I tell myself I'm not going to let it get stuck in my head, but the more I fight it, the tighter it grips. Nothing can shake it. So please, I beg you, play something else. This is the cruelest most unusual punishment. I may have to tune into another station.

Lazy Waker

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last day on horseback

This spring mom delivered Bud the horse, Stella the cow and her bull calf Fuzz Butt. I had the pasture ready from the year before and really expected no problems. When I woke up the next morning to the horse throwing a hissy fit in the field, I knew I was silly to expect anything but trouble. During the night, probably just before dawn, the cow and calf got through the fence and were on the loose. They hadn't been in the field for 24 hours. I'm not even sure they made 12.

In our part of the country there are rolling hills, forests and open fields likely once used for farming but long since left. The cows found them all and called each one home for a night or two. They weren't hungry, or scared, or wild. Just looking for the herd of 80 cows they left behind when they climbed on the trailer. How could they know the herd was a 3 hr drive away? I kept track of them everyday. Every stressful day. But I couldn't catch them no matter how many times the horse and I herded them back to the gate. After 2 weeks on the lam, mom came back and we decided come hell or high water we would catch them Saturday and that would be the end of it. (I must add that Martin wanted to help, but we only had one horse, and the cows were mine, so the responsibility and hardship belonged to me, not him.)

Early in the morning we set off and picked up their trail, finding them fairly quickly. Cattle are predictable creatures, and like I said, they weren't wild, they just wanted no part of us or our company. We walked through brush, up hills, down hills, through rivers, along paths, swamps, fields and back again. If the trees were too thick, I'd tie the horse and follow on foot, letting mom know by walkie talkie where we were. She'd find the horse and catch up.

The whole experience was stressful, hard, tiring, frustrating, and beautiful. We found babbling brooks and wild blueberries patches. Waterfalls dappled with sunlight, all but hidden, nestled between cliffs. We'd struggle through brush and come out into a stand of hardwoods, and couldn't help but think we'd just found some secret place, never before witnessed by human eyes. Bud was amazing. He went places most horses would never go. Trees so thick I had to hug his neck and let him push through. We galloped across a field at full speed, smooth as silk, his feet hardly touching the ground, to cut off the cows from going in the woods. A thoroughbred couldn't have gone faster. I've never rode like that. I've been riding since I was 2 years old and I've never rode like I did in those two weeks, or on that morning. I get butterflies thinking about it. Mom picked up the horse while I tracked through the woods on foot at one point, and she followed along an old 4 wheeler trail. Crackling across the walkie talkie I hear "there's a tree across the path"...."we jumped it!"...."I stayed on!"

We ended up catching the pair by lasso in the woods and brought them back to the field by tying Stella to a tractor and walking home. The calf followed the cow, I followed him on the horse, mom followed me in the truck. After two weeks of freedom and 6 hours of hard walking and riding that morning, we had ourselves a parade down Greenhill rd. I've rode in parades before, but none that special. Definitely none that made me that happy.

Months have gone by since that Saturday morning and Mom still talks about it. About seeing her daughter fly across a field on a horse, about walking all those miles through the woods, about jumping the tree, and riding this horse who couldn't be rode a few short years before. On and on she'd go, telling everyone the stories. She taught me to ride. It's something we've always shared, just the two of us. But I don't think I've ever seen her jump. I thought at the time it was pretty cool, but the stress of the whole thing skewed my perception. She was thrilled though, that we got to do that together. People pay good money to round up cattle on horseback.

Friday I'm bringing mom to the MS clinic to get an official diagnosis. She's been sick a long time, so we're looking forward to hearing what they have to say in a way. In another way the reality of it all becomes clear. Her legs give out now and then. I see why she thinks it was such an amazing day and holds the memory so close. At least if it was the last time, it was great.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wooly Booly

So it was +3 degrees Celsius this morning when I got up, but I didn't care. Why would I suddenly enjoy frigid temperatures and frost on my tomatoes? Because I finally finished a little project that has been collecting dust all summer. Perfect timing I think. While all you guys may have cold toes in your thin summer socks, mine are nice and toasty in my new, blue, oh so soft, wooly booly knit socks.

Tada! (sorry for the crappy flash picture, but I couldn't resist)

You can likely tell that I'm quite smitten with these here socks. The fact that they are warm is just one reason. These are the first of their kind. I knit a pair of thin socks last year, but with a different pattern that I don't care for as much. They fall down. But these are thick and ribbed and stay just where I like them. I get teased endlessly by Martin for my sock wearing habits. I like not just my toes to be warm but ankles and lower calves too, and therefore prefer them old man style: pulled up. Pants are drafty. Plus the stripes are cute. It's OK, I know I'm a little odd, you can laugh all you want and go on your merry way with cold feet.

I tried this pattern before, but misjudged the amount of yarn needed and ended up with two different socks. The yarn made 1 1/2 green socks with the remaining toe a lovely ivory. (it matches nicely) I may be odd but I'm not odd enough to wear those. (in public, warm is warm) The yarn was given to me by my mother and I couldn't find the same kind anywhere, let alone the same colour lot number. I am just a beginner you see. So I have odd socks.

Don't look too closely at these because I've learned a lot in making them. First, it is very difficult not to make a mistake. Most of which I make by loosing my place or reading the pattern wrong. Second, it is even harder to fix a mistake when you know you've made one, without ruining the sock. Third, it is very difficult to get the socks the exact same length. Good thing one foot is usually bigger than the other. My measuring accuracy needs work. So all and all, I am pleased with the pair, if for no other reason than they match and are warm and I have successfully completed a project. The 3 above mentioned difficulties I'll work on for the next pair. If I can avoid mistakes, then I won't have to learn how to fix them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get a bucket!

I was just reading a post about intrusions. The jarring mind jolt of a knocking on the door or a phone ringing. Especially if your mind is deeply embedded in something else. Even a sweet hello can be jarring, and cause the moment of thought is to vanish. A balancing act, carefully managed until you look away, then splat. Gone.

So all that is true and it happens to me all the time. Yadda yadda yadda. But what it brought to mind was that we never get a knock on the door and the phone never rings. Which I guess makes it all the more jarring when it happens. The last time there was a knock at our door it was shortly after 8:00 pm sometime in July. (I told you no one knocks) We live way out in the middle of the woods. Pass the big tree and the rocks, then ask the deer which way to go and you'll find us. This jaunt is not appealing to door to door sales people, solicitors or whoever else knocks on your door without notice in those places where people live side by side. Fine by me. When the knock came it startled me so badly that I thought it must be something urgent. Something bad. Why else would someone be here? I immediately knew why dogs bark, because if I was a dog, I would have been barking. I sat at high alert in Owen's room, where I was reading him his bedtime story, listening while Martin answered the door. I never in a million years would have expected what was on the other side.

"Do you like mackerel?" Came the loud voice of our neighbour with all the sweetness of a bear crawling from his den in April.

Stunned Martin replies "Yeah, I love mackerel"

"Then get a bucket"

So Martin does. End of conversation.

A few minutes later Martin comes inside with a bucket of fresh mackerel caught for us by our neighbour, who hates everybody, and everyone who knows him apparently returns the sentiment. For whatever reason he likes us. For whatever reason we like him back. The whole episode was so absurd it still makes me chuckle. With a bucket of mackerel, we'll welcome the knock any day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

stop and smell the potatoes

"You know what's going to happen right?"
"What? With Bill?"
"Yeah Bill. He's going to blow summer away. It only just started and he's going to blow summer into the Atlantic and it will be fall."

Those words were spoken this summer and two days later, in fall of 2009, we knew we were right. Hurricane Bill came by and stole summer.

One of the largest land animal migrations on earth happens in Africa when the wildebeests travel to new pastures. They say they can smell the rain and know when it's time to go. If we stop and pay attention, I think humans can still smell the rain. Maybe not as far as half a continent away, but we can still smell the change.

Bill brought fall in his wake and now my toes are cold in my sandals. But fall isn't so bad. I like sweaters. My butt looks good in jeans and I'm tired of wearing the same old shorts all the time. It came so quick though, that I'm reeling a bit. Spinning around in a room ablaze with only seconds to choose what to take before it all burns. Hurry up and appreciate summer before it's gone. I don't like the feeling, so I set it on a shelf in my mind, acknowledged but ignored. I put on rubber boots, tuck in my jeans and go out to the garden. Appreciate fall before it's winter, or I'll be spinning around looking for my hoe in a few months, always a season behind.

The fresh air is a nice change, and the horse looks cute when he's all fuzzy. Plus, looky what I found after some digging...potatoes! Apparently they did grow. Fall means harvest, and harvest means good food and good food means that we get to eat meals where nothing was purchased from a store. Corn on the cob, potatoes, carrots and pork chops from the farm down the road. Soon it will be steak that we raised. I'm full and happy. The fall colours will be pretty. And Owen finally gets to ride the school bus.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

as they see it

Reaching for the door knob, I push my way into the house. Disappointment written clearly on my young face.

"What's wrong?" Mom asks

"My bike is broken and Dad is gone and so is Danny and I can't fix it" I reply in one long breath.

"Well I can fix it" She replies.

My eyes pop in wonder. "You can? Really? But you're Mom, you're a girl"

She takes me outside so I can show her my bike and I learn that girls can do anything and that my mom is a super hero in disguise.

Her hair was longer then, to her shoulders. She was slim and strong and pretty and so smart. I had to look up to meet her eyes. Laughter came easy and she liked my company. I thought she could do anything, she told me I could too, and I believed her.

I often wonder how my kids see me. I don't feel like the grown up I remember thinking my mom was. I giggle now at how relative age is. But I guess I must look the same to them. I had Owen at the same age my mom had me. Sometimes I feel so much the child, still leaning on my parents, learning and finding my way, that it's hard to imagine my kids look to me as I did her. I hope they do. I hope I give them reason to.

So much of this life is perspective. Owen took this picture of me. I wonder who he sees.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The path winds it's way between the trees and the tires of the bike bump and jiggle over the stones, powered by young legs with seemingly infinate energy. Every rock, tree and animal home memorized. On the moss, young feet found their footing. On the stones, training wheels rattled. The life in these woods raised a child.

The trail follows the shoreline of the lake. The sun sets over the tree tops and casts jewels of light off the water in its bid goodnight. The last heat of the day to warm the lake. It starts on the edge of the sand and the echos of swimmers become muffled as it winds arounds stones and trees. On the left, the woods hug the edge of the path, on the right the beach is made of round stones. Plants, native and rare to the area grow up between them. Turn east, don't forget to vere around the big granite rock that has grabbed my peddle more than once, responsible for many scrapped knees. The beach is sandier here. The sun at my back casts gold into the woods and they glow with warmth. The white gravel of the path is a contrast to the dark shadows of the undergrowth. Faded canoes lie in the sand waiting. Turn left up the big hill and the end of the path to re-enter the world of campers. Quiet conversations of families belonging to each tent. The one way dirt road is rolled smooth and bare feet slap on the cool surface.

This world is mine, a treasure kept just for me it seems, that I have soaked up through my eyes for 31 years. Time evaporates here. Maybe I'm older but maybe I'm not. The view is always the same so who can be sure.

Two more lives unfold beneath the tall trees hanging over the path. Memories of this place will mark the passing of their childhood. Their life held in it's embrace, where time stands still.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blanching day

We got back from vacation Sunday to a couple of treats. The first was that there were 3 animals still in the pasture. Cow, bull, horse, big phew on that. Even though the idea of the cow watching us and waiting for the coast to be clear for her to break through the fence and be free (again) is pretty ridiculous, I still worried a tidbit while we were away. We even put extra hay in the grass pasture just to be sure they couldn't use the excuse of being hungry to justify an escape. You can't tell I'm a bit gun shy from the 2 weeks of freedom they stole on the first night they were here, can you?

The second treat was the garden. It must have taken steroids and been working out at the gym. The corn shot up 2 feet, grew tassles and each has at least one ear.

The third treat was that the hay was cut. It's the best treat even though it had the least effect on my personal comfort. If the first two treatas weren't there, I would probably still be riding around the countryside in a lunatic-like state tracking animals, and I'd be hungry. But it has the biggest effect on my happiness. The field looks beautiful, the grass will grow back thicker than before, I have a new place to ride, and now the animals can use that field as another pasture. (Once we finish fencing it.)

When we planted our garden, I was hoping there would be enough of a bounty that I'd be able to freeze string beans, carrots and corn, and eat well into winter. I don't know if I'd say we'll eat well into winter, but for a bit anyways. Not bad for the first year.

After harvesting what was ready, I ended up with way more food than we could possibly eat. So I got to learn how to blanche beans and carrots. Thanks to the beloved Purity cookbook passed down by Mom. Well, actually she bought me one when they republished it (it even has the original black and white pictures in it) because hers was so worn out and she was never parting with it. That book has it all. By the end of the evening, after boiling a pound at a time for 3 minutes, I had about 5 pounds of to be frozen string beans. There are still beans in the garden, but unless we can't keep up eating them fresh, I don't think I'll be freezing anymore. I froze some carrots too, but they aren't in as urgent need of being harvested. We'll eat most of those fresh.

Onions have got to be the easiest thing on earth to grow, and we have lots. Too many. I haven't a clue what to do with them. Get a deep fryer and make onion rings I suppose, and live happy and fat all winter. No really, I think I'm supposed pull them and let the outer skin dry so they'll keep in storage, but I'll have to do some investigating on that. Where to store them is another matter. Martin might just have to dig us a cellar if our garden is going to get bigger each year.

There are only two things that haven't done well in our garden this year. The potatoes and the broccoli. The potato tops prematurely yellowed. I was hoping the yellowing was a sign they were ready, but no. After digging, it's officially 'premature' as the spuds are only slightly bigger than ping pong ball. Add it to my list of things to learn I guess.

The broccoli was doing fantastic. It looked awesome when we left last week. That is until they were attacked. I'm talking about a critter that must have a microscopic stomach but which can eat a gazillion times it's own body weight per day. This little green worm has destroyed our broccoli. Eaten all of it! Each night I can easily pick a dozen of these guys from a plant. They tuck themselves up under the heads and chomp away to their hearts delight.

Broccoli is Martin's favorite vegetable, so maybe I could use this destruction to convince him that we need some sort of defence against these pest. And since we want an organic garden, that defence should be natural. If you're anything like me, you'll say the obvious choice would be chickens! I need to tweak my argument a bit, but I'll break him down. There will be chickens, and those worms will be gone, and we will eat broccoli. Next year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Owen's story

Once upon a time, there was a 5 year old boy named Owen. He lived in a world with blue suns and bright yellow flowers. He was a happy boy.

He lived with his family

and liked to play in his yard under the tall trees.

One day while playing with his friend he met a bad guy. The bad guy said "Grrrr"

That made Owen's friend mad and he chased the bad guy away. Which made Owen happy.

The end.
Story written and illustrated by Owen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My stone

A couple of years ago I had a craving to carve something. Anything. Wood is easy to find, so I thought that would be the obvious choice. But I was stuck. I didn't have the slightest clue how to begin. I didn't have a single tool or even the knowledge of what type of wood one carves.

I call it a craving because that is exactly what it was. It gnawed at me for weeks, months. I could so clearly see in my mind the shapes I wanted, the feel I wanted of it in my hand. It was trapped there in my head (with me trying nothing and all out of ideas) until I talked to my brother. "Why not try soapstone? It's soft and easy to carve." Ding Ding Ding Ding! bells go off at this brilliant simple idea and I am on my way to find soapstone. A couple of impatient weeks later it arrives in the mail from none other than Stoneman, a business in Ontario. (I must say the name was helpful in finding him.) Brazilian soapstone to be exact. One brown block, one green. Both 3 inches by 3 inches by 6 inches.

The fox came from the first stone. He was the one burning in my head, dying to get out. He is the one who started it all, and will always be special, even if he's not my best work. That's how it's supposed to go though, right? These first two blocks also gave me my stargazer, owl and hawk. Like all art, some things just don't make the cut. The owl is not a favorite, and the seal was never finished after a deadly break of the tail. (sorry for the bad pictures, I really need to learn how to photograph these guys)

Since the beginning of my adventure into this hobby, my mom, who loves soapstone and has been collecting pieces for years, has encouraged me. While in Newfoundland she brought back a little piece of stone. (which was somewhat hard to get as they like to keep what they have for their own artists) This stone was completely different than the Brazilian stone. First of all it was raw. Not nicely cut into a smooth block. This was a challenge but also inspiration, since the raw shape determined what it was to become. So the salamander was born. My personal favorite so far.

Lucky for me, my mom and dad like to travel, and while on a 2 month long road trip to the Canadian north, she lugged back an enormous chunk of white soapstone, the size I've never seen but in museums. She usually brings back a stuffed animal from each trip (another story), and come to think of it, that's where the moose came from, but the chunk of rock was way better. It must have weighed 20 pounds, was built like a mountain and just as raw. Hard to believe it was scraps from another artists' work. (I would have loved to see their workshop. I kind of drool a bit thinking of it) I cut the top of the mountain off and made what first came to mind when I saw it. What else would you make out of a white stone from Inuvik, but a polar bear. This guy is sitting in mom's curio, among her collection. His rightful place I'd say.

My hubby cheers me on too of course and right now, I still have stone he gave me, uncarved waiting on the shelf. I seem to go in spurts, and have been in a lull. Sometimes the reason is that I'm just too busy, but a lot of the time is that the picture in my head is missing a piece, and will be left there until I can figure it out. Lately, the stone Mart got for me has been calling and I'm excited to go buy a new blade for the hacksaw so I can start. (I've ruined a lot of saws) This guy will have feet, and a tail, but that's all I'll say. You'll just have to check back to see when I'm done. The fun thing about carving stone, is that I have no idea what the finished rock will look like until it's all sanded and polished up. So even I get a surprise.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm scared because it scares me

It it so unlike to me wake up in the middle of the night to pee. I never do, I have a bladder made of stone. Of all the nights to wake up it had to be that one, in that place. I had been awake for an hour fighting off the urge, trying desperately to convince sleep to come back to me. We were camping. No big deal really, to need to pee in the middle of the night when camping, except when it's pouring rain and thundering and lightning like a son of a bitch.

I am petrified of thunder. Scared to tears. Not lightning. I like watching lightning and would sit by the window to catch a flash if it weren't for what came after. So that night I fought the urge. The storm was directly over head and the thunder shook my soul. The ground rocked with each overlapping boom. A contest to see which could be louder. We were in a tiny little tent, with no 2x4's or insulation to muffle the noise. But that tent was my only refuge and I was not giving it up easily to crawl out into the most frightening scene I could imagine for myself. Eventually, it had to be done, I had to go out into the night with thunder everywhere. I ventured no further than arms length then flew back into the tent a shaking, screaming, crying mess. My rational brain thrown far into the woods, not to be found until the sun rose and the storm passed. I never slept another wink.

The memory would be no big deal if it was from our family trip to Toronto when I was seven, or to Keji at 10. This little gem however, was from our family trip to Fundy National Park a few years ago, when I was the mom and my kids slept in the tent next to me, soundly all night.

Fears and phobias have no place in rational thinking. I understand that it's more reasonable to fear the lightning, as it can actually hurt me. Thunder can't hurt me, it's just noise. Someone who knows about these things would tell me I have ceraunophobia, a fear of thunder, not lightning. To be afraid of both would be at least somewhat rational. It makes no sense, it just is. I'm scared of thunder because it scares the shit out of me. It has been since I was little.

It makes me wonder if my boys will outgrow theirs, if it's a real fear, or just a boy thing or what. They are afraid of the toilet. Not sitting on it, or standing in front of it, just flushing it. They will press the handle and run out of the room, for fear if they don't escape quickly enough, they'll be sucked into the swirling vortex. An odd fear I guess, but one none the less. They aren't afraid of monsters, the dark or even thunder. Just flushing the toilet.

I hope this is something they'll outgrow, because I know there is no convincing them with the logic that they cannot physically fit into the toilet and therefore there is nothing to fear. Fear has nothing to do with logic. This has been made boldly clear to me. But as an adult, especially with children, the toilet and all it's wonderful cracks and crevasses is something they are going to have to get up close and personal with. I don't think it will go very far in convincing a 2 year old to pee when dad doesn't dare flush.

I'm sure it's no big deal, but if it were I'm not sure what I would do. When reminded or asked they'll do it. Maybe they're just lazy or forgetful. At least I don't need to worry about catching them surfing with G.I. Joe in there. But until they outgrow it, if it's yellow, it's going to mellow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A country of our own

There is a certain amount of pride that comes from being able to provide for a family. The roof over our head doesn't leak, the kids look dapper on the first day of school, the car in the driveway doesn't have any lights flashing on the dash. We work and there it is, something to show for it. Green lawn, dog, cat, two kids. Put up a picket fence and send in our family picture to Readers Digest to congratulate us on being a home grown Canadian family.

But really, we are just leaches, a family completely reliant on our government to keep us alive. If we made ourselves a flag and declared ourselves a country, we'd be a third world country. Importing everything with no currency. I don't much like how that sits in the pit of my belly so I decided to change it.

Martin has got to be the most useful guy in the whole wide world. I have an idea, tell Martin, go to work, come home and there it is, a tilled bed for a garden. Wake up late on Saturday and why look at that, the raccoons must have made rows while I was sleeping. He is a perpetual motion machine that man. I love him for it or we'd likely be sitting on an empty lot where the house should be.

The garden gets planted and I'm as excited as can be. Probably more than a bunch of seeds in dirt warrants, but hey, this is cool. A grocery store on my lawn! As a kid I helped my mom plant the garden every year. Punishment for the stupid stuff kids get in trouble for, was to weed it. I've learned that as an 8 year old, I really didn't absorb much information back then. I'm flying by the seat of my pants, hoping stuff grows. Lucky for us, stuff is growing! Good stuff. Peas.

I heard a man speak, who knows about soils and growing crops and such things, and he said that we can't take things from the ground without earning it. Meaning we have to give something back first. Otherwise the empire on which we sit and dream to feed our family with, will wither and die like the Roman Empire. So off I go to find something to give back to these fertile soils. Just so happens, we are also growing our meat too, and they produce and abundance of fertilizer every hour of everyday. They just don't package and deliver it in handy bags. If I could get a cow to do that I'd be rich. So now the garden is coated in manure, the cows are grazing and everything is growing. Soon we will hoist our flag and declare ourselves a country.

The peas are ready now. Delicious snap peas, the ones you eat the whole pod. Making nachos? Need an onion? Wait just a minute because they are ready when you are. I think it must be my gentle love and care that makes them so good, because they are the best peas and onions I have ever tasted in my life. The tomatoes are coming along and even the peppers have bloomed. People tell me they can be finicky, so we shall see if they produce any fruit. Then the nachos will be even better. Tomatoes, onions, peppers, I smell salsa! I guess I'll have to learn how to make that too. The carrots are tiny, but I've never been one for patience so I pulled one. Once again, the best darn carrot ever. The horse likes them best. Well, he gets the tops. Soon we'll have broccoli, lettuce, beans, potatoes and corn. Add the bull to the harvest and we have a freezer full for the winter. Guess I'll be learning how to prepare veggies for freezing this fall.

I mentioned that we're growing our meat too. Well that would be just beef so far. So far. Give me time. He and his mother are grazing in the pasture keeping my not so sane horse from going completely over the edge. (He has issues) The pair are from my mom's farm, an organic beef farm. The cow is going to return home this winter and the bull will feed the starving families of, well ours and that of our friend. But a noble act indeed, so we will treat him with respect and make sure he wants for nothing, living out his days chewing his cud and swatting flies with his tail. His name is Fuzz Butt and he is royalty.

Come join us this fall for a corn boil (with the left over corn the raccoons don't take) and some BBQ steak. Our little self sufficient country does not require passports and welcomes foreigners of all sorts. We haven't decided on a name yet, but Farm of the Rising Sun or Raven Hill Farm have been tossed around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Boys

I thought I wanted a girl. I already had a baby boy, so a girl seemed fair, to me. A little redheaded mini me to do mom stuff with. Reiley was hoping for a brother. It's all he wanted in the world. I'm happy I was able to oblige. I can't imagine our house any other way.

I'm not sure if it's a rite of passage in a boys life, but they each seem to learn it somewhere, how to test their strength. You don't see girls do it. (unless they have brothers) But the game of uncle, mercy fights and wrestling moves seem to be ingrained in a boys DNA. An instinct to be acted on.

Someone should let Owen know he's in for a long ride before he can beat his brother.

Monday, July 13, 2009

the cat with many names

It all started back in July of 1999. Well actually it started May 26, 1999 the day he was born. But July was when I found him and brought him home. His markings won me over. The perfect Sylvester cat, white muzzle with black nose, white paws with black pads on his feet. Back then he had a tail and was full of spunk. His name: Hobbes. Hobbies: Climbing trees, eating food and being defiant and independent in ways only cats know how.

Some things have changed in ten years, and some things have not. He is still independent and food still ranks highest on his priority list. He is no longer defiant, but a rather cool kind of guy who allows us to pat him and make him comfortable. Since he has lost his tail, he no longer climbs trees which brings me to the next chapter in his life.

Hobbes was born in Windsor and we spent our fist summer here. I find it funny that we're back, as he'll likely die here too. But since Windsor he's lived mostly in Truro, and has moved more than most furniture. As an outdoor cat, he thrived, but our move into town proved to be too much. One day he came home, dragging what used to be a tail behind him. Some would say how unfortunate, but really he's lucky he lived at all. Like most cat injuries we can never be sure what exactly happened, but we guessed he was run over by a car.

Vet bill #1 at 1 yr old: $500 give or take. His tail was amputated and he was left with a stump. Which brings me to his first nickname: Stumps, which morphed into Stumpedo. We love our little amputee.

Needless to say, while living in town he had to stay indoors. Hobbes, aka Stumps, hated living indoors. Hated. He tried to escape every chance he could and became a depressed boy. Not to mention we got a hell on earth dog that tormented him to no end. Living indoors does not bode well for the health of a cat that is accustomed to the exercise and freedom of the outdoor. He got sick. Urinary tract crystals, common in male cats, formed and blocked the path. If anyone has had a bladder infection, they likely can relate, but I think that this would hurt even more. Razor blades would have been a treat I think. He howled in pain.

Vet bill #2 at 2 yrs old: $900 to surgically remove the crystals and clear his tract. Also begin the $20/bag cat food to prevent any future build up. He did have some close calls before we finally moved from town and I can recall at least one other frantic visit to the vet with fear he'd have to be put down. So we'll tally the blocked pisser to $1000.

We all disliked living in town and finally moved out to the woods. It was beautiful and we were all happy once again. Stumps was outside sleuthing, hunting and doing all things cat. Until one day, well not just any day, the day after The Hurricane Juan, when there was no power for miles, he started howling in agony again. We couldn't figure out why until we found it. A tick. A big swollen, had been there sucking blood for a long time tick. Hidden in his whiskers this tick was making Hobbes very sick.

Vet bill #3 (or 4 or 5 if you count the other close encounters) at 4 yrs old: $300 for an emergency call out to a vet with no power to remove said tick, treat infection and fever. The exam happened by the light coming from a window and a flashlight. Apparently vets are more expensive when they have to work in such conditions.

In 2004 we bought our first home in the country and we all lived content in our new surroundings. The cat was outside and even climbing trees again. Though he needed help to get down. I earlier mentioned his love of food and though he is a naturally large cat he often tipped the scale over 17 lbs. So naturally he gained (no pun intended) his new name of Fatso. He never missed a meal and snacked on rabbits and such in between. During the next 4 years I don't recall any vet visits, but I'm probably forgetting one somewhere.
On the eve of 2008, we sold our first home and moved to Windsor. We had temporary living quarters in a small house in town while ours was being built. We were worried that Fatso's confinement while there would land him back at the vet, but I guess with age comes laziness and he pulled through like a trooper. We've been in our new house for a year now, and it's tucked away in the country with acres and acres of good hunting. Hobbes, aka Stumps, aka Fatso loves it. Then last Friday night he crawls in unusually late howling again. His stump is swollen. What on earth we thought. No crystals, no ticks. A fight? Trampled by cows? We fed him pain killers and got a good look to find a puncture wound. Puss oozing everywhere, not pleasant in the slightest inkling of any possible way. Then the skin fell off. Yup, goes from ordinary gross to horror flick gruesome. All the hair and skin were licked off the tail leaving only the bony stump showing and his full moon.

Vet bill #5 (or is it 6?) at 10 yrs old: $350 for surgery to repair and stitch skin on tail and heal infection. So now, Hobbes, aka Stumps, aka Stumpedos, aka Fatso, aka Chunks, aka Blobbers, has a few new names. Satellite Cat (due to the hilarious and sad cone he has to wear) Antenna Butt (due to the tubes stitched in to drain the infection), Stitch for obvious reasons and Gnarls because he just looks gnarly with a shaved ass end, stitches over old scars and hoses coming out of two sides. Poor guy. He is on the mend and back to himself, meowing for food and sleeping on anyone who has the brown blanket on their lap.

So the tally on Mr Cat: $2,150 with most of it on his ass end. It's a good thing he's cute. He'll likely live well into his teens. At least we hope.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Spitfire Arms

Her voice was strong and dirty and reminded me of Pat Benetar. From her first word, a smile was lit on my face that couldn't be removed. Each note from the guitar carried through the old bench seats lining the walls until it tickled my butt. The band JF Lovely was truly enjoying themselves, and so were we.

The guitar was a stratocaster, like Jimmi Hendrix liked to play, and the drool from Martin, a man who appreciates such things was noticeable. 'Fuck it' the guitarist said with a smile to another near by. 'If I'm going to die, it will be with one of those next to me' The man clearly loved to play, and he was awesome. The Pat Benetar voice came from a lady not much older than me, who was pregnant the last time we were there. She's a bartender at the pub, who apparently knows everyone. Her personality fit perfectly with her Friday night fun.

The two front doors were open, carrying in the breeze, and sharing the music with the patio and town outside. Under the music, clinking plates and glasses and pockets of conversation could be heard. The waitresses were magically moving through the crowd to and from the kitchen seamlessly. From our table, conversation came easy over an empty plate once holding nachos heavy with toppings and two cold beer. We chatted and watched as people gathered. You never knew who you'd see walking in off the street. A couple well over 60, a mother celebrating her birthday with an infant and toddler in tow and everyone in between. The place was packed with the mish mash of people that makes up a small town. All were welcome to this watering hole, and most accepted the invitation.

We stayed for the first set, then had to return to our kids. But our evening couldn't have been better, our night out to celebrate our seventh anniversary. Sitting most content at the Spitfire we knew we had found our home.


We live in a small town. Friends tell us they do all the time. In the Maritimes, every place is a small town, even the cities, when compared. But in a town with a population of 3500 people and one town pub, the true definition becomes so clear. The whole evening could have been plucked from a movie or novel. Everyone is familiar, not necessarily because we've met, but by the kinship shared by living here. The crowd was not a group of strangers but a gathering of friends and neighbours. It warmed my soul to be part of such a thing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Baby boy

I haven't been here in a while. My words lost to life. Thoughts pass too quickly to form paragraphs, rarely do they form sentences. The spring season, heated by the nearing of the sun excites the community and the race begins. The race to enjoy summer is in full swing now. The weekends on the calendar marked, counted and etched with pen. A destination, event or to do in each.

Owen's graduation is Tuesday. 5 yr olds in blue gowns and handmade construction paper hats will mark the passing of time, will mark the transition to a new age. He is ready, my little one. The ABC's all memorized, numbers to 20 counted and even a few words can be spelled. That part has never been hard for Owen. The shy little boy who latches to my leg and gives the best hugs is who I was worried for. Secretly I didn't want this to change, for him to grow out of his cuddly shyness. I'll miss the way his cheeks dimple when he sucks on his fingers, his blanket tucked under his nose. But he must, and he has. There isn't a tentative step in the boy's feet, there is purpose. He runs on strong legs and I watch him grow with each step.

September will be here too soon. I doubt he'll look back when he climbs the steps onto the bus. His blanky will have to be left behind. I may suck my fingers and hold in under my nose for the day as comfort. It's smell. I love the smell. My baby boy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Honesty for supper

It's a wonder my boys grow at all for how little supper they actually eat. The dog on the other hand has a full belly and the cat is down right fat. All because of the daily battle to get them to eat their supper.

Serving anything that can't be dipped in ketchup is reason enough for them to dance their fork around their plate and not eat more than a few bites in an hour. Reiley has mostly grown out of this, though he is still a fussy eater. Owen is still working on finding ways to avoid cleaning his plate. Someday I'm sure his honesty won't interfere with his plans of escaping the table, but not yet.

This evening was no different than any other. Long after we'd finished our own supper, and left Owen at the table he calls to me and asks if he's done. "I'm asking you Mom, not Dad, just you. Am I done?" Cosy on the couch avoiding the battle, and with Martin near by, I tell him to ask his Dad. "But I don't want to ask Dad" Owen replies "He knows I'm not done."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gerbil on a wheel

Seems like yesterday. I hear that a lot. I say that a lot. Because it does. Just yesterday I'm sure I was in University. Or was it 13 years ago that I first walked on campus, so young and brilliantly stupid.

I have 2 babies who aren't babies anymore. The oldest even has begun to build a life I have no role in. A play within a play it seems. I have grown into adulthood with my wings wrapped around my young protecting them. Now in a blink, they've grown and are starting to test their own wings. Of this I'm proud, but it's different non the less. Seems like yesterday....

A new stage is beginning for me. I can unwrap my wings and stand and stretch. For the first time as an adult. And it's exciting to act for myself, to be free in some way to do so. When I stand up straight and look around though, I realize how much older I am and how little I've changed. For all the crumbs left behind me one would think I'd made it somewhere. But all I can say for certain, that I have gained in knowledge and wisdom in the years that flew past is that 1) I don't know shit, and 2) There is a lot more to learn.

Today I'm just as brilliantly stupid as I was as a child, as a student. So sure I am in what I know. But so stupid to think I know anything at all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Who infected me with lazy?

This isn't good folks. Not good at all. The new year is supposed to start clean. A clean slate to fill with resolutions and goals. Reflections of the year gone. Well my slate looks like sidewalk art after a rain.

Last year was insane. It was the eve of 2008 when we accepted an offer to sell the house. Which of course caused the calamity of the next 6 months. In case you missed it we moved, and then moved again. The insane part, in hindsight wasn't the moving, but what we have to show for the calamity. New house, new job, new friends, new home. Phew. Dreams I've dreamt since childhood tantalize me they're so close. There is a pasture in my back yard folks! But it is those very dreams that make my mind swim. They clutter my head like toys at my feet, tripping me up. Causing me to miss what's happening right around me. Present tense.

Since when did time go by so fast? Did the earth start spinning faster without anyone telling me? All I've brought with me into 2009 is a laundry list of things I didn't do last year. All muddled up with the new list that comes packaged with the hangover on the 1st. As I try to make heads or tails of it all its suddenly Friday, another week gone and nothing done. (I could have sworn that yesterday was Monday) And who slipped this extra 10 lbs into my pants when I wasn't looking, because it's not funny.

Owen's school registration came today, this fall he'll be in primary and Reiley will be a teen in Junior High. You'd think this shattering news (at least to all the mom's out there who youngest baby is off to school) would snap me back. Jolt me into action, but neh. I'm still sitting here dreaming. My ass still growing. So far gone am I, that I'd need to write a list to prepare for making a list. I'd have to start walking in order to start running.

No wonder we never keep our resolutions. I have goals without any idea of how I'm going to accomplish them. And I'd really like to. But the only thing I've accomplished so far is making a list of excuses for doing jack.

Monday, January 5, 2009


We bundled ourselves up but good. Back during the age when having snowpants was as vital as having boots. We threw on anything and everything that we figured would keep us warm. By the time we walked out the door we looked like the Stay Puff marshmellow man after falling in a bucket of paint. But we were warm.

We couldn't resist putting on the snowshoes anymore than we could resist the snow. They had fun written all over them from our point of view. Anything that made you walk funny with the potential of falling on your face was fun I our book. So my best good friend and I set out to find the biggest snow drift we could.

That was the day we jumped in, arms at our sides, head first into snow drifts. Just like diving in a pool. I could hardly dig Suzie out for laughing so hard. Poking out above the snow was 2 short legs attached to two enormous wooden snowshoes.

It was this memory that struck me first when I opened the mystery box under the tree. I couldn't stop giggling as I waddled around in the snow, trying to find the deepest snowbank I could. Wearing so many clothes I could hardly move, only my 10 year old eyes peeking out.