I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

return to the river

Last weekend was our third trip down the Petawawa River, 50 km of paddling in canoes through lakes, quiet river and whitewater, and camping out in the backwoods. Of course for the nastier rapids (I think we shot the ones up to and including class 3, but class 4 was right out) we portaged said canoes. It also involved ziplining across the rapids (very fun) and some bodysurfing in the strong current (very fun until you go over the next set of rapids and come up gasping for air. Mental note: avoid the falls the second time. Much more fun after that).

We worked hard, we paddled through several hours of utter downpour, we listened to thunder as we paddled, we slept in a cabin with mice for company. We left civilization behind and spent three days completely out of cell phone range, cooking over open fires. With all the rain lately, we figured a new category of fire hazard needed to be added, making the categories Very High - High - Moderate - Low - Good Luck Even Starting One. Seren outdid herself with the amazing food brought along. Really, to be out there like that and after a supper of chicken enchiladas sit around the fire with some red wine, olives, grapes, blue cheese, Brie and crackers was just heavenly.

We had a blast. I do like that trip. After supper the first night Seren brought out a lemon meringue pie that had gone all through the rapids and portages intact, thanks to some careful planning and an upright barrel pack - D's favorite, for his 40th birthday. Perfect!

One outstanding thing that I'll likely never see again was the doe we named "Psycho Deer". We first saw her as we scouted the first rapids, then saw her try to cross the river above us only to get caught in the current and then go down through them. She almost made the opposite shore, about 20 feet from where we stood and watched her, then looked at us and bolted back across into the crazy water. She made it back to the side she'd started from and bounded up the steep hill. Wow, we thought, that was something you don't often see.

We shot the rapids, were loading up our canoes from the gear we'd portaged to shoot the rapids with lighter boats, when I looked upstream and she was at it again, this time making it across. Wow again.

On down the river we went, and while getting close to another set of rapids, we looked back to see her coming down the river again. She swam by Seren and RSH's canoe at which point Daisy the Riverdog jumped out of the canoe to chase her (or join in the fun?) before being called back. The doe made it to shore again, then ran up the hill. This was getting silly and started theories about how she was stalking us.

We reached the next set of rapids, one of my favorites and overlooked by a huge rock. The gear was again shipped down the portage and as D and I scouted our "more technical but more likely to stay dry" route, I looked up stream to see a head and two big ears heading straight for the rapids. "She's back!" I yelled, and we all watched her go down those rapids, disappearing from sight once or twice as the water pulled her around and down, before getting out and going up that hill.

We never did see her again but I kept expecting to. The decision at the end of the day was that she was a thrill-seeking deer who ditched all her boring friends for a bit of fun and adventure. My own idea (dull but probably more likely) was that perhaps she had a fawn that fell in the river and was trying to find it. That, of course, got a little sad and tragic and the guys immediately turned it back to crazy rabid psycho deer who likely swam the whole river and then stole our truck at the end, laughing maniacally as she sped off.

Oh yeah, and we saw a large insect that, following considerable study and recollection of all the entomology and taxonomy I'd learned, was named in my educated biological opinion the Freakish Bug from Outer Space. See the first pic on that website and imagine it being 3 inches long. Yeah.

Home to our girls (who'd spent a very fun weekend at a best buddy's house) and our home and our chickens and our doggies. Oh, and a very nice, soft bed. Mmmmm, that was nice.

This chicks are big now, probably the size to be processed as Cornish Game Hens. Didn't know this until we got them, but when you buy those little birds in the freezer section, they are just the same birds as the broilers, but sent on the one-way trip a little earlier. We're going to go all the way to broiler size. They are mostly all feathered out now and just look like chickens with small bodies and really big feet. Still peeping, though there's more of a clucking sort of sound I hear every so often. They live next door to the laying hens now and have a little outside pen that they seem to like.

I am liking the organic-ness of it. It's funny how we've basically become more organic in our lifestyle just by living out here. Being surrounded by the green wears off on you, maybe. The eggs from the layers are great and now we're enjoying the beans, peas and herbs from our own pesticide- and herbicide-free garden. Of course the only use for a Smart Car out here would be to fill some of the potholes in the driveway...

Friday, 18 July 2008

missed opportunity

Last night I went to help serve supper again to the World Changers. I love doing that, helping feed these kids after their long day. They all looked more tired than they had on Monday. My job was to be a runner - taking burgers, sausage and fries from the outdoor BBQ area to the service counter, then taking the empty bins back for more.

The ladies working in the catering bus amazed me. It was unbelievably hot in there. My nose hurt when I inhaled - literally. I turned my head to one side and felt something hot hit my neck. My earring had gotten so hot in the five minutes I stood there, it burned me. I would have fallen into the deep fryer if I'd been cooking. Happily, I was able to run into the much cooler building.

And on one of these runs I missed the opportunity for a witty little remark. I was carrying hot trays past lined-up teens waiting for their supper, so called out, "Excuse me! Hot stuff coming through!" and then thought, "and I have food, too!" but I didn't say it aloud. Just thought it and laughed.

Later, I was wiping tables down in the empty cafeteria. Much as I love music and being on stage, I like the service that's behind the scenes too. It has its own rewards.

I miss R at home. She's having a fun week, missing us too but glad she's there. It's been a good week for her.

Monday, 14 July 2008

how it flies

Time does have a habit of doing that.

I sit here on Monday after a busy weekend looking forward to a week full of all sorts of different things.

The chicks continue to grow and get real feathers to replace the fluffy down. Right now they're in an in-between stage with a bit of both, they're getting little combs on their heads, and they have taken to escaping their little pen. So, job #1 for this week: make sure no more rats get into the coop and make them their little living spot. Apparently we should separate the males and females as they start to mature, else the cockerels (boys) will spend time chasing the pullets (girls) and neither will grow as well. So, the one stall needs to be divided into two. D and I took a look the other night and being the great engineer-type guy he is, he took my "if we do this, and this?" which was accompanied with much hand-waving to try to illustrate the idea in my head, and turned it into an intelligible drawing from which he could pick up supplies.

We've been clearing brush from a fence line after finding one of the new laying hens missing and following a trail of feathers to a thicket. That makes two attacks in daylight since May, so the critter's (fox or coyote, we think) hideout had to go. A couple evenings of work took care of the brush, though the log pile it grew up around is still there. Hopefully we've gotten the predator to move away from the buildings a little more.

Time also flew from Saturday, when R was dropped off for a week at World Changers, and yesterday, when she walked into church with them looking as if she'd grown overnight. By the end of the week she'll look about 20 at this rate. She's having a ball and today they start working on projects around the city. A service we put on for the group last night had about 250 of us in an outdoor amphitheater overlooking Parliament Hill last night, singing and worshipping together. Wow. Tonight I go to help out in the kitchen to make supper for them after their first day's work.

This group is amazing. About 200 teenagers from churches all over the Eastern States and Canada come to a city for a week and do service projects for charities. Operation Go Home, the Salvation Army, and a couple of women's shelters this week will be having construction done for no labor costs, just these kids and the adults who come along to supervise, all of whom are giving up their time and effort to help out. Apparently they have different groups in different cities all summer long. I love it.

We're hosting a party for families from D's work on Saturday, so there is much outdoor tidying to be done, mowing and working in the garden. Had our first beans from our plants this year. Quick steam with butter and salt. Mmmmmm. I wait for that every spring. The blackberries are ripening, I was swiping raspberries from some wild canes as we cleaned up the brush the other day, and the girls keep stealing peas from the garden. Now it feels more like summer.

Today is cleanup inside, planning this week's farmer's market canning, setting up an outdoor run layout for the chicks' new home, changing tractor implements so I can mow the grass, and from the looks of things getting the girls to rescue a froggie who is swimming around in our pool.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

peep peep peep

They continue to grow, and peep, and get little flight feathers on their teensy wings, and try to fly, and fail but are cute all the same. They are turning into little eating/pooping machines. A few have little feathers on their tails, and woe betide any bug that ventures into their spot. Mosquitoes are chased and often get away, but one beetle last night looked like a football as one chick chased it pounced on it, then tried to get past the others that wanted it too. The beetle was dropped, picked up immediately by another, and the whole thing repeated. I have no idea which chick finally got the prize.

The laying hens have settled in and are laying well, still small eggs (D told me yesterday that he'd made himself a 6-egg omelet). Biddy, while still something of a bully, has calmed down and seems to realize that these coop mates aren't going away.

Tuesday we celebrated Canada Day, with D being off and me finding a dead rat in the coop. It looked smaller than the one I had seen, but perhaps it had just grown in my memory ... "I once saw a rat this big!" Since then I've seen no evidence of rat activity. To have gotten away with only one seems too good to be true. We'll wait a while before the chicks go over, just to be sure.

The weekend saw lots of work getting done on the farm, more jams and jellies being made for the market, and on Tuesday night D's fireworks show for us and the 12 million mosquitoes that also came out. That night R and I camped out in the yard. We'd hoped to go across the creek but the recent rains have brought it up to spring levels. Typically at this time of year the rocks are peeking through at the ford and the kids go catching frogs, but when I crossed in the afternoon it was well above my knees. Fordable, but I didn't really want to do it after dark in the strong current. We had a good time in the tent anyway, good talking time.

Today and tomorrow R is at her babysitting course, then it's another weekend. Farmer's market is going well; R is enjoying it and learning a lot. It's a summer-long economics class, basically. IN a couple of weeks A will be helping out while R is away with World Changers. More on that another time.