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

Monday, 30 April 2007

danger: parentheses crossing

I. will. run. today.

I am quite determined and have almost made up my mind to get some exercise today (apologies to Jane Austen for that mangling of Emma). My legs seem to have forgotten their cruel fate last week and are naively thinking that yes, it might be a good idea (fools that they are!). They do have short memories.

We had a lovely weekend visit with goaliemom, including a visit to Rome, metaphorically speaking. (GM will understand that. I don't think anyone else will, unless Serendipity remembers a poem I wrote about Rome) We also took in a play that was good for plenty of laughs and had a fun double-date evening all around. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy live theatre, and the company of D&J made it all the better (of course).

Goodness, I've used a lot of parenthetical statements in this post. (not that there's anything wrong with that)

(it just gets pretty noticeable when you do it too much)

Thursday, 26 April 2007

confessions of an unsure triathlete

My legs hurt.

Not just a little bit sore. They ache and aren't fully functioning. My quads are asking me, "why? why?" and my shins are in outright rebellion.

I ran/walked 2km yesterday. Not far at all for some people, but for an adamant non-runner like me, it's long. It's the distance I want to run with no stops in the Try-a-Tri on May 19th; farther than I've run probably since I was a kid. So I ran until my lungs were screaming, then walked for a bit, then started to run again.
I can do the swim. The cycling is my strong point. But oh, the run ... and after all the rest of it. I'm counting on adrenaline and sheer stupid determination to get me through it.

I think the only thing that kept me going at the end was remembering last year's try-a-tri and how good (yes, good) it felt to cross that finish line. I could almost hear Serendipity screaming "don't let me pass you!!" behind me, and despite the sore lungs and tired legs, I actually smiled. It will be good again this year.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

family trees as told to the saplings

The girls and I had an interesting talk yesterday about some of their ancestry. They were wondering about their great-grandparents, and of course it all got slightly confusing. Today we're going to sketch out a family tree so they can understand how it all fits together. They have great-grandparents who were something like 7th-generation Canadians, another set descended, I think, from Loyalists, and one set who came over in the 1920s from Scotland.

I've often wondered what those people would think about the little girls who carry some fraction of their genes today. And I wonder in turn what those people themselves were like. Genealogy is a funny thing; mainly it's the hunt for names and dates but that only gives a shell, really. I would very much like to know who they were: their hopes, their likes, their ideas, their faith, their foibles. History is, after all, the story of people. Not just dry dates and bloody wars, but there were everyday people living their everyday lives.

On to my own everyday life.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

assorted little things

Yesterday was sunny so after the morning Bible study we came home for lunch and then a couple of hours working in the gardens, getting old stuff cleared out and finding the return of a very annoying, quickly-spreading weed. I'm thinking Napalm is looking good for that. Seriously, though, I may have to resort to an overall black plastic to kill it all. But the shrubs are looking much more respectable and I found lots of friendly little perennial shoots making their way up. While we were out, R suddenly yelled something that turned out to be "the swallows are back!!!" And there they were, zipping around in the breeze.

The wind was higher than I thought, when D came home and said he'd had to move a 5-inch diameter pine tree from across the driveway that had snapped off in the wind. So there's another job for the weekend, getting that cleaned up. The driveway is generally nicer now, thanks to the addition of two pickup-beds full of gravel.

In the evening it was off for a meeting with two of my fellow band members, the uber-guitarist and the uber-drummer, to start looking at my music. We came up with a short list of the songs I had written (more than I remembered!) to start arranging for the studio. Sounds sort of surreal, but I think it's time. Some of the songs have been heard at different times in church or at conferences, while some have never escaped my living room. The CD production will be something D and I pay for and will be all my original songs, no covers. It was a good meeting getting some preliminary ideas together. Some really cool guitar riffs and bass lines came together.

On the way home, another sign of spring: frog slalom. The little guys have some desperate need to get across the road, so they leave the water on one side to go to the water on the other side. Answering nature's - rather, a female's - call, I think. So off they go, and along I drive, seeing what look like little stones on the road, until they start hopping. Some sit still and I weave around them, others for some odd reason choose the worst possible time to take a leap. Despite my efforts I'm sure I left a few little amphibious pancakes there.

We ended the evening with lovely romantic candlelight, thanks to the power cutting out at 11pm. It was on briefly around 1am, then off again until 10:30 this morning. The girls loved breakfast - eggs and toast on the camp stove outside the back door - and I think they were hoping it would stay off so we could have lunch out there too. Maybe we will anyway.

Monday, 23 April 2007

monday and slow food

Another week beginning after a pretty good weekend including a homeschooling conference (good speakers and loads of materials in the vendor hall), a 10km bike ride to get in shape and make some lovely little endorphins, and helping my bro-in-law clean through the rubble of their burnt house. That was well worth it in terms of finding more things that somehow managed to avoid the fire (little tealight candles, not so much as melted?? Huh??) including part of their wedding cake top and some photos.

With the warm weather things are drying up so we can keep working on the farm. I'm looking forward to getting into my veggie garden again. I like to support local farmers and you really don't get much more local that that, I suppose.

While I don't produce enough ... um ... produce (two words, spelled exactly the same, on a verb and the other a noun. See what I mean about English being strange?) to be truly active in it, the Slow Food Movement is something I find intriguing. It began as an anti-fast food movement in Italy and seeks to preserve local foods and avoid the homogenization of food supplies. It seeks to maintain native plants, to promote organic farming and avoid pesticide use.

Slow Food Canada's goals include
"to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of
modern fast food and life. Through a variety of initiatives, it promotes
gastronomic culture, develops taste education, conserves agricultural
biodiversity and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction."
- from Slow Food Canada site

I agree with the premise that rather than buy a tomato shipped from California at the cost of who knows how much gasoline for transport and preservatives so the fruit makes it, buy local and ripe. The flavor or a grocery-store tomato has nothing on one picked off the vine and still warm from the sun, to my mind. And while it may cost a bit more, either through money at the farmer's market or time in my garden, I think it's worth it. And all the while, you're helping to keep local small-scale farmers doing what often their family has done for generations. The huge factory farms are wiping out so many of the family farms who simply can't compete. It's sad, really.

I shall now get off my soapbox.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

a wee bit down

Yesterday, after school and before delivering a meal to some friends, I spent an hour or so slogging through mud and finishing the filling o' the dumpster. In went some heavy planks too rotted to be of any use, some old particle board from down near the creek that broke apart in my hands, and assorted old branches just to fill it up.

Then after supper the girls and I took the mountain of cardboard that had accumulated in our shed over the past 8 weeks and broke it down, then took it to the roadside for today's recycling pickup. This was a treat for them because they got to ride up and down the laneway in the back of the pickup truck, always a big treat.

After we got back they went inside and I just sort of stood, looking around and wondering how on earth we'll ever get this place to be what we want it to be. I felt frankly defeated. There is so much we've done but so much still to do. Our older dog Tash had pulled something in one hip and her back end just kept collapsing on her and I was having sad thoughts about 'is this it? will she need to be put down?'. I was tired. For a rare moment the dreamer in me was losing to the horribly practical side of me.

Today the sun is out, it's warm, and the dreamer has conquered again. I do like her.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

nature notes

I never pegged myself as a bird watcher. It seemed to rank right up there with watching paint dry.

But since moving here, I've learned that there is much to be seen from watching them in action.
- yesterday, a group of about 15 wild turkeys walked across a field across the creek. The toms were showing off and the hens seeming to ignore the show. They are large birds, but definitely not the meat-heavy domestic version. They almost look regal, strutting across the field, and when they take off it's a racket like a helicopter. This morning three of them were sauntering through the yard by the house, oblivious to the two dogs who were very eager to go out and play with them.
- a couple of winters back we got to see several great grey owls. They were amazing to watch as they flew overhead, surprisingly silent for their large size. One perched on a fence post, surveying his temporary domain, and allowed me to get close enough to get a couple of photos before quietly taking off and landing atop a branch that seemed far too small for so large a bird. But, there he sat, as if weightless.
- Hawks. Aaah. I love to watch their soaring flight. We have red-tailed hawks here, and little kestrels. The kestrels are like the sport coupes of the birds of prey - small and agile, while the other hawks are more heavily built. Turkey vultures are often overhead, looking for food of the variety I'm sure I'd rather not find.
- there's a great blue heron or two who frequent our creek in the summer, patiently and slowly wading on their search for fish or frogs to spear. They're very wary, though, and usually the only way I see them is when they take off and scold me for daring to interrupt their dinner. Kingfishers have also been seen along the water, along with the ubiquitous mallard ducks and the seasonal Canada geese.

This morning we saw a bird on the ground, poking about. It looked like a woodpecker. Turns out, thanks to my trusty Audubon Field Guide, it was a Northern Flicker, a woodpecker that feeds on the ground. I had seen one before, a fact I only recalled thanks to a note scribbled in the Audubon book. I've taken to jotting down when and where we see new birds and over our three years here have noticed some patterns as to who shows up when. The biologist in me rears her head every so often.

The barn swallows should be back soon. Watching them fly is incredible - aerial acrobats, they are.

And it beats watching paint dry.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

water, water, everywhere...

Bonus points for naming the quote and author without googling it.

I still find it funny that 'google' has become a verb. Likewise 'Plutoized' apparently being a new euphemism for downsizing, after the poor little ex-planet's fate. I'm sure Pluto is terribly broken up about it all.

As to the water, it rained all day yesterday - well, after the snow stopped - and the creek is running a couple of feet higher than it was two days ago. I can see whitewater at the first bend. Usually it's just a fast little current there, but there was white this morning. The burn pit is surrounded by water. The ducks are happy. My sump pump is working overtime. Today's forecast: more rain, but the sun and the correct April weather should be here by the weekend.

But we took advantage of a miserable day yesterday to do some getting ahead in school, the girls having learned that an extra math lesson here and there adds up to a whole week or so less at the end of the year when the weather is beckoning them outside. We also did more cleaning, and made up a recipe at supper for a tortellini-sausage-tomato soup. Sort of like a minestrone, very tasty and filling. And yes, I did write down what went into it.

Monday, 16 April 2007


Saturday was spent at A's last soccer tryout, and realizing that some people take this way more seriously than I do. A letter came out telling us that not all kids would make a comp team, and basically letting us know that our child might be terribly hurt by not making it. They were practically suggesting therapy. Oh dear. A's philosophy is that she would love to make it and would give it her all if she did, but is happy to play rec if she doesn't. I'm glad she's got a balanced perspective. Query: is the note meant more for the kids being disappointed at not being selected, or the parents?

The afternoon was spent releasing our inner pyros and having a big burn down by the creek to get rid of some junk wood. With the weather so wet lately there were no issues with it spreading, so for a few hours we just kept feeding the fire with old planks and posts. We were tired and smoky after, and I had lost a few bangs thanks to a spark that singed my hair.

The evening was entirely different, since the kids were to a sleepover D and I had a date night to dinner and a movie. Very nice, very funny movie, the best company.

Yesterday afternoon, I slept. Then made some homemade turkey soup - just what's needed on a cold, rainy day.

This morning: snow. *sigh*

Friday, 13 April 2007

words & birds

Words are simply that: words. Grouped sounds that try to express meaning and yet lack the full depth of that which they mean to convey.

That's the deep thought for today.

And now for something completely different:
On the farm front, the pigeons are getting impudent and may need some sense talked into them through the long end of a shotgun. I do like the birds around here but pigeons roost in the barn and then, not being nicely housetrained, crap all over whatever happens to be underneath them. Say, our tractor, for instance. And with their droppings being somewhat corrosive, it's not good.

Many of the summer birds are back now and yesterday was a bit of a scrum at the feeder. First in came waves of grackles (they had been sitting up in the tree, about a hundred of them, and walking outside I had this vague Hitchcockian feeling of unease), eating as messily as they always do, then in came the scolding blue jays and little wee juncos. The red-winged blackbirds likewise made an appearance. Meanwhile, the robins on the lawn hopped about wondering: why all the fuss over a few seeds? A downy woodpecker scrambled up the side of the tree poking here and there, likely thinking the same thing. The finches and swallows aren't back yet, but they'll come.

And the house cleaning saga continues.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

... but wait, there's more

Snow. April the what, you say? Can't be this far into the month. After all, that's SNOW out there!

While I admit it is pretty, I am longing for spring. Today I shall protest by planting seeds. Spring cleaning also continues and my house looks more like its old self again, tidy and shiny and significantly less cluttered.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

a study in contrasts

Every now and then I am reminded of just how different our little girls are. D's parents were here for a visit over the weekend and wanted to take the girls out to pick up some birthday/Easter/we love our granddaughters sort of gifts. Off we went to Toys R Us, always a favorite destination.

M immediately gravitated to the My Little Pony and Barbie section (also known as "pink world") and happily chose a pony playset and a mini stable for Barbie's horses.

A didn't get past the Lego section and after much consideration chose a Lego Knights storming-the-castle set and a Lego Exo-Force character. Much weaponry and rocket-ish things.

R came to the sobering realization that Toys R Us just isn't her big thing any more. At the ripe old age of 10 1/2 she walked through, curious but uninspired. That is, until she found, in a bin of beat-up and marked down boxes, a computer game: John Deere's American Farmer, a simulation game where you run your own farm. That and a couple of Redwall books made her day.

Dance exams went well yesterday; R did a runthrough in the morning and danced her sword without a hitch, much to her relief. We get results next week. And for the first time in almost 7 weeks, we have nobody staying in the house except our family. The house seems positively huge.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

infestations lead to ideas

One exam down, two to go. M looked sweet yesterday in her kilt, blouse and vest, with her hair all done in a bun (a.k.a. 'Mom's annual torture') and her gillies - highland dance shoes - on. R was practicing last night but each try at her sword dance got worse as she got frustrated with herself. She's generally not one to be overly competitive with others, but definitely competes against herself. So we called it a night and will try again this morning.

My house has become, apparently, a haven for ladybugs. While cute enough on a one-to-one basis, seeing 50 crawling about my window isn't pleasant. Where do they all come from? But, as I pondered this while watching one on the bathroom counter this morning, I got an inspiration for a book. Perhaps it will never see the light of day, but it seemed a very clever idea at the time. Despite being inspiring, the ladybugs must go. I vacuumed a bunch out of the window last week and it was amusing, even though it meant more work, to see them fly back out of the vacuum when I had finished. Perhaps I should institute a catch-and-release program and get them into my garden as aphid sentries ... but I don't think they have Havahart traps that small.

Monday, 9 April 2007

dancing and soccer and cleaning, oh my

A new week and we're already in the thick of it with dance exams today and tomorrow for the girls. They've been practicing their flings and swords and seann triubhas (yeah, try pronouncing that one - it's shawn troos. Gotta love Gaelic.) and will be adjudicated on them. A has two more soccer tryouts this week.

Cleaning of course is the next thing, getting the house back into tidy shape. D's parents are here for the weekend though, so much of that will happen in the next few days. Just having one family living here definitely makes a difference in the amount of stuff. The dumpster arrived and is being duly filled with all sorts of wood, corrugated metal roofing, brick mortar from a chimney taken down last summer, a sort of cow-feeder-salt-lick-holder thingy. It's big and metal and unnecessary, so in it went. The stairs that had been used in our pool are also in there, having been the culprit in wearing a hole through the liner that required a full replacement the first year we were here.

And where, oh where, is my lovely happy spring weather? Snow on Easter weekend is just no fun. We had a white Easter rather than a white Christmas. But a real bright spot to the day was a phone call from goaliemom - from Paris! We talked about the places she had been, and I remembered them from our trip in '99; Ste. Chappelle, Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite, Montmartre, even the Tuilleries Gardens. All lovely places that stay in your mind, waiting patiently for you to remember them again. Ahh.

Thursday, 5 April 2007


Dumpster awaiting lovely load of junk.

School this morning.

Field trip this afternoon with homeschool co-op to stables.

Kids' club tonight, and band rehearsal for two Easter weekend services.

Comp soccer tryouts for A tonight.

None of these are complete sentences.

Oh, wait, that one was.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

and on we go

The day was taken up by Historica; R diligently manning her project and happily going to visit others when she got the chance. I was greatly impressed by the scope and quality of the projects there. Some 12-15 schools were represented, including public, private, and our little (3-person strong) band of homeschoolers.

It was a long day but fun and at the end of it all, R was in the top three in her age group so is in the group of 10 kids (out of 165 projects) who will go to the Provincial Fair next month. She was excited and surprised when they called her name and I was all proud of her and choking up. I'm such a sap that way.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

ah, the sound

There's nothing quite like rain on a metal roof. I missed it.

Cleaning up the barn mess was fun, slipping in mud and lifting things that tested just how much I could lift. Definitely got some weight training in. There is now a huge pile of wood, metal sheeting, and strange feeder-like fixtures waiting eagerly for its new home in the dumpster we've got coming in a few days. We've gotten one once before and filled that one with 4 tons (yes, literally - it was weighed by the company) of assorted farm junk that had accumulated here for goodness knows how long. In it we did put a fridge, a stovetop, a dishwasher, and two sinks, enough to my thinking that we could have rented it out as a five-appliance apartment.

The bird trapped in by the fireplace seems to have expired. Thanks to 'rancherj' for the very helpful tip ;-) but we did try smoking it out. Note to self: get chimney guru to put screening on top opening.

Tomorrow is R's go at the regional history fair. She's been practicing and is looking forward to it, though I think her most appreciative audience will be D's parents who will visit this weekend and she'll show her grandpa what she learned about his father. In her sources list she included a thanks to him for sharing his memories of his dad and sending along the photos. R wanted very much to include a thanks to her teacher for being such a help, but her teacher smiled and hugged her and said no, just seeing how excited you are by this is thanks enough. Someone should give that woman a raise.

Monday, 2 April 2007

barns and birds

There is a bird in our chimney. It is fluttering about in the space between the fireplace insert and the chimney wall; we can hear its wings beating and its little claws scratching. I feel awful for it but have no idea how one removes a fireplace insert. They're pretty permanent things, to my reckoning. I doubt if it can fly up on its own.

On my way home from the conference on Saturday I called D to let him know I was en route and asked him how his plan of getting gravel for the driveway had gone. Turns out the gravel place (quarry? I don't really know what one would call it.) had closed early so there was no gravel to be had, and D wanted to do some work outside. So, what does a person do who wants to accomplish something? He tears down a barn, of course!

We have several barns and outbuildings on our property:
- the "main barn", a huge old log barn with 3 cribs (yes, that's what you call the divisions in a barn, apparently), my favorite of all the barns thanks to its open lofts and immense graying cedar logs. To sit there on a summer day, perched on a massive old beam, feeling the light breeze and watch the barn swallows as they dip and soar in and out is a nice bit of peace. To do it with a cup of tea is even a bit nicer. Raccoons seem to make the loft their maternity ward, but otherwise it's a quiet place.
- the pig shed, named after its former use but since renamed the "chicken coop" as the hens took up residence there
- "the gym barn", which was once the granary but is now home to our sports equipment and D's weights and workout equipment
- the milk house, where farmers once set the fresh milk to cool and separate, now empty but acting as a lovely backdrop for our vegetable garden
- the "two storey shed", a beam-and-plank building that serves as our most functional storage area, has a workbench in it, and was the location of an outdoor family Christmas party we had last December. It looked amazing, cleared out, swept clean and with fresh greenery and white LED lights all around.

Then there's the "falling down" barn, named because the year before we bought the farm (ha ha) the roof had apparently blown off in a storm. Every thing I've read or heard says, when a barn loses its roof integrity, it's just a matter of time before the whole thing is useless and rotted. So a couple of summers ago we started to bring it down so that the old cedar timbers might be salvaged. On Saturday D decided it was time to get the rest of it down. He and my sister and the tractor attacked it and sure enough, it's almost right down to the ground. Not a lot of cleaning up happened, but most of the tearing down is done. So this week I plan to do some of the cleanup and maybe get a dumpster here to take away the useless stuff.

Well, I had been planning to start working out again. Guess weight training won't be an issue.