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

Tuesday, 31 July 2007


The warm days and rain have paid off and the flood from the garden has begun. Yesterday I picked, blanched and froze over 9 pounds of green beans. I also picked the yellow and burgundy beans (about 9 pounds there too). We are practically swimming in beans. Yesterday also was our first suppertime taste of sweet peas (got over 3 pounds of those). Herbs are getting tall, the corn is filling out, and the broccoli would be lovely were it not for the chickens' continuing munching of the leaves.

Today is hot day #2 this week; the cows are all sitting under the shade tree, the pool is ever so inviting, and the chickens stick to the shade except when they mount a sneak attack on the veggies. Outside work beckons, and as I work I think some more. A few extra garden boxes for R's planned foray into farmers' markets next year, a place to plant potatoes - what to do, where to do it...

Monday, 30 July 2007


I spent over four hours yesterday sitting alone. Sunday morning was the usual busy and fun time at church, our little congregation bolstered by the presence of 140 teens in the city with a group called 'World Changers'. These folks had come from all over the place, including New York, Virginia, and Florida, to spend a week around Ottawa helping people in practical ways - house fixups, minor construction. Very cool.

Then at 3:00, I went down to the creek, set up a camp chair and umbrella, book in one hand and water in the other, and mounted guard over a bonfire. The pile of scrap wood will not go away on its own, and since we have not been adding to it much recently, I did make a dent. I was there, mostly alone, until supper time when D brought down a picnic, and then stayed after the others left for an hour more.

There are sounds only heard when one sits alone for so long. It's as if nature is shy until you sit quietly enough to assuage her fears, then she feels like she can tell you some secrets. There was, of course, the crackling of the fire and the hiss as wood slid down into the ashes. Another constant was the light burbling of the brook. Not the rush of its high-water days, but a gentle sound as it hopped over the rocks at the ford. A robin flew in and had a delightful bath in the shallows. The tall grass swished as the wind blew through it. Birds whose calls I didn't recognize sang out their chirps to each other. No words to complicate it. It was, in a word, peaceful.

My walk back to the house in the gathering dusk was one of some satisfaction. I looked at our little house, the freshly-mown grass looking green-gold and tidy as the sun hit it at the perfect angle, my veggie garden growing happy and healthy, the front field's grass (sorghum wheat, I think the farmer said) backlit and lovely, the old maples looking as stolid and respectable as such trees should.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

visiting pierre-auguste

With the kids in day camp this week and goaliemom visiting, she and I got to spend the day in such pursuits as exploring the Byward Market, going into shops, having a leisurely lunch, and taking in the Renoir Landscapes exhibit at the National Art Gallery.

I discovered a few things:
1. Renoir's work has a great deal of variety to it, some paintings vastly different from the others. It was interesting to see his style vary through the exhibit.

2. I prefer Monet's works, this going from my memories of the Monet exhibit in 2002.

3. I did not realize that a bunch of these artists (Renoir, Monet, and others) were all friends at the time - what a collection of people that must have been! I wonder if they had any idea what their works would become. Not likely.

4. Even the great masters sometimes fired off paintings for money - I noticed that many of the paintings had been done for his selling agent. Artists had to live too, I guess.

5. I just don't get modern abstract art. Sorry. Goaliemom and I went through that part of the gallery after the Renoir part and our general reaction was, "huh?"

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

useful farm tip #58

When a herd of cattle escapes and trots down the creek and you go after them with a bucket of grain to entice them back, wear something a little less open than crocs over bare feet. Eeeww. Why is my foot suddenly slippery inside my shoe? Oh.

The chase was accomplished, with a few slightly tense moments as the excited herd (30 plus if you include the calves, and since they each are weighing more than me, I include them) realized that grain was to be had back at their fenced area and started galloping back. Cows do gallop, you know. And they like to kick up their heels while they do it. It looks very amusing unless they are doing it a few feet away from you - then it's unnerving. I was recalling the stampede scene in The Lion King for a bit there.

And I must confess that as I ran after them, trying to watch for the all-too obvious evidence that they had passed this way, and not always succeeding (see the first paragraph), my mind had two distinct channels: "grumble grumble, stupid cows, I'm trying to make supper here and they have to go for a walk" and "wheee! this is fun!"

I did smile. That part of me usually gets me to smile. She's funny that way.

Friday, 20 July 2007

little things

The rain did come, it was constant overnight and with lots of lightning and thunder to boot. It was pretty well varying between lots of rain and even more lots of rain. Very nice, though I was awake a fair bit wondering if the pool would overflow (it's close, so I'll pump out some of the water later today), and are the windows all closed, just how close is the lightning, and with the wind from that direction will the roof leak? The chickens this morning walked outside then came back it to give me the "you're joking, right?" look, and the creek, which was down to a trickle, now looks full and healthy again. The frogs will be happy.

Plenty was accomplished yesterday, from woodworking in the chicken coop (no more roosting on the window sill) to stacking wood to ironing to band rehearsal prep to admin work on the computer for all sorts of things.

This evening brings the very important question: all girls at a sleepover. What to do? It's a tossup between a downtown jazz club (top choice), or a pub & movie, or picking up lobsters to have at home.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

waiting for the rain

Sounds philosophical, no? But I am literally waiting for liquid precipitation. Today, after two days of running here and there, we are home for most of the day and the forecast is for rain, rain, rain. So I'm wondering just where it is. I have lots of little things to do around here, none of which will be impossible should the deluge start, so the rain will be a friendly thing, keeping the grass green and watering my garden for me.

Next week the girls are at a day camp put on by our church, so I will have five days to myself. It's a nice week but it always serves to remind me that I enjoy their company. I guess that's pretty good. I do have some plans, including a hair appointment, but most of it will likely be spent doing things around here like refinishing a desk for R's room and cleaning barns.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

sitting on the edge

Lately I've been feeling like we're on the verge of something. Though the farm cleanup will never end, I find us doing much more along the lines of tossing ideas out - ideas that could be acted on soon. It's a strangeish sensation. There's talk of farmers' markets for produce (more for fun and experience for R than any real income), the goats are still on the radar, and I've been tidying up the coop some more and looking at the empty stall thinking on modifying it to house some chicks to be raised for meat birds.

That idea appeals to me - meat birds generally are only raised to 12-15 weeks old, then off they go to return in freezer bags. There would be no getting too attached to them as pets, we'd still have our hens for laying, and I would know precisely what conditions they have been raised under. The last point very much appeals to me: no caged living, no pumping them full of antibiotics or steroids or goodness knows what. They would be free-range, organically fed and grown chickens. I need to look into cost feasibility for it but the benefits are certainly there.

And then, on a completely unrelated tack, there's my music. Studio prep continues in my head, legalities must be completed, money must be found. But there's some sitting on the edge feeling there too.

The view is nice, sitting on the edge, but it's such a broad vista. Which way to go?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

nothing to say ... well, maybe.

I didn't blog today because I was out all day and didn't really feel like I had anything to say.

Except, apparently, that.

Ok. Today was a whirl of errands for much of the day, then getting home to remember that I was going to bring a snack to home group tonight and I had nothing inspiring in mind to make. So back to the grocery store to grab premade angel food cakes, nectarines, and blueberries. I was walking through the produce aisle trying to make something up and those suggested themselves as likely candidates. On the way home I tried to put it together in my head. It turned into a sort of trifle, with the angel food cake on the bottom, the nectarines sliced and boiled for a bit with the blueberries and some sugar to make a nice juicy mess and then spread over said cake. After it chilled for a bit (in the fridge, not hanging out with friends) I spread sweetened whipped cream (the real thing, baby - no Cool Whip. It tastes so good you almost can forgive the 35% milk fat. Almost.) over the top. Fresh nectarine slices and blueberries topped it all off.

And oooh, it was yummy. The girls, knowing my knack for making stuff up in the kitchen and then forgetting just how I did it, asked several times "are you sure you'll remember how you made this?" Yup. A nice creation and it's a keeper. I love when it works out that way. Serendipity's rockstar hubby had two helpings, so either it was good or he was just being really polite.

Monday, 16 July 2007

ninja squirrel, take 2

I should have known he wasn't working alone. There's a second squirrel who was zipping around the walls of the coop when I went in this evening. His girlfriend? His brother? His godfather? (have I just miffed the squirrel Mafia?)

Archie the Wonder Dog was on full alert but unable to catch Ninja Squirrel 2. But I could see him shaking his paw in frustration and saying, "Just you wait, I'll get you next time, Ninja Squirrel 2 ... I'll get you". Or maybe I just imagined that part. Still, it does seem that it would be a good melodramatic ending to the day.

archie the wonder dog

We have two German Shepherds. Our old girl, Tash, was our introduction to the breed and pretty well convinced us to always have GSDs. Smart, friendly but protective of the family, excellent with the kids, she is now over 12 years old and definitely slowing down, but still retains all those characteristics.

And then there's Sam. Or, as I fondly named him, Archie the Wonder Dog. He's now five and from day one was good looking but not all that bright - sort of the Zoolander of the dog world. He falls into that category of dogs called, very scientifically, complete goofs (Canis oafus). But yesterday he was quite pleased with himself, and rightly so. I ran over to the coop in response to his repeated barking. Not "people are coming" barking, not play barking. Hm. I found him staring up the back wall, trying to scale the logs to get at a red squirrel. Now, this is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill red squirrel. No, this is the crazy Ninja Squirrel who evades traps, swipes chicken food, and then dashes up the wall with a flick of his poofy little tail. Ninja Squirrel was running from side to side, trying to find a way down but stopped by Archie on all sides. This squirrel had teased Archie several times before and had become something of a nemesis to him.

After a bit, I had the bright idea to go and call D with the alert. Archie stayed there, and out came D with the .22. He lined up the shot at Ninja Squirrel, who was now half hiding behind a plank, and fired. D didn't say anything so I figured he missed - until I came around the corner to see Ninja Squirrel fall with a plop on the ground. Archie was duly praised as a Nobel-prize winning dog and got some cooked chicken for his efforts. I think he really wanted a bite of Ninja Squirrel, though.

Saturday, 14 July 2007


Today was good but I find myself feeling worn out and tired and generally apathetic about things. Not the farm, that is all good and an auction this morning resulted an several very practical little things for that. Just ... other stuff. I feel very blah about it all. I'm not sad, or upset, just drifting between "whatever" and "why bother" this evening.

Apathy is a comfortable place to be, but it's not a good place to remain. I occasionally visit but I don't want to live here.

Friday, 13 July 2007

it's raining, it's pouring...

... and so I can't go to serendipity's cottage. It doesn't rhyme, but then I've found that so few of life's important events do, in fact, rhyme. Well, there's the "in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue" but of course who remembers that he also sailed in 1493? Nobody, because it doesn't rhyme.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


This morning was spent at the dentist, realizing I really do need to be as diligent about getting myself in there as I am about getting the kids in there. Then it was off for a few errands, including a trip to the bookstore for R to spend some birthday gift cards (bought Eragon and its sequel, having been muchly inspired by seeing the movie). She also pre-ordered the next Redwall book. The place was taken over by hoopla for the new Harry Potter book, which I will read when it comes out. I obviously won't read it before then.

But why the obscure blog title? While at the book store I was wandering through the kids' section and a book caught my eye by virtue of its odd title: Horseradish, by Lemony Snicket; yes, he of Series of Unfortunate Events fame. It is simply a collection of wry little sayings, some of which have a great deal of truth and some of which had me laughing out loud with their quirky, random humor. For example:

"If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats."

"If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkghasgasdf."

"A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded."

"It is one of life's bitterest truths that bedtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting."

So today I am amusing myself in this way. It is nice. I also have multiple chores to do (big surprise there) and must see just why my children are currently talking in little squeaky voices.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007


We're back into life as usual, with all sorts of little pressing jobs but no one that stands out and screams "do this first!!". There is work to do inside the house, cleaning and reorganizing our office thanks to some new shelves, but I want to save that for bad weather days. I did mow the lawn yesterday with the tractor, but there's still the edge parts to do (tractors and precision don't go together for me, so rather than trash my place I use the smaller mower by the buildings), the veggie garden needs some weeding, the flower gardens need a lot of weeding, the coop needs cleaning ... and on it goes.

The veggie garden is coming nicely and it just on the verge of flooding my kitchen with fresh food. The peas have pods that are fattening up, the beans have a few wee little beans on them, the tomatoes have flowers, the corn is knee-high, there are some cucumbers on the vine and some zucchini to harvest, the lettuces have already been enjoyed. There was some nice looking kale and broccoli until the chickens got in there and attacked it. It was kind of funny to come out and see their heads pop up looking a bit guilty. Perhaps those veggies will make a comeback. I have to harvest some oregano since it's taking over the herb bed, and the lavender is covered with lovely purple flowers. Blackberries are now coming in daily, just enough for us to enjoy a few each day so far.

Strawberry jam season is done for me, with 10 batches now reposing in the cellar. One of these is for goaliemom who's 'stuck' in Alaska, 2 are strawberry-rhubarb, and the rest will be enjoyed by us or given as gifts. I hope to put up some tomatoes this year, freeze lots of beans like last year, make more sweet pickles, and try my hand at hot pepper jelly. As long as we don't run out of jam in February like this year *shudder*. Maybe I'll get keen and do some peaches.

This time of year is good because I really feel the progress both with this season's own work and the overall multi-year work we've been doing. The things in the main areas are tidier and the longer grass nicely hides things not done yet (a copout, I know, but I take what I can get). So, on to the day's little pressing tasks, hoping that in doing them I will make that one more little step in the progress of this place.

Monday, 9 July 2007

dry again, oh so nice

What an amazing weekend. We woke at a ridiculously early time so that we could be at Algonquin to start paddling, got our gear stashed and did some playing at the foot of the rapids to refresh our memories, then we were off. And then it started raining. Thankfully, it was a nice light rain and really not too bad. The first day included a few rapids, some portaging, and some still water paddling. Very nice. The sun came out and there was blue sky to be enjoyed; after one rapid D and I got well ahead of the others for a bit and just enjoyed the silence, the spicy smell of the pines, and the sight of the smooth water, the rocks just visible under the surface as we swept past, the depth of the woods as we looked into them. Beautiful. I do love the woods.

Upon arriving at the end of the last 750m portage, serendipity's rockstar hubby (hereafter SRH 'cause that's just too long) gave us the lovely surprise that the ranger cabin there, normally off limits, was in fact booked for us. SRH was duly dubbed the king of foresight. Especially at 1:30 am when it started to POUR, which continued for the next several hours. The next morning was sunny for breakfast, then we were on the way again for a mostly dry day, except for the inevitable water splashing in the front of the boat during rapids. A few more rapids and portages, including one that required goat-like agility on the rocks, many more laughs as we yelled things from boat to boat, and we were at campsite #2. SRH set up a zipline that the guys enjoyed, but the girls were just not looking forward to getting wet again.

We enjoyed a fire and yummy supper (serendipity's chili officially ROCKS), then all to bed early after a long day paddling. Then it started - rain all night, sometimes light, sometimes a downpour. It was deafening in the tent. But we were mostly dry, just that sort of damp-all-over feeling. Breakfast again, then the last few swift sections and a few lakes to end the day. We'd travelled 50km down the Petawawa River, and felt tired but had a good sense of accomplishment. We had a church service on the shore of the lake, singing some songs together and D sharing some things, and topped it off with a baptism in the lake as HC decided to take a stand to live his life for God. Very cool, and it firmed up the thought in my mind that there is no church building as beautiful as creation itself.

I'm tired, I'm dry again, my stuff is in the washer, the tent hanging up to dry, my shoulders sore, and I am relaxed and happy and looking forward to doing it again. We hope to do a very small version with the girls later this summer; the canoeing and camping adventure would excite them to no end.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

the love boat

It has been a good week. While we have not accomplished great loads of work like rebuilding a barn, we have had good family time and D is more rested than I've seen him for a long time. That's a success in my books. Today, though, we clean up the house and pack for our canoe trip this weekend.

There is something about canoeing that I love. It's easy to see the romance of it that has come down through the years; the way the boat silently slides through the water, the gentle sound of the paddle cutting into the water, then dripping a little trail of ripples behind. I went out one morning on a lake in Nova Scotia by myself last summer and was alone on the lake but for the cormorants and loons. The rising sun cut through the lake mist, making it all golden, and I felt wonderfully alone, gliding along and taking photos - this one was my favorite. So peaceful, so serene.

The canoeing this weekend will have times like that, but there will also be portages with 70-lb packs, white water, and back country camping. The white water has its own beauty, watching the cascades and hearing the roar. Then there is the little plunge into it, the chill of the water spraying over the front as I reach forward to paddle, feeling the adrenaline rush as I dig into the water. Then the front rises up and I laugh, realizing that I can't reach the water for a fraction of a second, then we're down again and I grab at it. The boat rocks a bit from side to side, but I don't dare grab the gunwales as that's a shortcut to tipping, so I try to move with the boat and keep looking ahead. D is steering behind and yells "draw!" as he spots the characteristic water flow over a submerged rock, so I reach out and pull sideways and then, all of a sudden, we're through. The river is again smooth as glass, the current strong, the water clear.

We'll be in a boat for about 8 hours each day, so in a way we're stuck together - but last year I loved this; we could be by ourselves or beside other couples, but we talked about ideas and dreams and the kids and us. It was lovely.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

dad and mom

I have little to write about today; last night R & M and I camped in the tent, while D and A stayed in the house and then left early for some Dad-daughter time and some errands. This morning I've taken down and packed away the tent, put away the other gear, set up our 3-man tent to confirm all is good for the weekend, and packed that away too, and rescued a grackle from some very territorial chickens. This afternoon I plan to make much strawberry jam form the berries R and I picked yesterday. The weekend and its camp/canoe trip in Algonquin is coming quickly.

So today, without much to say about the day, I will write about people. What got me thinking on this is talking to my mom this morning and having her say "I read on your blog..." - words one doesn't really think of their parents saying. I'll keep it short as I could ramble on for some time and completely embarrass them. Then again, I may do that anyway. I think too I am realizing that I can remember when my parents were the age I am now, and I'm realizing that someday the girls will have memories of me too.

Mom. This lady is wiser than she gives herself credit for; many of the things we have talked about over the years have influenced my life, for the better I hope. From teaching me to knit (at which I am miserable) to cooking (at which I am much better), to making me practice piano when I DID NOT want to, to the late nights she stayed up baking before Christmas. I remember little insignificant things like how I would curl up on the floor of the car by her feet during long drives (yeah, like we'd ever do that now), and how when Dad was away we'd take turns sharing the bed with her. I always knew she supported me ... not that it was said in so many words, but I just knew. I remember her making me go in for extra help when I did badly on a test and should have done better, but I also remember her taking my case to the principal when I was unfairly marked on a test. She epitomized for me a person with the gift of hospitality. She continues to surprise me; it wasn't until we moved to the farm that we started hearing all these stories about her childhood on the farm, stories I had never heard before.

Dad. If a guy could go on about how he's smart and everything, he could - but he never did. I didn't know until I was in university that when he wrote his chartered accountancy exams, he had the top marks in the whole country. Dad always had a sort of quiet strength that I depended on; a humble but very able leader. To this day I remember with great fondness our early morning outings on the golf course in PEI - I didn't golf most summers, but I walked and we talked. What about? Not much I can recall, except DON'T jingle change in your pocket when someone is setting up a shot, and rake the sand traps after you're done. The key thing was the time together. I think that is what warms my heart to see D making one-on-one time with the girls a priority: I know how they will remember it someday. I remember squishing into the lazyboy chair with him, watching TV or puzzling over just how he knew all the answers in the crossword.

Much more I could say. I know it's rare, and the more I live the more I see just how rare it is. I hope I have not taken it for granted, though I'm sure there are times that I have. To count Dad and Mom among my best friends is a true privilege. I hope we can be parents like that to our girls.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

camping and cow chasing

Last night we set up the tent in the yard, had a campfire and fed the local mosquito population quite well. It was a bit chilly but the girls loved it. This morning I woke to the sound of cows mooing and something didn't sound quite right about it - the location was wrong. But hey, it was 4:30 and the brain wasn't completely awake yet, right? So I got up around 6:45, let out the chickens, started a little fire and put the coffee pot on the camp stove (campfire coffee is one of the things I love about camping), and thought about breakfast: scrambled eggs with basil and chives, bacon, maybe a bit of oatmeal. Then I heard it again: definitely mooing, definitely from our neighbours' place. They don't have cows. Uh oh. I walked over to the fence between the trees and saw them - the cows from our property, happily munching away in the neighbours' field. Great.

After a trip to the chicken coop to grab some grain in a pail I walked through to their property and started banging on the pail and yelling "ho,ho" - the farmer has trained them to come to that. So between "ho, ho" and "come on, you stupid bovines", they realized that I had the magic pail and started trotting my way. I felt a bit like the pied piper, walking along with the herd trailing behind. After a bit of backtracking, heading them off away from my veggie garden, and some more grain, we have them all in the field. All was greatly helped by D, who caused something of a stampede when they realized he had not one, but TWO lovely buckets of grain and set out to follow him.

I did manage fried eggs and bacon for breakfast, but my coffee was a burnt little residue at the bottom of the pot.

Monday, 2 July 2007


Well, maybe just one more "in" title. It fits, anyway.

Friday was a bit of science at the farm after A came in worried about little bugs on her arms. They looked like little specks of dirt but they were moving. She immediately went into the shower after I also saw them in her hair, her clothes went in the wash, and I went out to the barn. Sure enough, there were more of the little things and just standing there I realized they were on my shoes and heading up my leg. Ew. I got a couple into some rubbing alcohol and got out the cheap little microscope I'd picked up at a yard sale. I couldn't have ID'ed them without it, since to the naked eye they were mobile specks of dirt, and under a magnifying glass they just looked like larger mobile specks of dirt. Sure enough, at 100x magnification I could see it clearly - legs, head, and body: bird mites. The swallows who had nested just about where A was playing were quickly but gently evicted after I determined that they (not the hens, thank goodness) were the source of the mites - the young had grown to the point that they could fly, so their safety wasn't a concern. We sprayed the area; they were even on the girls' bikes and the top edge of a plastic play structure had what looked like dust but on closer looking was literally hundreds of mites.

Yesterday, Canada Day, we celebrated in not-so-grand-but-really-quite-nice style, coming home after church to rest and have a wee nap, then joined by good friends D&J for dinner (venison chops ... mmmm; strawberries with balsamic vinegar - yes really, trust me, it works) and a visit, then after dark our own little fireworks show, put on by D.

This morning we slept in, a very nice thing in and of itself, but not something I want to do all week. I wake up feeling like half the day is gone. Those early morning hours are so good for getting stuff done. I was the first one up, though, and on my way out to let out the hens, Sam the dog stopped to sniff the Havahart trap, to be greeted by a sudden outburst of furious growling. I jumped back a couple of feet, startled, then realized that the stupid thing had finally worked and we had a raccoon trapped. Apparently all the times we have been trying to catch the critter we didn't realize a very important part of setting the trap: apparently you're not supposed to intend to set it. There's the trick, you see. The one night this week we didn't bother to intentionally set it, and we have success. The only thing resembling bait in the trap was the empty chicken bone from the attempt before.

After I put the curious dogs back in the house, the girls came out to see the raccoon, who by now had lapsed into strategy B: "look very cute and nice so the adults will be swayed by the kids to let you live". R thought it adorable, A wanted to make a pet of it, and M kept saying how it was "sooo cuuute". So we had a wee lesson on farm pests. I reminded them that it was one of these that attacked our hens, and given half a chance, this one would very happily kill one or more of the chickens. They did understand that, but still thought it very cute. So we had a little illustration; D let the dogs out and as soon as Sam came close, the coon started hissing, then did its roaring and growling. The girls understood it then: this is not a cutesy little pet.

But on to today: the clothesline is being fixed, the grass cut, D is here on a week of holidays (hooray!), and tonight we hope to sleep out in the tent across the creek for a bit of camping. The gardens need work, the barn needs more cleaning in the mite aftermath. It's sunny and we have a good day ahead of us.