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

Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Another Christmas has come and gone, many lovely memories made and happy times had. We spent Christmas Eve afternoon eating (and eating and eating) with good friends, then headed to church for a nice service. Uberguitarist's rendition of 'Silent Night' on the classical guitar was a highlight for me. Beautiful. After that it was to another friend's house, complete with more food. I was still full from the afternoon so didn't indulge too much.

Christmas Day was loads of fun for the kiddies, dinner was a nice collection of our Ottawa family, with the B's and the G's both joining us for lunch. Much playing and laughing ensued. Boxing Day was an amazing brunch at the B's, joined by some good friends.

Yet for all those memories, it still felt like it didn't quite happen. It's strange. I think it's because December was so disjointed and I didn't do all the things I usually do. About a week before the day I had my reality check with myself and realized that giving gift baskets full of homemade goodies wasn't going to happen. Between recording and being sick, to try and do it would be too much of a stretch for my sanity and our family life. So this year, that was bypassed.

Don't get me wrong; we had a wonderful week off with D at home and some low-key family time, which I always treasure. It just felt different this year. Still good, just different.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


The floor beneath my feet is shaking. In fact, I can feel it through the seat of the chair. We're into recording again, and this time it's drum tracks for the complete CD.

So as I type I hear BOOM BOOM (ting ting) SNAP BOOM BOOM (ting) CRASH BANG BOOM, with my feet feeling the BOOMs.

The living room's acoustics are once again being put into use, with the drum kit all set up and mic'ed on Tuesday. Last night we moved out one of the sofas to make room for our Christmas tree, which D brought home from work. Well, brought home from a tree lot on his way home from work - he doesn't work at a tree farm. Usually the tree hunt is a family event, but with our schedule and my cold, it wasn't going to happen. He chose a great tree and it looks lovely with all the vintage ornaments and of course The Star With the Cool History (blogged about in '07) on top.

Today, tomorrow and next Tuesday will be loud ones here at the farm. Wonder what the critters outside and inside the house think?

Friday, 12 December 2008


It always seems to come this time of year, and I saw it creeping around the corners and peeking out at me, waiting to strike. You'd think I would learn, send it tickets to Cuba or some such thing to get it away from here, but year after year it's the same thing. On Tuesday it sprung out at me and I was done for.

Tuesday night everything ached. If I touched my hair, the follicles hurt. If I put on a sweater I felt every teensy part of my skin hurting. So, with sore throat, sore nose (from blowing it so often), and no energy my week has seen very little getting accomplished. While my throat felt better yesterday, this morning it's sore again.

On the plus side, I have had three very good little helpers through the day who have kindly made me tea, and one wonderful husband who has shooed me off to bed and reminded me that it's ok if the laundry isn't folded, and the band will be ok for missing one week's rehearsal, and the Christmas baking can be done later or skipped, and he'll take care of the dishes. I love my family.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


I couldn't believe how much my hand was shaking as I clicked the mouse button.

Really, I've been pretty calm so far - happy, in a daze, and calm. I think the whole surreal feeling was behind that. Now I'm shaking. I've reached the point where the big event is really here and I can't sit still.

My baby is online and I'm just hoping nobody says it's ugly - "it's ok, but...", sort of the musical equivalent of "but he's got a nice personality". At the same time, though, I recognize the need for feedback and am remembering that this is a first go and I hope to learn from it. The song will be at least partially re-recorded for the full-length CD and so to learn is to make it better.

To my knowledge it has already been heard in BC, Nova Scotia, Alabama, and Ireland. Gotta love the internet.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

for real this time

Last night we started the Real Thing. Tim came over to set up loads of pretty and expensive things whose names escape me and always will, then Uberguitartist came over, got set up, and started to play. And I stood in the kitchen listening and realizing that this cut was going public.

I always do that with big things. My wedding, our big trips - all were something huge coming and all seemed to be 'way out there until they were really, truly and unequivocally HERE. When the rest of the gang arrived, my amazing backup singing crew, they launched into it and I could just hear it all coming together.

Funny thing about the evening was, I barely sang a note, just enough to remind people of the occasional part. It was quite a change from the two weeks of ghost tracks where what I heard on playback was all me. They sounded great. The beauty of recording showed up as my six friends became a huge choir. The looks on their faces was probably one of my highlights of the evening for me - their delight at hearing what they'd done and how it sounded was so fun to see.

The girls had recorded the bridge before anyone else arrived, and their little voices sounded so sweet. They took it all in stride, headphones in place over one ear and singing into the mic. All decided that recording is a Very Fun Thing To Do.

As a bit of a break from all this glamorous recording stuff, R came in to tell me that only eleven hens were in the roost (a fact that carries several episodes of deja vu here on the farm). The door had been left open and one hadn't come back for the night. I reassured her by saying maybe she'd been caught out as the sun went down and had roosted in another barn. We made a quick search with a flashlight, R calling for the hen and me looking for the telltale feathers that would let me know she'd been snatched, to no avail. After everyone had gone for the night I headed out, crunching over the snow, looking again. As I rounded the coop I saw her huddled against the outside of the building, blinking at me but quiet. Surprised to find her safe and sound, I picked her up at which point she started making these little soft cooing noises over and over. If a chicken can purr, I think I heard it last night.

The piano gets tuned today, and tonight I add the real piano part and the real lead vocal. The girls may re-record some of what they did yesterday, and then by next week I have a track ready for online download.

It's real, and it's here.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

the battle begins

Stories from the field of battle are often so laden; heavy with raw emotion, alive with adrenaline and urgency, and momentous as turning points in history itself. So today, I brace myself as I blog about my experience: I went Christmas shopping this afternoon.

I knew it would be busy, and my shark-like circling around the parking lot looking for a space in the same time zone confirmed it. Drive, look, turn, oooh, are they going to their car?, try to follow, find out someone else has seen it first, look to see tail lights and think oh! at last! only to realize they're arriving, not leaving.

My first stop was a store that will remain nameless except to call it "A store with a ludicrously large amount of toys and a backwards R in the name". I am so very glad of one thing: I went in with a good attitude and came out with it intact. I found the whole thing more amusing than frustrating. Nobody yet had the look of raw panic that's more likely to come in a few weeks' time, but the place was just plain crowded. And whoever designed the stores really must have a chat with the people who designed the shopping carts. Either one's to narrow, or the other's too wide. Passing someone coming the opposite way required precision driving, and signal lights wouldn't have been out of place.

I found a few good candidates for the girlies, then decided to look for one thing from A's list, just to get an idea of pricing and such. She'd seen a thing called "D-Rex", a remote-controlled dinosaur, advertised on TV and it quickly made its way to the top of her list. So, dutifully, I looked in the section called the "Imaginarium" where there were other dino-ish things. No luck. Seeing a slightly frazzled-looking clerk there, I nicely asked if she knew where one was to be found. Did I know the company? No, sorry. Hmm, maybe in here (this while I tried to weave my too-wide cart through the too-narrow aisles), or in here. Nope. Sorry!

I continued through the store, thinking, maybe in with the boyish toys. Peeking down each aisle didn't find it, so I saw another employee and repeated my question. "Oh, I heard someone say we had that!" (insert surge of hopefulness here). "It's over in the Imaginarium section".

Oh, ok. Maybe I missed it. Back I went, past crying kids and frustrated parents, weaving around more Hannah Montana junk than I could shake a stick at. Did I mention that the two departments are on opposite sides of this very large store?

Tried the Imaginarium section again - maybe I'd missed it the first time. Oh, good - two employees to ask. Did they know where the elusive dinosaur might be found? "Oh, it would definitely be with the boys' toys."

I thanked them for their help, turned, and walked out to the checkout. I laughed the whole way.

Never did find the thing.

But I just googled it, and it goes for $150, so I won't have to search for it again, either. Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

in the lull

I find my life at home this week to be nicely calmed, but holding the 'it's coming' feeling I get on a still summer day when you just know a ripping thunderstorm is coming to clear up the humidity.

Yesterday was a normalish Monday, today we're back at regular school (much to the girls' chagrin), I'm doing laundry and cooking pumpkin to freeze for pies and other lovelies, I'm planning Christmas baking and going over the kids' wish lists.

On that note: A makes me laugh sometimes with her very thorough approach to things. Her Christmas list was neatly printed, each item categorized in a careful five-level system of grading from "really really want" to "kind of want", then folded origami-style into a self-containing envelope. After each name-brand toy, a miniature "TM" was carefully inscribed. Gotta make sure those trademarks are accounted for. Very cute, very her.

Originally next week was to be a quiet one here on the recording front, but we are slotting in days to record 'Silence Broken' for single release. Guess that means I have more to do this week.

But right now I'm just looking out my window and remembering how much I enjoy watching the snow fall. There is planning in the lull, but it's still a peaceful place when I look for those moments.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

day six

We're done the ghost tracks. What a great feeling. We've done so much, I thought, as I listened to the quickly mixed cuts before Tim left yesterday.

But it's only the beginning. All of it will be redone and better, but to hear it back gives such a sense of having done something really great.

Tim now has a week of mixing the tracks before getting them to the drummer for the week, so in two weeks' time we're at it again.

Two weeks of normalish life for our family. Two weeks of getting Christmas plans figured out, planning baking and cards and what shopping haven't I done and decorating our house for one of our favorite times of year.

Of course, that doesn't take into account that we may be redoing some of 'Silence Broken' in those weeks to get it available online for this Christmas.

I'm very happy with it all. It's a little less surreal now, but still filed under "things I never would have thought I would or could do even though I wanted to do them".

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

and day five

Today's session continued in the same vein, with more work on 'Silence Broken' and Tim's thinking that releasing it as an acoustic single for this Christmas would be a good idea. While I was listening to it in the headphones that was sounding like a pretty good option, but he's going to check on the mixes before that goes ahead.

We did one more song, 'Only You', which is one of my favorites and has some really nice dissonance in it, and went over the rest of the time we have booked. I am rerecording 'We Hold On' but as that's just piano and vocal we don't need ghost tracks, which leaves us with 'The View From Here'. We got a start on that at the end of today's session and so have two days to finish that and then go over any changes we want to make to the other songs.

Still tired, still loving it.

Then it's two weeks off while Tim does some mixing and prepping for drums before my house gets very loud while we lay down those tracks. My rule for band practice is, if the plaster falls from the ceiling, we're too loud. Should be interesting.

During those two weeks, I really should do some Christmas preparation. At least baking, right?

And on the broader scope of the home front, our freezer will have a nice addition to it in the form of venison this year as D bagged a doe this morning.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

back at it - day four

After a weekend's break from recording (greatly needed - I'm glad we didn't work on Friday, as my brain was still shut down), I was back at it tonight. It was more of the same but with having had a few days to listen to last week's material, which served to highlight some areas that need focus for pitch and such.

I'm loving the music. I mean that in a non-egotistical way. If someone else had recorded it, I'd still love it.

Tonight we got the ghost track done for the Christmas song, 'Silence Broken'. This one will have lots of cool choral BGVs and may even feature a small bit with our girls singing.

Three more songs to go, and I'm looking forward to the week. This time I know a bit more of what to expect.

Friday, 14 November 2008

recording, day three

Day three was shorter than the other two; two more songs got ghost tracked to bring the total to eight of twelve songs. We are ahead of schedule so are taking today off, to restart on Monday.

I am mentally and creatively spent. But oooh, it's good. I've never had such a concentrated time of creating, trying ideas, hearing results, then creating some more. I am really enjoying working with Tim, who knows what he wants to hear and then is awesomely encouraging when I get it.

We throw out ideas, I sing them, he plays them back and we sometimes laugh maniacally when it sound great. I'll try a vocal line, love it, then try desperately to remember just how it went so that I can duplicate it. That sometimes takes a few tries but sometimes finds something even better.

Yesterday he pushed me to try things that were vocally out of my comfort zone, which took some trying but ended up yielding lines I'd never have thought to try. Musically and creatively I am learning so much through this.

But I am looking forward to the weekend off. Time to get my house back in order.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

recording, day two

I didn't think it would be so tiring, but the mental gymnastics and the constant focus wore me out. I spent Tuesday night in a sort of mental haze, and woke Wednesday still brain-fogged. Yesterday I realized that the muscles in my forearm were hurting a bit - I've never played so much in such a short time and they were getting tired, too.

But day two was another great one. We've now finished the ghost tracks for The Lord Reigns, Compelled (which got quite a facelift and is a bright-shiny-new song that is much stronger than it used to be), Overcome (I've fallen in love with the BGVs on this one), Lament, and For His Praise. The tweaks are improving the songs and new ideas are popping up.

It's a funny blend: it's very precise and technical, because if the ghost tracks are off then every piece of the band that uses that reference for their own tracks is also off, and the whole thing falls apart. The click track is a must here. It's also very creative as we do the fixes and try doing things different ways to see what sounds the best. 'Organic' is the word I keep coming back to. It's an organic process, constantly moving and changing and then changing again in response.

I heard someone compare CD making to bring a baby to term - you plan, you prepare, then you release it to the world and even feel something akin to post-partum. I have no idea if that's the case, but since my three pregnancies all started with three months of morning sickness, I'm just glad I'm not throwing up every day.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

recording, day one

I've just finished an 8-hour recording session. Well, eight hours less the time for supper. But by and large, we spent that time working. Figuring out the songs, finding just the right tempo, then playing through it to get the piano tracks right.

To make sure the tempo stays the same throughout the song, I play the reference tracks to a 'click track'. Imagine singing a song while wearing headphones on that are feeding 'tick-tick-tick-tick' constantly into your ears. I started giggling and almost asked "what is that mysterious ticking noise?" but restrained myself.

Apparently I am some sort of click track prodigy. According to Tim the Producer, it usually takes several tries to get it in sync, but I'm generally managing to keep the tempo right the first time through.

After that's done, I stop playing and sing the same song through, now with the piano recording I've just done playing in my headphones. That's done two, three or more times depending on how it goes. These aren't the final vocal cuts, but you never know, I might get a little piece of vox that's just perfect.

The microphone I'm singing into is beautiful. It's vintage. It's ridiculously expensive. A 1968 Neumann something-or-other, but there must be some sort of magic pixie dust inside it because it sure makes me sound better than I think I do.

This is not the norm, but I am adding some BGVs (background vocals) to the reference tracks. I had them swimming in my head and wanted to see if they worked, so Tim very obligingly is recording these.

I listened to the final playback of one song today and teared up. I didn't know it could sound so good. And these are the 'reference only' tracks. What will it sound like in the final cut?

I'm excited.

I'm encouraged.

I'm beat.

I found myself wishing I could tell Josh about it and hear his take on it.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


To preface: I know a little bit about American politics, economy and such. A bit. So I can't honestly state that yesterdays election results are a horrible thing for America, as I've heard, or average, as I've heard, or the best thing to come in a long time, as I've also heard. I will not pretend to be able to give a thoroughly educated comment on it. That would be silly and potentially embarrassing at parties.

person: "So what did you think of the election?"
me: "I thought that Tina Fey looked a lot like Sarah, but the socio-economic crisis facing America at this time requires a leader who can unite everyone and share the wealth or at least some cookies, but they need a person with experience and wasn't that part about Joe the Plumber funny?"

To be crass and low, I'm just sort of glad it's all done now and whatever will happen can start happening.

Though I do know enough to be a wee bit concerned about the fact that the president, house and senate all being Democratic could make the next four years quite a ride. I'm a little leery about giving any one party so much rein. I have no idea when the last time was that one of the three wasn't different, allowing for some checks and balances.

But part of me, maybe the Pollyanna part (and while I can be pretty sarcastic and hold a PhD in worrying over random things, she's always hiding in there being annoyingly happy and perky and positive), just thinks: wow, they've done it. You can almost smell the vindication in the air. Yeah, it wasn't about race and I do really hope and pray that Obama will lead the USA well - but the weight of history was always there and so I will state in my uneducated opinion: it's pretty cool.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

congratulations, it's a company

It's been for a little while now, but I've not made it official by spewing the words out into cyberspace.

Creekside Music, Incorporated is officially an entity. We even have some shareholders. Whee!

Another step in the long journey.

I've been listening to the demo ad nauseum (well, not that much) and hearing things to keep, things to change, and things to add. By listening over and over to the same song as opposed to only doing them live, I am hearing little details - a new harmony I've never thought of, a bass line that might just bring the song to the next level, a piano bit that will peek out here and there, tempos that need adjusting.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

things that amuse me

I honestly can't recall how I stumbled across this website. I think I saw it referred to in the sidebar of or some similarly respectable news site while I was being a mature grownup and keeping up with the headlines.

And then I saw it - a collection of unintentionally funny headlines. And I now have a headache and tears running down my face from laughing.

Go read it. Now. And make sure you find the one about Filet Mignon.

Monday, 20 October 2008

making the world a safer place

I have now done my part to protect the world from an onslaught of clay pigeons. They may seem harmless enough, but have been known to form large mobs and harass innocent people and small dogs.

We had a dozen or so women from Sequoia here on Sunday afternoon for trap shooting (for those who don't know: a clay disc about 4 inches across - picture a small frisbee - is flung from a launcher out into a field, where you then try to hit it with a shotgun). After the guys had a go at it, I thought the gals should enjoy a day of it too. And since it seems that all women's church events since time immemorial have involved tea, it became a "Trap & Tea" - a few rounds of shooting in the field, followed by tea in china cups with lots of dainty finger foods, fine cheeses, and fancy cakes.

And in true church event tradition, "a good time was had by all".

Very fun, out of the ordinary, and a definite to-be-repeated.

I blanked on my first round (nerves?) but hit my stride in rounds two (4/5 hits) and three (3/5 hits). The highlight of round two was when the first clay came out, it broke on release, but I got the largest piece in my sights and shot it anyway. Good to redeem myself.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

step two

It's been a busy week, though you'd not know it to look at my blog or my house. We've had the pleasure of visits from parents from the east coast and Goaliemom up from waaay down south. Our days have been spent visiting, shooting (clays, not living things), eating, shopping, visiting, eating - it was Thanksgiving, after all. The highlight of the weekend for our own family was M's baptism in church on Sunday, a celebration of our little girl's life and her walk of faith.

Step two: tonight is a meeting with Tim the Producer, planning budget and timelines and going over song arrangements so that work on the CD can begin in earnest.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


Legalese scares me. It makes my normally analytical and pretty sharp mind start to turn to some sort of gelatinous substance and the words start to sound like the grownups talking on Peanuts cartoons.

Whereas the party of the first class shall have rights including, but not limited to, voting as assigned by the officers for the purpose of carrying out, wrapping up, or completely confusing anyone involved, as per the pro rata quid pro quo latinification of things that really make you wonder if maybe you shouldn't have another cup of coffee first and oooh, look how the sun comes in the window there! *sigh* Whereas the party of the second class shall have rights limited to but not including habeas corpus veni vidi vici and can redeem this with 30 days written notice.

Yeah. Thank goodness for manager D, amazing accountant S (my bro!) and Mr. Lawyer Man.

Bottom line: we're making a music company that will be the entity that handles money for the CD.

And I was a good girl and read all the Articles of Doing Stuff So Very Officially (ok, that's my title for it. Bet you thought it was the real legal title) last night. I think legal documents would be vastly improved with diagrams. Or at least little stick figures that show what everybody's allowed to do. Or chocolate.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

there it is

It's not much, but it's a start.

Date was hugely fun last night, four couples all looking awfully good (all grey was a good thing for me. Definitely one to do again) and sharing a great meal with lots of laughs. The movie afterward I would have passed on, but going from the trailer it looked funny. I guess I just don't have the Coen Brothers' sense of humor. Ah well.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

the ordinary

I need to remember that the ordinary continues, even amidst the extraordinary.

That sounds deep. Perhaps it is.

But I find that my days of teaching the girls, of making our house a home and a haven, of doing the glamorous jobs like cleaning a chicken coop and hauling compost, will still need my attention. While my mind goes flitting off into ideas for songs, the laundry piles up if I don't keep on top of it. Granted, the laundry seems to pile up even when I am on top of it. But that's another story.

The demo sounds good but has me listening critically to my voice's tone (needs more consistency) and to my playing (need to get out of the lower end of the keyboard). All, I hope, leading to improvement. I am liking the flow of the songs and hearing them has confirmed that. The original giddy rush upon seeing the CDs has mellowed into careful listening and note-taking.

But for tonight - supper out with D, Seren and RSH, and two other couples for RSH's birthday. Planning to look hot in grey. We'll see; I may just end up looking like an extension of today's very overcast sky.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


Once upon a time there was this woman living on a farm, doing farm-ish things (not true farm things, since it was a farm in the re-making). She had three adorable girls whom she taught, and an amazing husband whose life she tried to make as wonderful as he made hers.

Once upon a time she wrote a few songs, here and there, enjoying clever turns of phrases and nice-sounding chord progressions. She enjoyed being creative and even felt a little like an artist.

Once upon a time she thought it might be interesting to record some of them, just to have that done. But of course that required lots of money, time, and talent.

Once upon a time the kids got older and so the time became more available, some clever people came up with the idea of establishing a company into which people who believed in the idea could invest, and she told that critical voice in her head that she was more talented than it said she was, so just shut up already.

Once upon a time she met with a studio owner and producer, who knew only what he'd been recommended, but still took on her project. When he came to her house to record the first reference tracks, he was excited by the piano and the room acoustics. Each of the twelve songs she'd written was deemed album-worthy, the lyrics complemented as being profound and moving, the song structures smooth and well thought out. The playing and singing were also encouraged. Her fears that he'd hear it and think, "what have I done, taking this on?" were allayed. She was excited, almost giddy.

Once upon a time she got back the initial mixes, opened the package, saw the CDs with "The View From Here: Demo" written on them, and started to cry.

Once upon a time she was on her way to really, truly recording a complete CD.

Once upon a time, she was me.

It still seems like someone else's life.

Friday, 26 September 2008

five years

ever and anon
ever and anon
there will always be a time
I look back fondly on
when you were here with me
and I was there with you
and things just made more sense,
ever and anon
ever and anon
there will always be a place
that calls you to my mind
I see the tapestry
our footprints, that we wove
as we walked together
side by side
ever and anon
ever and anon
there will always be your face
smiling back at me
the wind plays through your hair
and your eyes, they call me
to come on
ever and anon.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

step one

It starts tonight. Tim the Producer and my friend the Uber-Guitarist are coming over, and we're recording scratch tracks. These are recordings that will never see the light of day; instead they serve as a reference for Tim and me. They give a starting point from which I can listen to the songs ad nauseum and find arrangements that will best suit them, little tweaks that will make them better.

I just hope I can listen past how I know I'll sound, without that annoying little critic's voice in my head harping on about the vocals. Hearing yourself talk in a recording is strange; hearing yourself sing in a raw feed is devastating. To me, anyway. I hear every bad nuance and warble, all the while knowing that the end result will be better. It's hard sometimes to get past what I hear.

But we have to start somewhere, right?

Friday, 19 September 2008

a day at the fair

Today was the day; school was cancelled and after the biscuits were baked for the Farmer's Market tomorrow, we headed off to the Fair. The first stop was our trip to the homecrafts exhibit hall to see how we'd fared. And here's the lowdown:

M entered a felt fair scene (3rd place), a decorated cupcake (didn't place) and a jar with colored sand layered in it (1st place).

A entered a decorated cupcake (didn't place), a Lego barn (2nd place) and chocolate chip cookies in the category for kids aged 10-15 (3rd place).

R entered a stuffed toy (3rd place) and the chocolate chip cookies (1st place - hooray for Aunt S's recipe!)

My entries were crabapple jelly (didn't place), tea biscuits (2nd place! Didn't defend my title from last year), peach jam (1st place), and pumpkin pie (1st place. Out of one. I win by default. Go me!). So, given a required membership fee of $7 to the local Agricultural Society for me to enter my exhibits, and a whopping $12 in winnings, I come out $5 in the good.

After that there was nothing for it but to purchase bracelets for the girls and then watch them spend the day going on rides, running to other rides, heading back again to a different ride or maybe just one more go on that one over there. Cotton candy was a must, and each of them played a fair game to win a cheaply made but currently treasured toy. We met up with several other families, so the fun was shared with their best buddies.

Tonight, I am tired after all the fresh air and walking. Tomorrow is the market in the morning, a restful afternoon and then a treat - we've got tickets for all 5 of us to go to the Senators' exhibition game tomorrow night.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

winding down the garden

Fall has arrived, after our 2.46 days of what I'd consider summer weather. Summer was a bit of a non-starter this year.

This morning the sun rose high and lovely in a clear sky as I walked through the heavy dew to let the chickens out. After scattering some scratch that they completely ignored in the wake of two overripe tomatoes that I rolled across their run, I wandered over to take stock of the garden.

Two boxes of beans have been picked and cleared out, though much of the dirt that was in them needs to be replaced after being flung out by several delighted hens who seemed overjoyed to have access to the area. The tomato vines are still healthy but I saw the telltale signs of the teeniest bit of frost on them, delicate tracework on the hairs of the stems. It was really quite pretty in the sunlight. My second planting of beans has come along well so while I freeze the last harvest of my first plantings today, this second planting will give us some fresh, sweet, tender first-crop beans for our table.

The real frost didn't strike last night, but it's just a matter of time before I walk out to be greeted by a garden whose leaves go from robust to sadly sagging overnight. Granted, it does make for an easy garden cleanup, but I'll be getting as much of the harvest in as I can over the next few days.

One batch of Roma tomatoes have been frozen, something new I'm trying this year. Apparently I just had to wash them, cut off the stem scars, then freeze them on a cookie sheet before transferring them to freezer bags. Preserved without blanching and canning and all those time-consuming things. I'm hoping for many a lovely mid-winter sauce. My trip through the garden this morning showed that I have another batch to do today.

I got one eggplant (this thanks to the chickens getting into my new transplants in the spring and leaving very few plants to tell the tale). Perhaps I will make a very small ratatouille.

And of course the must-harvest overnight low temperatures have hit this week, when I'm trying to get some school done amidst the chaos that strikes our house every year mid-September: The Week Before the Richmond Fair. The girls have projects underway to enter for prizes (ribbons! cash! $4 to first place!) and they seem to be slowly engulfing our home. At least, they'll be gone by Thursday morning. Then Friday is our annual day off at the fair, spending the whole day there at the exhibits and the midway.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

first step

Met with producer today. Yes, the man who will produce my CD.

Just for the record, the phrase "my CD" still makes me feel like I'm talking for someone else.

He seems like a great guy, comes highly recommended by a friend who knows music. Apparently the same friend was highly recommending me to the producer. I was very happy with his take on recording and his approach to the whole thing. Some very cool ideas shaping up in just this first meeting.

It'll be a long road, but I feel like a definite official first step has been taken. See? The footprint is right there.

Now to look forward.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


So pretty. Yesterday's dewy morning and sunrise in the mist gave me views of this from my window and beckoned me out with my camera, despite getting some very wet feet. All was golden and misty. How could I refuse?

I assume they are always out there in the summer, that the spiders don't wait until those conditions to set about their busy work. But it takes that perfect combination of dew and sun to make such a pretty picture.

I could see hundreds; half an hour later the sun was high and the webs had once again become humble and obscure. Some things on the farm demand immediate attention, like a predator near the chickens or the cows escaping. Other things demand immediate attention so you don't miss a show like this.
It's good to remember to take the time to smell the roses ... or see the spiderwebs.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

tastes like ... well, chicken.

The chicks are no more. Well, at least they are not in their previous metaphysical state. On Wednesday I celebrated my birthday by getting up at 5:30, loading some very reluctant chickens into a crate (did they know?), and driving to a slaughterhouse. Yes, a real slaughterhouse.

Without too much detail, there were a couple of things I hadn't expected, notably the fact that I basically backed my truck up to the place where it all happened, while I had pictured some sort of emotionally and physically detached drop-off place. A sort of waiting room for chickens. But, nope - back up and hand 'em off, ten feet from where the guy is with the knife. I suppose one advantage (if you can call it that) of that setup is that I know for a fact that it was quickly done. I scoped out the situation and decided not to watch as my birds were done in. Yup, sentimental even when betraying them.

I've said it before - you know those women in movies, who coldly plot the murder of someone while barely disclosing a ripple of concern, who are at once terrifying and intriguing? I am not one of those women.

Yes, I know they were destined for that when we bought them, and I know they had a good chicken-y life, and I know there wasn't time for them to suffer, but I will admit that I cried for a while as we drove away feeling like something of a traitor. Things were on a much more normal plane when we picked up our fourteen completely cleaned, chilled, packaged and inspected chickens which ranged in size from 5.2 to 7.7 pounds. All for under $50, at which price they can do it for me any time.

The real birthday celebration happened that evening, when D and I went to dinner with Seren and RSH for an evening of good food and wine, much laughter, much shopping, and creme caramel with a birthday candle in it to top it all off.

Tonight was the taste-test. I went to the grocery store yesterday and looked at the sad-looking chickens they had available. 'Ha!' I laughed inwardly, 'you call that prime poultry?' Not only that, they cost more and were smaller than ours. But, for a side-by-side test I chose a large one (about $3/pound) and roasted it with our smallest (about $2.20/pound). The results were tasty on both sides, but the store chicken looked a bit anemic next to ours and the texture was even a bit on the mushy side.

The end result of our experiment - success. Good chicken, nicely raised, cheaper than the store, and I know exactly how it was treated and fed through its life. We plan to do it again next year but for now will enjoy the remaining thirteen roasters in our freezer.

School's first week went well, though I will not be listing Wednesday morning's outing as a field trip.

Friday, 29 August 2008


Perhaps it is premature, but I've done it anyway. I think the list has been brewing in my mind over the last year or so. I've made a short list of songs for my CD.

'my CD'. It sounds so big, and scary. If it weren't so amazing, I'd run the other way.

D and I are touring a studio on Saturday. The place charges $65/hr for studio time plus $45/hr for their side of things (mixing, etc). Could we find a cheaper place? Definitely. Would it sound cheaper? Yes. D figures when we take all the tracks to be laid down, even working with minimal people to maximize our efficiency, we're talking about a $10K-$12K project. Gah!

As Lizzie says in Pride and Prejudice, "Ten thousand pounds! Good heavens! How is half such a sum to be repaid?" If I was hoping to find some help there, I get none - Mr Bennet makes no reply.

Proposals will be written up and sent to people with much prayer. Until I find the secret treasure that I'm sure is hidden in the walls of this house somewhere, it's not all coming from us.

But, that is the stuff of managers (I have retained D in that faculty. He really had no choice, and his engineer's mind is much better suited for it than my happy-go-lucky artist's mind, which tends to flit away, twirling about, when such mundane details raise their heads). So, to the short list.

1. The View from Here - fastish, straight rock tune. Likely also the title track 'cause I like the name and really, all the songs reflect my view of life and stuff. One of D's favorites.
2. Only You - also fastish, and likely to have a straight rock feel to it. I have some ideas on that. One of my personal faves.
3. You are Lord - Celtic-style worship song. Possibly with a jig at the end.
4. For His Praise - Celtic-style worship song, but no jig.
5. Imagine - mid-tempo, bilingual worship song I blogged about back in November 2007, from the conference of the same name
6. Compelled - mid-tempo song from the 2005 CCSB conference
7. Overcome - slow ballad.
8. Let it Go - slow jazz, featuring some cool sliding guitar and bass courtesy uber-guitarist
9. Lament - my newest one, introspective ballad
10. Silence Broken - really a Christmas song, but the odds of me releasing a Christmas CD are pretty slim.
11. We Hold On - slow song I always said I'd include in a CD, for reasons known to those who'll understand.

Maybe another one, but I'm shooting for 9-11 songs. It will be a journey, I know. Much prayer needed. Thankfully, though, much grace given.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

much arranging

I've spent much of this morning arranging and planning. School starts next week, and with several new curricula involved this year, I wanted to get familiar with them and figure out how our weeks will generally look. One encouraging moment came when R asked with what I believe was sincere excitement to see her Algebra book. Wonder how long that will last?

Monday will be non-book days for the most part, with French tutoring, riding on alternate weeks, and science and history enrichment in the afternoons for R&A. Those afternoons will be library time for M and me. R will also work on her writing program (WriteShop, which looks detailed but a very thorough and useful tool for my little writer), and we'll read some of Story of the World, (history disguised as cool story chapters, something the girls routinely ask for).

Tuesdays & Thursdays will include Bible study (a kids' book by Precept that looks very promising), math, spelling, science, grammar for A&M, and WriteShop and Editor-in-Chief (learning to proofread and edit) for R.

Wednesdays & Fridays will be the same, with social studies (Story of the World and working on their map study books) in the place of science, and R just doing her WriteShop work.

And somewhere in there, each of the girls will do various novel studies. R will be doing a two-book study to compare and contrast Jack London's The Call of the Wild and White Fang, this term and then do Farley Mowat's Lost in the Barrens next term. A will do The Hobbit this term and The Secret Garden next, and M will do some book studies on the Beatrix Potter stories.

Also somewhere in there I will be doing the week-to-week music at church, and working on arrangements for the CD project, and trying to maintain a sense of order and peace in our house.

And then of course there will be the 79% of weeks that don't go as I planned, and the much-anticipated visits from family members that push the book work waaaay down the priority list.

Looks fun.

I'm seeing more and more leaves starting to change. Summer has been cool, wet, too short, and now it seems to be on its way out the door.

Monday, 25 August 2008

and now for something completely different

It wouldn't be my blog without the occasional Monty Python reference.

We had a crazy busy fun encouraging exciting relaxing-at-the-end weekend. Between birthday parties (A&M), a youth group overnight event (R), hosting a visitor to our church from Alabama, the farmers' market, a church-wide BBQ (a whole pig), and Sunday morning's usual routine, it all passed in a blur of driving and doing.

Sunday afternoon we headed to Seren and RSH's cottage for Gaffer's bday party. And it was lovely. We swam in the lake, sat on the raft, ate, talked, laughed. After the rest of the party guests went home, D and I and the girls stayed on overnight. Much more fun together ensued, including several you-had-to-be-there moments. D took today off work and we were there until after an early supper.

So, not much of that is completely different. But a few things happened that were out of the ordinary.

First, on Friday I checked my mail to find an envelope from CCLI, with whom I'd registered my songs. Expecting to find something to sign, I opened it to find a cheque. A royalty cheque. I have now officially been paid for the use of something I've written. I feel like a real songwriter now. Tres cool and enough to make me really quite giddy.

Then Sunday, after church I was talking with someone who asked a question I get occasionally ("so when are you making a CD of your stuff?") to which I responded with my usual laugh and "when I get a few thousand bucks to get into the studio". Then came the hit: "so you're looking for investors?" and a very serious request to contact him when I'm going forward with it because when I do, he's in. Later, I was chatting with someone else who asked the same question, got my same answer, and then said "well, we would want to support you in that".

And I was dumbfounded.

Still am, really.

I'd never considered this avenue. D and I have been planning to make up a proposal for the church, to see if they could help out and then be paid back until it's all covered by CD sales. Pay them back before we get any gain from it. But individuals? Never crossed our minds. And now we need to rethink it all.

But it sure is fun thinking. Scary, but fun.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

changes afoot

I was reminded by goaliemom that I've not blogged in a while. So, here I am again.

Much of life has been ordinary days, caring for the farm and chickens (whose date of demise is now set as Sept. 3rd. Yes, I will celebrate my birthday with a trip to the slaughterhouse), keeping up with the veggie garden and hoping that someday soon those green tomatoes will ripen, working by the back fields to keep them drained, prepping for and selling at the farmers' market, rehearsing with the band, keeping tabs on the girls. Oh, and housework, which always is pushed to the bottom of the list in the summer.

But last weekend D and I celebrated 17 years since we got married. Whew! Where did all that time go? We had a lovely dinner at Cabotto's, including sambuca and espresso as an accompaniment to creme brulee for dessert. I do love creme brulee and want to learn to make it, if for no other reason than to have an excuse to have a blowtorch in the kitchen.

I got the girls' school books last week, and spent some time going through them. Looks like a busy but good year ahead. The year ahead also has a couple of big changes to our schedule.

We're not doing Awana this year; the program has been awesome and has provided a great foundation for the girls, but I was getting the feeling at the end of last year that it has served its purpose for our family. So after 8 years, were done with that.

The harder decision was to not have the kids continue in highland dance. After 5 years of dance lessons, we were all set to make the trek each week (35 minutes each way) because if the girls were dancing, we liked the teacher they had in Manotick and figured the drive was worth it. Then, a month ago, a riding school opened up 3.5km from our house. And they can have their lesson in the day, every other week (with 3 kids riding, that makes the financial end much more reasonable). So this year, equestrian replaces dance. It'll be quite a change, but the girls are looking forward to it and much as I loved to see them dancing, the closer proximity and the evening off are cheering me up quite a bit.

Friday, 8 August 2008

a post with little purpose

This is the summer of strange weather. Not record highs or lows per se, though we must have set some sort of rainfall record, but just like the day can't decide what to do. Sunny, cloudy, rain, sun, thunder, rain, sun, wind, no wind. And that was this afternoon.

On the bright side the rain wasn't started this morning and so D got in his third round of golf this week. He's had a good mix of at-home work and play on his holiday.

Today's question: will the energy we saved this summer by not running the a/c (not once!) be cancelled out by my weekly use of the stove in making jam and biscuits for the farmer's market?

Thursday, 7 August 2008

short and sweet

Not feeling very wordy today. See? That wasn't even a complete sentence. No subject at all. And that last sentence had no verb.

And in less than a month, I'll be teaching my kids grammar. Go figure!

I'm looking forward to school again this year but with some trepidation as R officially enters the Junior High years (how did little R become a Grade 7 kid?) and some gears shift. Her grammar exercises will be replaced with learning to write well and proofread her work; her straight Math lessons start leaning strongly towards Algebra, and she launches into some comparative novel studies. We're moving from facts to application, from taking in to expressing, from listening to critical thinking. No sweat, right?

Ha! Good one!

But we continue to enjoy the last month of summer vacation, especially with D at home this week (plant shutdown). He's taken each of the girls golfing with him (M and A at 9 holes each, while R lasted a whole 18). They've been walking the round with him and to see the girls doing with their dad what I so fondly recall doing with my dad just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Let's see ... farm. The garden is lush and the tomatoes just waiting to ripen. The farmer's market has been a real success; we won't get rich off it but we're not in the red and all three of the girls are becoming adept at marketing and selling, knowing their product and chatting with the people who stop by our booth. Sometimes I laugh and realize that I can wander away and leave them in charge.

Just realized that I am, in fact, more wordy than I had thought. Well, it's nice to be surprised every now and then.

I weighed a chick the other night, much to his chagrin. Five pounds, as far as I could tell, as the scale wobbled and he squawked at me. So, given my Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens chart of live weight versus dressed weight (i.e., live chicken minus everything they remove to give you a tidy naked chicken on a styrofoam tray), that boy would give us about a three-pound roaster. Not too bad for a six-week-old chicken. We expanded the chicks' outside area to encourage them to move around more because frankly, some of them are becoming coop potatoes and making me think of the stats on childhood obesity. The new area plus some scattered feed does have them curious and scratching about. The camera I had with me got some of them pretty interested, too.

Their proportions are funny - their feet are about the same size as the hens', but their bodies are much smaller. Like puppies with big feet. They are still babyish in their peeps, though the squawking is getting more common.

Question of the day: how does one encourage a chicken to exercise? Minus 'let a fox in the run', of course.

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.