Monthly Archives: April 2012

Porcupine got her….


EllaSo last summer, after everyone else had headed back home, my son to his dad, my sweetie back to work, I was at the ol’ homestead by myself, with my dog. It was a beautiful day, as it usually was last summer. Ella had run into the woods and I was clearing rocks out of the market garden, some of them bigger than my head.
After about 20 minutes, I realized I hadn’t seen the Ella girl for a while and called out to her. Usually, all I have to do is think ‘hmm, wonder where that dog is’ and she appears. But this time, she didn’t. I called again, scanning the tree line on the far side of the field, and still no Ella.
This was unlike her. She usually stuck right around wherever I was, which is why I had no worries about having her off leash at the farm. I went back to the trailer to see if she was hiding in some shade, or if she had found something she was digging up, a favourite pastime of hers.
Nope. Still no Ella.
I got in the car and drove down to the road, and over to the next farm looking for her. No Ella.
Turned around, back up our drive and as I crested the hill, I saw her coming out of the back woods, behind the workshop. She was pawing at her face and looked very much like someone just after they have walked through a spider web. I called to her, she looked up, started toward me and stopped to paw her face again.
Once I got close enough to see her face, I noticed the quills.
Those first few moments, I had no idea what to do. Then I remembered someone telling me to clip off the tips of the quills to avoid tearing the flesh as much upon removal. I ran to the workshop and grabbed some pliers and wire cutters, then to the trailer to get some water and a cloth. Ella followed me. I’m sure she knew I was preparing to help her – the poor little girl. Nine quills in her face and three in her right paw, one of those between her toes.
Once I had a bowl of warm water, a bowl of cold water, and several clean cloths, I backed her bottom up against a wall and grabbed the tip of the first with the wire cutters and clipped off the end. It was quick and Ella hardly moved. The other tips had already broken off with all her pawing at them, except for the one between her toes. I cut that tip quickly, too. Then got to work with the pliers. She was nervous and kept tossing her head every time I tried to get hold of it, but the pliers grabbed quickly and when she tossed her head, it came out.
I thought about wiping the little trickle of blood away before getting to the others but I figured, if that was me, I’d want them all out ASAP – no messing around. I grabbed for the next, and the next, and in less than 5 minutes, I had them all out. Then I washed gently with the warm water, every spot that had taken a quill, and followed it with cold water, only because I thought it might feel better to have cool water over those injury’s. I purposefully didn’t use any soap or detergent in case it could cause irritation to the wound or remove some beneficial bacteria dogs have to help heal wounds. As I wiped the cloth over her face and foot, I was feeling for more quills, in case she had broken them off right at her skin, but didn’t find any more. The one between her toes bled quite a bit, and for a long time. Once I finished, she went to lie down on her bed in the back of the trailer, and shook for a while. I checked on her every half hour for the next few hours, and mostly she just looked sad. I had wrapped her foot in some strips of towel to slow the bleeding and I changed those a few times over the next few hours, but once it stopped, there was no sign of even the smallest puncture wound.
Over the next day I kept her close to me. We drove to Moncton to meet my sister’s plane and Ella slept the whole way in the car. Before we came back, I checked her all over for swelling or redness and found none.
I can’t help but feel we dodged a bullet with this one. We were very lucky she didn’t get any in her eyes or mouth.
I have since done some research on the internet to see what kinds of advice are out there for people trying to help animals after encounters with porcupines, and only one or two sites mention the clipping of the quills. One of those says it is so you can get a better grip on them, and the other says it stops a vacuum that can pull out more flesh if the tips are left on. I’m not sure how this would happen, though.
I can’t remember who told me to clip the ends off, or if I just heard it somewhere, but whomever it was and whenever it was, I am grateful. My Ella puppy is grateful, too.


The thing about sweet peas…


When I was a little girl, we lived in a rented house with a laundry stand in the back yard. Mom planted strawberries at the base of that stand and turned a broken terra cotta pot upside down in the middle of the patch of strawberries to encourage a toad to come to our garden. I used to climb the 5 or so steps up to the laundry stand and peek over the railing to see if I could spot that toad with a lovely home in the middle of a patch of strawberries. It was lost on me that we likely didn’t have a toad at the time the pot was over turned. We may not have had a toad for weeks afterward, but I was encouraged, every bit as much as our eventual toad was encouraged to be in that garden.
I don’t remember now, if I ever did find that toad for sure, but in my mind, he had a family and brought fat juicy slugs to his wife every evening at dinner time.

I learned from my mom how to be in a garden. How to plan for what will come, and how to be ready for what comes that wasn’t planned. It wasn’t until I was much older that I figured out how well that translates into life.

Mom taught me about sweet peas, too. She knew, like her mother before her, and likely her mothers mother, that planting sweet peas on Good Friday ensures a bumper crop of the tallest, most aromatic, multi-flowered stems. Even if it required the use of a pick-ax to break the frozen ground. Every year my mothers sweet peas were prolific, glorious clouds of perfection. Every year she would take bouquets to friends as hostess gifts, neighbors as friendly gestures, and family whenever she could. Every room would have a small vessel of sweet peas to brighten it, all summer long.
And although this little pearl of wisdom wasn’t really about how you should live your life, it was about living it beautifully, and with grace. And that’s the thing about sweet peas.

Beginnings, middles and endings…..


My dog is lying on the grass at the bottom of the porch stairs. The spot she chose is still straw-coloured from winter, but the sun is warming her as she lay on this bare patch of grass.
We have a high today of 11 degrees celsius. The buds are on the trees but no leaves as yet. Not much in the way of flowers. Just yellow-brown grass and sunshine, but it is a beginning.

I love beginnings. Beginning a new book, the first chapter especially. Beginning a hot vanilla lat­­e` or an adventure. The start of a long walk or a drive somewhere. The first 30 seconds at the dog park when the realization hits, the leash has been removed. A friendship. A romance. A marriage.

The middles are alright, too. I like the comfort of middles. The relaxed atmosphere of being here already for a while and there’s time still. Like Saturday mornings, or finishing a friends thought and laughing with her because you understand. Middles are good.

Endings, I like, because it means there will be a beginning again. And because endings mean rest, renewal, and regeneration.
My dog found a warm place in the sun. She stayed for a while, enjoyed the comfort and the warmth that came from being there. Then I called her inside, which ended her warmth. And I gave her a treat – the smelly liver flavoured kind – which then started something.

Today I am thinking about beginnings, partly because of the weather and my dog, but mostly because I’ll be heading the the farm in a little over two months. I’ll start packing at the beginning of June and this time will be taking anything I don’t use often but want to keep, and all my summer clothes, because the next time I head there will be when I move, at the end of June 2013.

I am thinking about middles because, to be truthful, this dream began when I was twelve, began again when I was 43, and again after I met my love at 44, again at 46 when we bought the farm, and every day since beginning again with each evolution into its’ current-rough-draft-of-a-farm.

I am thinking also about endings. We have friends here, and family. I have a home that I bought eight years ago when my son was only 2, and my dream of home ownership as a single parent was almost outside my grasp. I was house poor for ages to accomplish my wish to have each of my kids in their own room. And in the nick of time, too, as my eldest went away to university the following year.
There are memories here, more than anywhere else in the last 25 years. I will miss it. I will miss the 7 faces of my garden, as it was re-done year after year. I will miss my neighbours (well, most of them) and the kids I’ve watched grow up from birth; my sunny kitchen, the ease of the gas fireplace.
I won’t miss the fuel cost for the fireplace or the electricity, water, & sewer combined costs, the Trans Canada Highway just down the block with it’s accompanying noise, dust and grime covering every surface daily, the organic market prices, the tiny pantry, no kitchen storage, or the front door that doesn’t close properly.
So I tell myself, I can visit friends and family. They can visit me. And this ending isn’t sad at all. It’s becoming a beginning again.

The Wedding


So I haven’t posted anything about the wedding yet.
I had hoped we would be able to have it at the farm, outside, with guests perched on quilt covered hay bales on either side of a petal covered isle, leading to an alter, with an officiant covered in white robes….but we are still miles away from having comfortable spots for guests to sleep, as well as a decent place to cook for more than 10 people. Wouldn’t it be grand, though, to have some kind of celebration there for our tenth anniversary? Maybe that will have to do.

Enter Loreto Aprutino – A tiny town in Italy, only 30 kilometres from the coast, and roughly 2 hours from Rome, is the magical spot chosen for our wedding.
The bride will be dressed, unconventionally, in fuschia and white with white peony’s and a modest veil; the groom in (of course…) an italian suit, looking every bit the Sean Connery stunt double. There will be photo’s taken outside the town hall, and on the beach and in the cafe and ….. and…. and…. yes, there will be photo’s!
In just under a month, I’ll be there, with my sweetie and my world will begin again. A new chapter that I am excited to read in this book I can’t put down.

After our trip, we’ll be getting ready for our journey east once more. Back to the farm for the summer. Building fences, enriching soil, mapping future pastures and starting construction on the house.
I have been making lists for weeks now, and have narrowed down the tasks at hand, counting back from departure date to now, the things that need to be done. My plate is full, but I like it that way. I can feel the bubbling anticipation and it’s hard to sleep.
Tomorrow is Easter. I have an easy plan for the day. A drive in the country, toss around a glider in the park, pizza and a movie, then sleep. Monday the countdown begins. I’m ready.

I miss my tractor…..


1951 Ferguson Tractor - the pre-curser to the Massey Ferguson. Man oh Man, I love this tractor!

How is it possible that this born and bred city girl misses her tractor?
I have only used it maybe a dozen times, constant learning curve, all the while my stupidly long legs – the right one specifically – having to bend in weird angles to get the extra stiff clutch to move. Yes, it is a bit of a pain to drive – but WOW! is it beautiful!

It’s home is in New Brunswick, and until the move, I am in Alberta, biding my time, researching all that can be researched about farm animals and growing things. The weather here has been beautiful. The ground is thawing and the buds are on the trees. In New Brunswick it has been about 10 degrees warmer with rain and things turning green. If I were there, I’d have started seeds in the as-yet-to-be-built greenhouse, ordered saplings for planting along the road, and started on barnyard fencing. My beautiful tractor would have started the season with a tune-up and a drive around the fields.

Now, I know that “beautiful” isn’t what farming is based on. I also know that you can produce perfectly respectable, wholesome, natural, GMO free, additive free, hormone free, organic food with an ugly tractor…. or no tractor. But the fortunate opportunity to be able to choose a beautiful tractor to help with the occasional tilling or plowing or pulling before we have found a willing draft horse, presented itself two years ago. I didn’t know the first thing about tractors, but as usual, my gut served me well. I bought it, and the lovely farmer who restored it delivered it to our farm the following evening. Parked it right in the field so I could practice a while before it got dark. He even put some gas in it for me.

This Ferguson has been lovingly restored. It runs beautifully and has been cared-for well. Last summer, we used it to till up the market garden. It was to be 100’x100′ but after 3 hours and some (make that a lot) extremely large rocks were hit by the tiller, and didn’t even budge but had huge gashes in the sides of them along one side of the garden – I decided to be happy with 100′ x 50′ for the first few years. Then I will expand in another direction to save my tiller.

So, as mentioned the tilling took three hours. The rock pulling took three days. I told my son he could make a nickel for every rock he pulled out of there that was bigger than his outstretched hand. It was a hot few days and he worked and worked until I owed him $30.00! I figured, after that, what rocks were in there, could stay in there.

I really think I may be growing rocks. Hope there’s a market for them.

This tractor may help with putting a fence around this market garden. It has a three point hitch and power take-off. I hear there is a power auger that can hook up and dig post holes. It will help with delivering manure from the far side of the barn to the compost heap, then from seasoned compost heap to the garden bins where it will be stored until used. It may even help haul some of the harvest from the pumpkin patch. It may be used for hay rides in the summer, tours of the farm, to bring bales to animals or haul water to the pigs in the lower pasture. It will save my back and help me complete work a whole lot faster.

So although it is a beautiful tractor, it’s not just another pretty face.