We’re in for a blow!

This week has been so busy! My son’s 11th birthday was Saturday so after getting all the laundry caught up, washing the kitchen floor, and baking a birthday angel food cake that flopped out of the pan and all over the counter in a smushed mess when it was turned upside down to cool, and the subsequent Dairy Queen ice cream cake was served at the actual party, I had some time on Sunday to do some research and contemplating and daydreaming. So, while the wind was hurling porch furniture cushions onto the grass in the front yard, here’s what I came up with. 

But, I’m ahead of myself. I actually went into Walmart on Friday – something I haven’t done in a very long time and I bought a magazine and a few  bouncy balls that were 2 for $5. I figured the kids (six of them on our block that play together every day) could throw them around outside and entertain themselves for a few hours while I washed the kitchen floor… again. The magazine was Martha Stewart Living, July 2012 issue. Now, I don’t normally buy magazines anymore, either, but this one had a picture of S’mores on the front with a note to the side that said “the s’more upgrade (yes, it’s possible)” and I had to read exactly HOW this was possible.
On Sunday, I actually had time to sit and read. Of course the whole magazine, more or less, is about the 4th of July and the celebrations that go along with the holiday. Recipe’s for lobster bakes, chilled soups, cute table arrangements and settings. The home made graham crackers look pretty fabulous, too, but I haven’t tried them yet.
There’s an article in there about a couple that bought an old camp in Wisconsin and turned around while saving the integrity of the era in which it had thrived. The camp is called “Wandawega Lake Resort” (Google it! You’ll love it! I don’t know how to add a link to it yet, sorry.) and it is charming!  A tire swing, a tent hill, a few cabins, tennis court, horseshoe pit, shuffle board, archery range, the whole nine yards. All set up to enjoy the leisure time of camp. I began wondering how difficult it would be to create a spot like this, with the feelings it conjures of a time when we were kids, enjoying all that summer offers, at the farm. I thought about the corner of our field by the old apple tree, selectively cleared out, it could host a few scout tents and a camp fire pit. A 12′ circle mowed in the field, cropped close to the ground like a golf green to play giant marbles with a dozen or so bouncy balls. A craft cabin for rainy days where wind chimes, tree bark canoes, dogwood baskets, dream catchers and leather arts could be created. A tether ball, and archery range. An outdoor kitchen and picnic tables for group events. And maybe, just maybe a huge free standing fireplace with an enormous hearth down by the pond for winter skating parties. (well, maybe that last one could take a few years)
A Canada Day weekend at our place could turn into an annual event filled with good friends, tons of kids, campfires and s’mores! This thought makes me smile with my soul, as the sky opens up and washes my cushions down the street.

Daydreaming up a storm….




I am starting to settle in after our trip, and it’s about time, too. It has taken me nearly two weeks to get back into the groove of being at home. I still have to put away my suitcases, although they are completely unpacked. I still have to finish up that laundry, and get back into the housework swing, but I can’t say I’m “itchin'” to do that. So far, I have just allowed my dogs to sit on my lap and follow me around and walk in the park with them to THEIR heart’s content. I have cuddled my boy and read to him at night and help him with a school project and cuddle some more. This is the part that makes me think going away is a great thing. I don’t think I have had this many hugs EVER – boy or canine!

I did so love Italy, though. The countryside, where we stayed, was breathtaking. I couldn’t capture the scope and depth of the hills in my photographs but, bless me, I just kept trying. I think I have over 300 photos just of the hills in Abruzzo!

San Giorgio Hills, Abruzzo

It is frowned upon to have a monoculture on farms in Italy. Preservation of the soil, of the local plant life and of history is paramount. Most farms are small, with under 100 acres, and plant olive trees, fruit trees, vineyards, and have animals, like ducks, geese, chickens, goats, sheep and maybe even a few cows. Every part of the farm benefits other parts of the farm. It’s no wonder I felt at home there!

I did wash and trim some lovely strawberries for one of our meals there. They are such beautiful berries, with their stems still on, and a few leaves, they are smaller than the ones we normally get in Canada, and redder, and shinier, and oh, so tastier! And once I had trimmed them for the table, there were all these lovely strawberry hulls and leaves and stems that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away – especially with all those beautiful orpington chickens living next door. So I took them over to the chickens, and asked the farmer if I could give this snack to his chickens. He understood not one word of my question and looked at me rather absurdly, until I gestured with a few, pretending to throw them over the fence and his face lit up. “Ci! Ci!” he said. Although this farmer had embarrassingly caught me photographing his chickens on a regular basis, and usually at around 6 or 7am, and tried to teach me how to say “chicken” or “duck” in italian, I was so mortified that he caught me with my camera like some city slicker and the only thing missing was my 5″ heels. I don’t remember how to say “chicken” or “duck” in italian. But, his chickens loved me from that moment on, and I continued to bring them treats.

He had sheep, too. About a dozen of them, and they, more than the rooster, announced the morning for us each day at feeding time. There was one morning when I heard a goat, and I leapt out of bed, looked out the window to see the farmer’s wife leading a doe to be milked. She circled their stone barn to get the milk pail and I jumped into my clothes and ran down the stairs and out into the yard with my camera just in time to see her circling the barn again, doe in tow, to milk on the other side of her barn, on the other side of the fence, and out of sight of me. I must have looked really hopeful at first and then terribly dismayed because when I came back to the house, my honey was laughing and consoling at the same time.

Across the road

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.