Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas One and All

Emil (the hairball) at his Christmas party

Scott's brother Bruce and his Uncle Jack provided the musical entertainment

While clients and staff danced away the afternoon

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Writing for Justice

What I did while oatmeal rolls were in the oven

Some people donate a kidney to a stranger; this can extend the life of a struggling kidney patient by 10 years, or so I heard on the radio this week, when a man of 21 was interviewed after doing so. I don't have the guts to give up a kidney — not right now, anyway — so I do what I can in my own small way. I thought I was being pretty brave to sign up to donate bone marrow if I'm ever found to be a match to someone struggling with leukemia. And of course if any of my body parts could be of use when I die, others are welcome to them. But donating a kidney while you're still using it displays compassionate courage that is beyond my grasp at present. Knowing of others who have recently made this sacrifice for someone they've never met drives home to me just how noble I am not. In case I was kidding myself before.

Instead I send Amnesty International a monthly donation to help carry on the fight for human rights around the world, and today I sat down to write letters to world leaders on behalf of prisoners of conscience and their families. I'm adding my little drop to the river of pressure brought to bear on the policy makers of countries that torture, imprison and murder those who don't agree with them.

A read through Amnesty International's quarterly newsletter, making me aware of specific people being held in captivity right now for their peaceful protest against their governments, is a potent reminder of how fortunate I am to live where I do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

With Sifeta's Permission: Photos from Bosnia (Part One)

Sifeta and her husband; click to enlarge.

Sifeta's house and yard

Sifeta's village in Bosnia

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Farflung Friends

The train passes as we wait, on our way to the Hendon Hotel for chicken wings last week. Not much snow for this time of  year. Nice for walking -- not falling on my face due to ice.

The stop sign is perfect for me for the moment, as I am itching to post the photos of Sifeta and her husband and home and village in Bosnia. Yeah! But first I must have her permission, so you will just have to wait. With me.

If you aren't catching it in the comments, Sifeta is a woman in Bosnia that I sponsored this past year through a small (less than $30) monthly donation to Women for Women International, which is one way of helping women who have suffered war in their country (click HERE to see what it's all about). She has handwritten and snailmailed me a couple letters and I have replied via an email to WfW, which must have recently delivered my letter to her because a couple days ago she commented on the blog.

Scott has gone to take Emil back to his home in town and then will go to the family farm a mile down the road and do "chores" for a couple hours. He and his brother shipped some calves off for sale this week so I don't know how many animals remain to look after. I think they usually put out some bales for feed, and some straw bales get spread around for the cattle to "bed down" on, and they have to give them drinking water, and I suppose they're already giving them grain ("chop").

Anyway, I have to wait till he gets back to show him the photos. He will be as thrilled as I am, I'm sure. He will see details in those photos that I have not given a second thought to, and point them out to me. Always, always take Scott along on any tour. He misses nothing.

In other news from overseas, Scott's cousin Lasse who lives in Sweden has said he and his sweetheart Marit plan to come and visit. Woo hoo! Marit recently had a healthy lottery win and the two of them took a trip she had dreamed of since she was a little girl. They blogged about it here: Svalbardresan. You will have to use Translator to read it, but it's worth the time.

Further down my page here there is a list of blogs kept by a few of our family members, listed under "Famdamily." Lasse has been lazy about getting around to updating his recently (Yes I'm talking to you, mister!), but can you blame him? He usually writes it in English out of kindness toward his Canadian readers, so I am sure each entry takes a little more time than he has to spare. He seems to be the "busy" type, something like another man I know well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Saturday in December

For once I managed to snap a picture of Emil before he had a chance to put a shit-eating grin on his face.
He likes this bed in the office, he tells me — often.
He can't wait to go to his dad's at Christmas, he tells me — often.
He's the one who likes to give me kisses, he tells me — often.
There are many Emilisms, but naturally they don't all come to mind when I try to access them.

In other news, here is my second attempt at "Hearty Oatmeal Rolls." I broke down and replaced half the whole wheat flour with white. And threw in a handful of flax seed.  And used honey instead of brown sugar. And some are different sizes on purpose, although I could never make them all the same size if I tried. They're delish, but next time I'm just going to make the large ones. Eight giants instead of the 32 davids suggested in the original recipe.

This morning Scott watched a "huge" coyote chase the red fox across our yard, followed by our border collie cross. I missed the show, but later had the misfortune of watching Ace the Cat snacking on a bird he caught at the feeders. I hate that.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Out, Out, Damn Cat!

One of three poor-tasting oranges I, from the front door,  used as projectiles to deter a cat from stalking (and catching, dammit) the birds
It didn't work. He thought they were something to play with.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Click to enlarge.

Posted for WiseWebWoman, who is suffering a bout of bronchitis.

Ready for a Snow Day

Slowcooker baked beans, frozen in sandwich bags

I must be a bit weird, because as I post this photo I'm well aware that most people couldn't care less what is in my freezer... but I'd love to see what is in yours!
What've we got here ... drained water from steamed vegetables, frozen to use next time I bake bread; sunflower-oatmeal-honey-wholewheat bread, sliced; pita bread; ice cubes in trays and ice cubes in a bag, where they don't stick together; and what's left of the homemade beans I made on the weekend. Good thing I doubled the batch, that's all I can say.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fox Lady

Emil's Christmas party was last night so he stayed in town, but phoned this morning to request I drive in and pick him up. On the way home, not far from our driveway, we spotted this lovely red fox that has been stalking the barn cats. It is not remotely afraid. It was in the field on the other side of the ditch, and when I stopped my van it stayed put ... and actually came toward the vehicle as I dug the camera out of my purse and Emil rolled down his window.

Perhaps it is half blind, or deaf! Or just starving and intent on its hunting. Because after snapping these photos I even had time to find the movie setting and follow the little creature for a while. I whistled several times to get its attention when it was looking away from the camera, and then got out of the van and called after it, "Shouldn't you at least be a little afraid?" It ignored me.

It should be afraid, but it isn't. Scott says it came right up to his truck the other day. That's not a good thing, really, but it sure is a treat to have time to observe a wild animal instead of watching it fade into the distance the moment it notices you.

In the little video I got, you can tell it is definitely hunting; it pounces on the snow, probably after a mouse. Better that than the kittenfish.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blondi Shows You Her Twits

After the walk

Over at the Stubblejumpers Café webpage, you will find my twitter feed displayed. I've decided Blondi Blathers should make use of it to add to the page's content, because it is a handy tool for passing on interesting and useful links. And fun links. I signed up for Twitter a long time ago because of my job; it is a way of getting the word out and communicating with existing and potential readers, among other things, and that's important. But it wasn't until I started "following" comedian Ricky Gervais that I got hooked. He has been tweeting often and consistently and he is smart and funny.

Me, I'm only funny looking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In My Shoes

Walking in the late afternoon

In a day or two it will be six months since I started walking (briskly, without fail, and for a minimum number of minutes) four times a week, and usually more often. At first I worried about rain keeping me indoors; never happened, as we didn't have a full day of rain even once this summer.

Now I wonder how I'll cope when the wind combines with low temperatures this winter, but think I may well get out there and walk no matter what. Why? Because my body has begun to insist. It has begun to love pushing itself up to speed, breathing deeply of the clean fresh air, coming back tired and sweaty. It feels good. When a day or two of walking gets missed due to distraction or migraine or travel, my body is delighted to get back out there again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Care of Cast Iron

Seasoning the cast-iron pan after each use, as per instructions. It's working; easy to clean, now.

I had tried this once before, seasoning the pan for several hours, but just one time, and when afterwards it was as tough as ever to clean, I deduced that nothing but a scratch pad, soap and elbow grease would do the trick.

At Chef Joanne's a few weeks ago I noticed her seasoning her pan and took mental notes, the main difference being that she does it after each use. In my case this can mean more than once a day sometimes! But I've stuck to it anyway, and now the pan just takes a quick scrub.

She set her burner to #2; my eyes react to the oil in the air at that temperature, so I've turned the stove down and will let the pan sit a little longer; hope that works as well.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Over and Done With

What the porch looked like the night before

This thing parked on the flowerbed and started digging.

This thing delivered the concrete septic tank

Septic tank; I had no idea there was a large rectangular box too. Live 'n' learn.

Before they came in for supper and drinks, they buried the septic tank and filled the lagoon with clay. Scott still has some connecting lines to work on, but the dastardliest of the deeds is done. The next day he called me over to look at the spot where the lagoon used to be; not that I care how it looks, as it's in the pasture and behind trees, but maybe it was just to share a moment of relief and triumph. Thank god that horror is over with. Now just to come up with the $7000 or so to pay the bill.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Operation Successful

Blondi Blathers gives you the run-down on her day as a support service worker for men putting in the septic tank (not too tough, in comparison), while Brainie swans about Costa Rica ... click here: No Shit.

And now ... I've gotta get busy! It's going to be another full day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hey, Lagoon! Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Ass on the Way Out

Pileated Woodpecker 

Wouldn't you know that on the day there is a monster machine digging a giant hole off my back step, the digital camera would quit working? Actually it hasn't quit, but it's refusing to upload the photos. I wish I was a person who was good at figuring out the reasons for these things, and how to fix them. Alas, no.

So you're stuck looking at the pileated woodpecker that stopped in the oak trees some time ago. It didn't stay long. This kind of woodpecker is a rarity around here — for me, anyway.

It's a gorgeous day again, temperature hovering around the freezing point, minor wind, sun shining brightly. I spent the morning doing dishes, sorting through a desk drawer, and making lunch for Scott and Terry, who is operating the monster machine. Very plain lunch: boiled potatoes, meatloaf, kernel corn. I put out sliced cheddar and dill pickles, and made chocolate fudge with coffee for dessert. Wouldn't you know, the fudge didn't harden. That virtually never happens with this recipe. Hmph.

Well, if I want to have a sinkful of water available to wash the lunch dishes before they cut off the water supply (Scott will be hooking up the brand-spanking-new septic tank; yes, he can also do plumbing. I'm so impressed), I'd best go get it run.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Bastards Can Go Straight to Hell

Seen at

A friend of ours who doesn’t own a computer received a call like the one we received this week. The man at the other end introduced himself as a technical support person and said they had discovered we are having some problems with our computer, and they would like to help us reconfigure our settings so that it would work properly.

He sounded ever so professional, I am sure (Scott spoke with him), but of course he is a scammer and as soon as he gets you to give him the information he needs about your computer, he can hack into it and copy your banking records, credit card numbers, passwords, anything you do online. Then he can go on a shopping spree.

There is no one who should be calling you about your computer problems. When you have a computer problem, YOU call THEM. Your internet service provider, or your bank, or your phone company, does not need to call you for any information or send you an email asking you to confirm your settings or passwords. They’ve already got your passwords; the legitimate company does not need you to verify anything over the phone or by email.

If someone claiming to be a legitimate business is calling you, hang up, look for the number of your internet provider or whoever the caller is claiming to be affiliated with, and call the company yourself, directly. Do not follow any link the caller provides you with, or call any number they give you.

It sounds simple enough, but these guys are good at what they do, and they very often convince people that changes are required or else big problems are in the offing.

The bottom line is: if they’re asking you to give them numbers or passwords, or telling you to enter anything into your computer, or even to click on a link they send or go to an url they give you, they’re scammers.

I’m such a cynic about phone scams that I won’t donate to any charity that telephones me. Not a one. In the past couple weeks I received two phone calls from World Wildlife Fund, asking if I could increase my monthly donation. I was having no truck with that and gave the caller short shrift. Then I found the WWF email address online and sent them a short letter: call off your dogs (if indeed these weren’t scammers who phoned me), or my monthly donations will stop immediately. Most of the money brought in by these hired fundraisers goes to the fundraising companies themselves, anyway. I believe it's upwards of 80 per cent. And even if these callers, for example, were volunteers who are dedicated to the planet's wildlife, I don't want to be approached by phone.

What kind of scams have the bastards tried to pull on you, lately?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Week in Pictures

I opened a bottle of wine earlier in the week. Had two glasses so far. Managed to squeeze this in next to my computer.

One day I tried a new recipe: "hearty oatmeal rolls." Being the gal I am,  I made a few substitutions. We can blame the size of these puppies on the fact that I used whole wheat flour instead of white. Pathetic, aren't they? I'm going to try again though, because they tasted great. Will make them twice the size next time. Still, I gave these to the cats this morning. Never could make 'em all the same size; same with a batch of bread.  

Scott has a very bad cold; he barely has the energy to make himself a cup of tea. However, the basement must be ready for plumbing-in (or somesuch) the septic tank on Tuesday, so he's down there wielding a jackhammer. I've called in reinforcements; we'll see who shows up before he collapses. 

The sun's shining and there is no wind, so I went for a half-hour walk today and filled all five birdfeeders when I returned. It may be 20-below, but without wind that doesn't seem cold to me anymore. After all, I wear ski pants. :p

Wherever I go, my faithful companion Ducky is not far behind. Little sweetheart. 

Emil is here for the weekend. He is going to play cards with me whether he likes it or not. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Winter Walk


I knew winter walking was going to be a challenge. Today I went out in the early afternoon when the sky was grey and the wind, once I was out in the open, bit my cheeks and eyelids. Indeed I really will have to buy a balaclava; no more kidding around. Crike-ey. I managed 20 minutes out there before coming in.

At fourish I tried again. The sun was shining by then and the wind had settled down enough that I could walk to the south corner and back, which took 30 minutes. It was the first day cold enough to sting my fingers when I took my mitts off to get pictures.

Yonder lieth the corner

It was a glorious walk.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Old Photographs Sorted

I'm the babe in the photos on the top left, with my mommy and daddy.
The pictures I brought home have been sorted yet again, into a basket for the coffee table in the living room, and envelopes with those that will go to other friends and relatives, and a box of several that I may enlarge and frame. Or something. Open to ideas. These are quite small snapshots and not blurry as they appear below.

Engdahls, Grandma Johnson's parents and siblings. Little sister Karen and me, bottom right.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Main Street Pilger

Beer Parlour/ Pub/Bar/Hotel

We had snow, sure, but the past few days have been mild like an Okanagan winter. I took a drive to Pilger to spend a couple days with my friend Joanne (Trinkets and Tales). But do you think I could drag the woman out for a walk? Hell no, had to go all by my lonesome. No dog, even. I made sure to complain, after kicking the snow off my boots, that it didn't even take 15 minutes to walk around the whole town.

No I didn't stop for a cold one. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Election Day in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan flag

I'll get to town later to cast my ballot. I'm working at my desk, while three-bean-chili simmers in the slowcooker. Kurt is out in the garden, digging up rosebushes, purple coneflowers and a plume poppy after shoveling snow away. It's a pleasant day for being outside if you keep your ears covered. I managed to walk to the corner and back at noon but not without my trusty ski pants. They have been moved from the closet to a hook in the porch. It's time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Love These Leisurely Sunday Mornings

Ace has to be at the centre of everything

One day last week I allowed myself a walk that wasn't a cardio workout. This was long overdue and it did me a world of good. I squeezed under the electric wire and scouted out our own little bit of property rather than taking the road as usual. You can't march across the pasture or you'll twist an ankle for sure.

Accompanying me were the two dogs and Ace, who at one point started to disappear with the dogs into the bush till I called him to me. "They'll leave you behind out here, you know! You can't trust 'em!" He listened to me, too, but you could tell he felt he should be with his pack.

At the back of the pasture there is bush and, within it, a slough. The cows must spend a lot of time back there as the grass between the trees is beaten into paths and chewed down so it's a magical wandering-place for an afternoon visitor in the late fall sunshine of a windless day. There behind the rise of a small hill is the perfect private place for a tipi.

I still imagine having a tipi, after 20 years or more. Probably something to do with tents, with camping, the luxury/roughing-it combination that is so satisfying as long as you are warm and dry and have everything you need close at hand.

On the way back to the yard I sat and rested on a piece of unused old machinery (it was rusty metal, whatever it is) and the cat joined the dogs to dig through a clump of grass after something they heard or smelled. Although I don't think Ace can see or smell very well. Is that normal for cats?

This youngster was a little surprised we were out there

Our yard from the north

That is, one evening last week. I have to get my small backlog of snapshots up (you people are so demanding! with your insistence on up-to-the-moment reporting) because here's what Golden Grain Farm looks like this morning:

Looks like the flowerbed won't get finished unless the snow melts. Hm. Not likely at this late date.

The captain of the world organizes it from his sickbed

I've made him a pot of yarrow & spearmint tea (both from our yard), bade him put on socks and something to keep his upper back warm, made sure he's dosed himself up with Cold FX and echinacea extract, and suggested he find some comedies to watch.

My choice would be Coronation Street, which makes me burst out laughing during almost every episode. I bet if you don't watch the show you don't think of it as a comedy, but I swear a half-hour of Corrie St is funnier than any of the popular sitcoms with their "what was funny about that, I ask you" punchlines and bogus laugh tracks. At least, any that I've seen recently. Except The Ricky Gervais Show, which is also quite amusing. I definitely admire Gervais's wit and sensibility, and his ability to split his own gut does split mine. Oh dear, so much television, so little time!

Forgotten Bookmarks has an appropriate entry today, a Get Well card. You might want to swing down to the list of links at the bottom of this page every once in a while; surely you'd find something of interest. But today, click here.

Wonder what the kittenfish will think of this, their first substantial snow.

A coyote ran right across our front lawn this afternoon and sat in front of the maple tree till we scared it off (could it have heard my delighted shriek? or just Scott knocking on the window?) — before I could get the camera.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Flowerbed Building and Birthday Boy

Scott's cousin Kurt starts digging up the lawn

Scott walks in while I'm doing something at the kitchen counter and says, "I've decided it has to be a septic tank." He has been hemming and hawing about whether to put time and money into working on the lagoon and then maybe this winter it would do the trick, or digging a septic tank in and having done with the b.s. "Let's phone Kurt and see if he can come and help you move those rosebushes."

So I'm outside in my fluffy white housecoat with a winter jacket over top, bare feet slipped into shoes, to confab about where the rosebushes should go before Scott leaves to haul bales. A heavy frost is on the grass this morning and the forecast for tomorrow is our first dump of snow.

Kurt is racing the elements as he has to dig down a foot or more into clay, and there are stones from the old foundation, and caragana roots sometimes encroach as well. I would be frustrated as hell, jumping with both feet onto the shovel and getting it only a half-inch into the ground each time. I'm happy to let Kurt plug away at it while Emil dries the dishes I wash. Then I haul out the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip bran muffins.

But first, tea.

Did I mention my youngest son turns 19 today?

I like to sing him that song, that Carpenters song, you know it:

"On the day that you were born
The angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true ...
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
And golden starlight in your eyes of blue -- "

Oh hell, here's the way it's supposed to sound!

When I sing it he gets pissed off, but I care not, because when it comes to my little sweetie, every word rings true.

Meeses to Pieces

Seen on the way to town, mother and child grazing on winter wheat

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dream House No More

To walk to either corner of our road and back doesn't give me quite the brisk 45 minutes the doctor ordered, so I usually go a few minutes beyond and then turn around. For a change I crossed the correction line and strolled down a long driveway that takes you to an old farmyard where no one lives anymore.

The barn is starting to sag a little in disrepair and the farmhouse is disappearing behind trees.

Maggie Polito, you may be envious to hear that a couple years ago when Shelly came out to see me, she looked longingly at this old house and yard with an eye to purchasing it for herself as a summer retreat. I would have loved that, but advised her to hang onto her cash and park her camper in my yard (or move herself into our house if she likes) instead. It'd be a lot less expensive and besides, the old farmhouse is no longer livable. I think raccoons have taken over the inside.

When she comes to visit she still keeps her eyes peeled for little farmyards she can make her own, though. That Alberta girl must have some Saskatchewan blood in her somewhere, calling to her "Come home, come home!"


Family members on the Bartley side may be interested in the photos I sat up late last night posting to the page "Aunt Alma's Yukon." See above. I will get in there and clean the page up eventually and add more of her pictures.

Meanwhile it's back to work for this old girl for a couple more hours before heading to town to pick Emil up for the weekend. Everett, in Edmonton with his dad, turns 19 tomorrow so Emil and I will purchase a cake and eat it for him. Least we can do.


And furthermore ... one reason I really enjoy my job ... is that in the course of a working day I often come across things like this:
A clip from Wild Life, the newest short from Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Down on the Farm

Scott's brother Bruce throwing bales into the loft

Surely we are going to get some snow one of these days!

Meanwhile, Letters of Note has a cute one today: click here to see it.

Yesterday they had one handwritten by Madonna as an application for an early acting job. She was 19 I think.


Something possessed me to start cleaning the porch. You know how that goes: you pick up one thing to put it away, then see something else you might as well move while you're noticing, then what the hell the floor needs a good sweeping, and next thing you know the entire room is in flux and there goes an hour of your day. All the hours of my day are like that!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Close Call

Looking left
When you live on a farm and approach a country road like this one, where you can see quite a ways in both directions, you easily get into the habit of looking left and right and slowing but not stopping at the yield sign. This is what I’ve been doing, and obviously it has to change because on the weekend I pulled onto the correction line only to be shocked by a neighbour’s half-ton whizzing by the windshield, just inches away.

I had looked both ways — Scott was with me, and saw me do it as he himself was reaching into the back seat — but one glance in each direction is not enough. Because see that bar there? (Never mind the cat pawprints on the glass; I went back a couple days later just to take these pictures for you and remind myself how close we came to a serious dustup; the pawprints weren't there on the afternoon in question.)

Looking right
That three-inch-wide bar creates a blind spot into which a moving vehicle disappears for only a moment or two. But it’s long enough to be the cause of a terrible accident.

So, don’t look once in each direction. Look TWICE.

A near-miss like this has happened to me before. I can remember at least two other times. I swear, there are traffic angels on my side or I'd've been toast years ago.

From now on I stop completely at all intersections, even if I’m miles from a busy road, even if I feel like an over-cautious old lady. I’ll be an unmangled old lady and my passengers and other drivers will be safer, and that’s what matters.

The day after this incident I phoned the neighbour to apologize. “You can send me your drycleaning bill,” I said.

He’d seen me at the corner, thought I was going to stop, had already moved over when I didn't, and was prepared to “take the ditch” if necessary. So Scott and I were not in any danger, it turns out, due to our neighbour being 10 times more on the ball than I was. Thank goodness Mr B’s truck hurtled past before he had to hit the ditch. It must be hard to live with when you’re responsible for an accident that hurts someone.