Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Main Street Wadena

One evening we had supper at one of the three (four if you count the bakery) cafés in downtown Wadena, and watched an ominous cloud roll past Main Street.

Last night we were up till 3 a.m. because lightning was cracking nonstop all around the house. There was a steady rumbling that went on at least three hours, and Casper Dog took out another basement window screen and bent the frame irreparably before we got outside to tie her up away from the building. "We can't keep an animal that's wrecking our house," is something we are both thinking. She'd better smarten up. This is the third screen she's ruined. We will be lucky if no rodents got in before we discovered the first one with a hole in it (shiver up my spine), and if it happens sometime when we're not here ... it could get ugly. Right now the windows have to be left open in order to dry out the basement as much as possible. The dehumidifier tells us the relative humidity down there is some 88%. We may be fighting a losing battle.

For a while there I thought we might vamoose to Everett's bedroom in the basement to sleep, since he's away, and in case of a tornado. There have been some in the vicinity over the past few days and this lightning was unusually persistent, and accompanied by cold and wind.

This morning we awoke to sunshine and sultry heat.

Apparently Saskatoon had four inches of rain in less than an hour and there were a lot of flooded basements. The pump in a hole in the cement floor in our basement just keeps on a-pumpin', bless its wee heart'ie. Knock on wood.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Emil Does Dishes

Emil spent a few days at home before we delivered him and Everett to their dad on Saturday. He did some dishes.

He doesn't like shaving (does anyone?) but I've made him do it, albeit poorly, since he first got whiskers. He uses an electric razor for safety; as it is, he tends to have one sideburn two inches longer than the other, and the odd bald spot carved into his hairline.

He turned 22 last week and I said what the hell, do what you want. So there's going to be a beard.

A room in one of the group homes in town opens up Sept 1st, and he'll be moving into it and starting his job full-time, as opposed to the one and two days per week he's put in over the past two years. He's looking forward to it all. "But I can keep all my stuff, right?" Right. That was his biggest worry about moving to this house, too.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Who needs a Yorkie pup?

Karen has two that will be ready to go to new homes in about four weeks.
The one on the left is the male; he is twice the size of the female.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A One-Dog Family

Casper Doodle the Dumpling Dog

Down to one farm dog, and I think we'll keep it that way unless Buckminster Duckster III a.k.a. Little Lord Fauntleroy comes for a visit. But he's a house dog so that hardly counts.

Casper has been taking out the screens in the basement windows when it thunders. Not good, because we need those windows open to help dry out the basement.

Damn dogs. Good thing they're so loveable, or they'd never survive.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lady's Slippers

Here you go, Lasse: lady's slippers or, as you call them in Sweden, cuckoo boots.
These are already starting to wilt. There are quite a few in the very wet ditches along our road.


Everett’s Grade 12 classes have ended. His exams end Thursday, and then school's out for him, as it has been for Emil since yesterday. I ask him what he would like to do to celebrate. Go out for a meal? No, he says; all he will eat in restaurants are grilled cheese sandwiches anyway, and the portions are never enough (he could have two orders, but that hasn’t occurred to him). Have a barbecue and invite friends and family, like many graduates do? No; that doesn’t interest him. Well, what? “It would be a treat to me if I could have the house all to myself for an entire day,” he says. Perhaps that could be arranged. Little bugger.


He phoned Dad to thank him for the gift of money, and later I joked (because everyone brings this up), "And did he ask what you're going to do now?"

"Yeah," Everett said, "and he told me I would have to do something, but that there's no point him telling me anything because I have to figure it out for myself."

He added, "That's the smartest thing anyone has said!"


Excerpt from a diary entry of my favourite diary-keeper, Anaïs Nin:

July5, 1939
I'm restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Medicinal Tea

Was that a sniffle?
You need a cup of medicinal tea.
Come on over here and I'll brew some up.
This is wild yarrow and dried rosehips gathered in the fall, and spearmint from last summer's herb garden.
It'll fix you right up.

This year I've planted only two new herbs: lemon thyme, and lavender. The former will be used in the kitchen and the latter I'll make a scented oil with. Two or three drops in the bathtub are relaxingly fragrant and a couple drops on your pillow bring restful sleep.

My oregano did not come back from the roots but started new colonies in several places rather distant from the original plant. At least I hope it's oregano; we use a lot of it. Last year I just froze the leaves whole; works dandy.

I haven't been anywhere to replace the two basil plants that withered and died after several days of wicked cold wind several weeks ago. I'd like to buy a lemon verbena plant, too; a generous herb-growing man gave me one last year, introducing me to a lovely tea. I still have some of the dried leaf, which has been doled out carefully so that it will last. It's time to use it up; after a year, herbs start to lose their potency and flavour.

What there is plenty of is feverfew, a pretty plant with little white flowers for fighting migraines. It reseeds itself and, grimacing, I eat a fresh leaf every day during the season. I want to consume it year-round without putting it into capsules. Maybe I can disguise its sharp, acrid flavour if I put a pinch of it in with more pleasant-tasting herbs to make a tea— not too much though. The first and only time I tried that, I threw the tea out.


I’ve told Everett he has to work in the yard (i.e. do my bidding; as if he doesn't have to do that all the time, he'd say; poor laddie) one hour every day after school, and he doesn’t mind that; there is less kvetching about it, anyway— limiting the period of enslavement seems to put his mind at ease. And you know, the kid moves like a lumbering ox but he gets quite a bit done in that hour. Right now we are laying landscape fabric and wood mulch on the pathways through my flower garden. He's a godsend because, although I can swing those heavy bags around, they're bulky and awkward and my back and neck complain the next day and I wonder why I, a middle-aged lady (gak!) am doing this when I have a boy Strong-Like-Bull living right here in my house.


Do you love documentary films? If so, here's a link for you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wren House

They've stuffed the bottom of the house. Babies shall be forthcoming!
I'm less impressed by the idea of mouse babies two trees over.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bloom's Begun

The oriental poppies are strutting their stuff throughout the wide curve of my garden.


Sharp rap from the living room window; I rush out of the office and see a woodpecker in what strikes me as its death throes on the grass. Throwing on my plaid jacket and a pair of gardening gloves, I hurry out to get it to safety, though we don’t see the cats around the house often these days and old Casper doesn’t bother it.
But its eye is half closed when I get there, and lifeless. It’s dead.
I cry. I apologize.
I stomp my foot, shake my fist. Fucking windows!

It’s okay (and more normal than not) to feel sorrow and regret at the senseless death of a bird, but I’m a little surprised at the tears.

I don’t know why I’m surprised.


I go out with some dried carnations, looking for a place to put them. There is an earthenware jug hanging on the stump of an oak tree’s branch; I go to stick them in and notice what appear to be leaves inside. Before emptying the jug I peer more closely. Could a small bird have built a nest in there? It’s dark inside the jug; is that a bird’s beak I see? An outline takes shape — it’s a mouse.
I shriek repeatedly and march rapidly away across the lawn, knees high.
Then I laugh at myself.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Speaking of Old Things

See those wooden utensils and tools stuck into the tiny glass vase? Those were carved for my great-grandmother by her grandfather when she was a little girl.

My aunt Reta made the beautiful needlepoint for me.
Sister Joan brought the purply vase from Australia.
The oil lamp came from my grandmother's home.
Sister Karen gave me the rose.

Spoiled; that's me. I have got stuff galore. So much, in fact, that I have taken to hanging the excess out in the oak trees or setting things on the ground beneath them because there's no room in the house.


More rain. This is not good.
I'd better go check the basement.

I'll need these:

Found this photo here and had to laugh because I've always said, due to their width (no I don't have webbed toes — yet), that I have duck feet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World-Noted Women

Uncle Carl gave me this old book, published in 1857.
It is laying, for now, on an old crocheted doily (made by my grandmother sometime before 1966) on an old table (probably a wash-table from back in the day) next to my grandmother's old leaden candlesticks and an old oil lamp.

Carl remarked that if you look at the drawings of all the women mentioned in this book, you notice that they all look strangely the same:

Look at those dirty little gardeners' fingers!

In other news, we've had rain and grey here again, but yesterday after school Everett mixed the last of the peat moss with some black soil and filled the last of my pots and voila I got the last of my flowers planted. So it can rain all it wants, as far as my garden is concerned, although yesterday at noon I scooped up, with a dustpan, one-and-a-half five-gallon pailsful of water from the basement floor. If it rains more ... oh it hardly bears thinking about.

And in yet more news, I've had a letter stating that one of the local group homes has a bedroom for Emil on September 1st. Thus I begin the slide into Empty Nesthood. Everett writes his final exams next week and then we are through with public school once and for all. He has no plans beyond going to Gord's (his dad's) for the month of July, so I'm not sure when or if my nest ever will actually be empty.

And speaking of nests, yesterday as I stood on the deck and looked out over the slough (that's pronounced SLOO, for those who don't know) I saw a mother duck on the water, followed by a train of about six fluffy little ducklings. The simplest and most common things give me the greatest pleasure.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Usual Stuff

Minatory: threatening, menacing
Attaché: a person appointed to an ambassador’s staff, usually with a special sphere of activity (also, an attaché case)
Febrile: of or relating to fever; feverish; 2. Nervous or excited, as if by fever
Quinquaginarian: someone in their fifties
Valetudinarian: an invalid or someone always ill

Who’da thunk I didn’t know all these words? The second, I assumed I knew the meaning of, but didn’t. Have been reading a biography of Pauline, the sister of Napoleon, and coming across words I’m not sure of. I love my dictionary. Thanks Joan! One of the best gifts, ever: The Canadian Oxford. I've nearly worn it out. It sits right here on my desk, within easy reach. While reading this biography the other night I kept having to get out of bed and come to the office because there's not enough room on the night table for this heavy tome.

Slept in a bit, but Leonard (Paulson) called for Scott, hoping to borrow a brad nailer, so I’m up and in Mom’s housecoat for warmth. Went out to the step to drink my coffee since it’s sunny, but alas the wind is cool and the step is shady, so I’ve retreated to the office.

Got most of my bedding plants into the ground yesterday. Just a few more to do, with luck tonight. Rain was forecast for tomorrow, dammit. There is still water coming into the basement here although Scott thinks it’s stopped over at the other place. People are having the same problems all around the countryside; this area has been declared a disaster zone due to the water. Also, Karen's husband and son bought a septic-tank-cleaning truck for their lake development and were immediately put to work day and night due to the town of Wadena (and Foam Lake as well, if I'm remembering correctly) not being able to handle all the water. Word was that everyone in town might soon have sewer backup in their basements. Oh, the calamity. My fingers are crossed that doesn't happen. Here, at least it's only water. That other must be terrible.

Saw a beaver in the slough behind the house yesterday, for the second time. Oh oh. If trees start going down, we’ll have to kill it somehow or risk losing our shelterbelt on the south side of the yard. Apparently Violet, the lady of the house before me, shot the last one that was spotted here. I can't see myself out on the deck with a rifle, but ya never know! With luck the water out here is deep enough that the beaver won't feel the need to dam it up. A pair of red-winged blackbirds was making a hell of a fuss at the edge of the water, which is what made me pay closer attention to what was happening over there.

Also, a deer has left its tracks in the garden and its mark on my flowers. It ate the tops of my painted daisies. So much for my guard dog! Scott said he saw a deer come out of the south driveway one day last week and I think I was even out in the yard at the time.

Rick came over yesterday afternoon and he and Scott moved the extremely heavy doghouse to the south side of the house; closer to the garden, and closer to the house so Casper’s more likely to use it. Now she mostly lies under the caraganas on the north edge of the lawn, in the shade. I left Aunt Jean’s little battery-operated radio on in the garden beneath an upside-down pot next to a daylily. Hope it keeps the deer away.

Dad came over Saturday for supper and spent a few hours at the kitchen table visiting with us. He could hardly wait to leave for Kelowna today. Most of his friends are busy working and what’s he supposed to do with himself? I know that feeling of wanting to be home, doing my own thing. Guess I come by it honestly enough; I feel it myself anytime I'm away for more than a day.

Well, office hours have begun so I'd best get to work.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Stupendous Skippers

Check THIS out -- assuming you have high speed internet:

"It's at a Navy basketball half-time show....
The thing to note are the spectators as the show
starts and how their attitude changes as the
show progresses and concludes....

Click on site below."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

House Concert

Eliza Doyle, Melissa Nygren, and Joey Lorer
(slide guitar player and drummer not shown)

Don is a mover and shaker in the local arts community and has been actively promoting Wadena as a host for house concerts. Heard of them? Performers come out and give a concert in your home; you invite your friends and ask them for a donation, which goes to the performer; you give the performer a meal and a bed for the night. In return you get a couple hours of live entertainment without having to drive too far (we do a lot of driving to the city, from out here, for medical appointments with specialists and to buy things we can't get in our retail establishments, and for concerts by big-name musicians, so every chance we have Not to do that is appreciated). The performer, often on tour, gets to add a small gig between scheduled ones at larger venues, meet some new people, get a home-cooked meal, grow his fan base, and put a few dollars in his pocket.

I'm a member of the Shadow House Concerts group out here, but Don does all the organizing, all the work, all the promotion -- well, everything. Thanks, Don. All I am is a cheerleader, basically. I haven't even hosted a concert yet. Been telling Don that once we got into the new house ... but now that we're here, with a living room that only seats six, big heavy furniture that's a pain in the ass to move and is squeezed into the room as it is, and water problems (among others), I still don't feel very hostessy. Actually, not in the least.

Apparently I'm not alone in being slow to invite people into my house, because there aren't too many others stepping up to host a house concert, either. Fortunately Don is a member of the Anglican church (God's house, I guess, if you're a believer) in town, and that's where the house concert on Saturday night was held. It's a great little space: only holds about 50 in its pews, but has super acoustics because the walls and ceiling are all wood, except for the "stage" part where the clergyperson does his shtick.

The band, Heartstrings, came out from Saskatoon. One of the lead singers is the daughter of a gal I knew in high school (Shirley Nygren; some of you might be familiar with the name) and when she introduced the bass player, I recognized the last name right away and thought "He's gotta be a relative of Julie's! As a matter of fact, I seem to recall her saying she had a nephew who ...." And that was the case, as I found out after the show when I went up to talk to him about it.

For you former Katimavik readers, I'm talking about the Julie who was our group leader when we were in Kedgwick, New Brunswick. And Julie, now you know -- I did meet your nephew and had a nice little chat with him before we left.

No doubt something will come up between then and now, but the next "house concert" we have lined up is Doc MacLean on Oct 13th and it looks like he'll be performing in the church yet again (he was here with Big Dave McLean last fall). You can have a listen to some of the songs on Doc's recent CD, Narrow House, by clicking here and then clicking on the "Audio" link on the webpage. I am not sure what Doc calls his unique style of music (Delta blues? You'll have to edumacate me, Doc) but this CD has been in regular rotation on my player since he was here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brief Glimpse

We have been reduced to taping newspapers onto the living room window in order to keep birds from flying into it. Is this not lovely? Until I find something else to use, something prettier, it will have to do. It works. Last week I found a dead wren near the house and was so disappointed, because a pair had been building a nest in the little birdhouse I hung in one of the oak trees.

Unfortunately we hadn't hung paper on the dining room window yet, so this little barn swallow ended up on the ground. Fortunately the old dog didn't bother it before I got outside to the rescue, so it sat on Everett's hand for some time, and pooped on his pants, before flying off.


It stops raining just long enough for me to take a stroll in my red rubber boots. This may well be a disaster year for area farmers, who must seed by the 15th if they hope to get a crop before freeze-up. Something like that. Not good.


Dad's flying out tomorrow for Aunt Irene's funeral on Thursday, and will be staying till Monday. I teased him: Five whole days! You're slowing down!
That's my dad; doesn't stay in any one place for long.


Everett stayed home yesterday with a stuffed-up nose and head, but doesn't feel tired, he says. I made him stay in bed yesterday morning, but today he's up doing dishes (my god I will miss that child when he goes) and if that doesn't tucker him out I may just enlist him to make granola while I stay at the computer and work all day. Can't do anything outside anyway, in this weather.

Did get the newest rose bush dug in yesterday, and transplanted the painted daisies Karen brought me from the city, and also added three purple coneflowers to the two that survived last fall's extreme freeze before snow. It's no fun digging in mud but these little greenies need to get into the ground.

I have quite a few left to plant, but they will have to wait yet longer. I came into the house after about an hour in the garden yesterday, just beat. I am too young to be that tired after a mere hour's labour! Aren't I? Yeah! However I awoke at 1:30 a.m. needing to get up and take a pill for a migraine, so I shall blame the fatigue on that; usually when a migraine's coming on, I'm exhausted and can't figure out why.

And now, to work. Sitting at my computer work, that is. If you can call it work. I get paid for it, but would probably do it for free. It's good to love your job. Mine is, in case you don't know, as a subject editor for The Canadian Encyclopedia. It's a great resource for kids' projects for school, and a fount of information about all things to do with Canada: our people, our history, our culture, you name it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day in a Nutshell

Still Life on Fridge?
Joan was giving my new camera a workout.

The sun shone most of the day. I was out early, loading our sick dog into the back of the half-ton to take her to the vet, one last time. I could barely force myself to go through the motions, but had to. Sat out in the truck afterward and had a little weep, then carried on.

Picked up two gallons of honey from my trusty supplier. Cath, one is for you, so don't buy any.

Took a loaf of bread over to Uncle Pete. Found out he was overseas for six years during the Second World War. Aunt Irene's funeral is on Thursday.

Went and saw Grandma. The aides said her new clothes all fit and looked so cute they called her Doris Day and she thought that was funny.

Stopped at the Co-op for groceries and dog food. Bought a chicken salad wrap for lunch.

Thought about visiting Cara and the kids for a few minutes but figured sympathy might get me started again. My niece has a soft spot for dogs and knew Chloe was a sweetheart.

Headed down the highway toward home. The sun still shone, so I made a U-turn and backtracked to the greenhouse, and picked up another tray of plants: a castor bean, a rayflower, some yellow daisies, some pink ones, some oregano, some gazanias. Cathy I almost bought a blue centurea but talked myself out of it. Don't ask me why. Should've got it. Gave the last bite of the chicken wrap to a miniature pug who came to see me while I perused the trees and bushes on display.

Jiggity Jog.

Worked at the computer; took short breaks every hour to pull dandelions out of the flower garden and transplant volunteer violas to the front.

Starving, ate, zonked, off to bed with my books.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Ugly Sisters

I'm on the left, trying not to look my usual frowny-faced self; Karen is in the middle (doesn't she look evil? I'm sure she's up to something); and Joan, the baby, is on her way back to Kelowna.


A phone call from a cousin today shared the sad news that my great-aunt, Irene, died last night of what was probably a massive heart attack. It seems to run in the Engdahl family (that's Dad's mom's side), as this is the way a good many of them have left us: among them Dad's mom, who died suddenly at age 47; her sister, Aunt Ingrid; and the list goes on for some distance. Dad himself came close to having a heart attack in his early fifties; he had an angioplasty in the nick of time, 17 years ago. It's no wonder Mom started urging me to "Get your heart checked" the minute I turned 40.

So there will be another sad family get-together in a week or so. I'm glad I got to see, talk with and hug Aunt Irene just weeks ago, after [her brother] Uncle Walfrid's funeral. Right now I'm mostly feeling for my cousin Mavis, who will be devastated at the loss of her mother. It will be a terrible shock. Auntie Irene was in her early eighties, but she was sharp, spry, and healthy as far as we knew.

I phoned Dad with the news. "The family has lost a comedian," was one remark he made.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bus Accident

It was about 8 a.m. when the phone call came.
"A half-ton truck pulled out in front of me."
That was the driver. "I won't be picking up the kids this morning."
There were no kids on the bus yet and no one was hurt.

Old Hippy

Check out this photo of an old "hippy" in Sweden ... click here.