Friday, June 29, 2012

This Year's Kittenfish

I moved a batch of 4 kittens from the brooderhouse (green) into the tractor shed (red) on a day when it was super hot.

There, I introduced them to their older, orange cousins. The two mothers (who are last year's sisters) took an instant liking to their nieces and nephews, and it's been one big happy family ever since.

Bit of a free-for-all at the milk trough

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Storm Time

We've had quite a storm here. The wind was scary. I should have had my delphiniums staked. There was no power most of the day; I turned my pages toward windows and sat reading. The night before, it was candlelight reading; we had no electricity for about three hours.

Today I'm gearing up for the 7- or 8-hr drive to Shelly's place north of Edmonton. Yesterday it seemed that since an old friend had died, it was fine to take the day off and move somewhat zombie-like about the house. I couldn't finish up computer work before leaving, or do laundry and pack my bags, anyway, without power. I sure as sam hill couldn't go out and prepare my garden for a week without me. The wind howled and rattled the house all day and half the night. We lost two tall spruces directly outside our bedroom window; hate to see that. There was a row of 17.

At my inlaws' down the road there is much more damage; trees down all over the place.
At the lake, a new two-story house Scott has worked on for many months had part of its roof torn off.
Boats and docks are swamped and smashed.

Today the sun is shining and people are out cleaning up their yards.

So I'm getting ready, but seem to be moving slowly. I've work to wrap up before I go, and need to tie up some flowers, run through with my trusty stirrup hoe, and call Shelly again this afternoon to see how she's faring. Her phone's ringing off the hook, friends and family are coming and going, bringing food and helping her go through the motions. I want to be with her, but know she is being looked after and may even not have had much opportunity to be alone yet. It's hard to know what to do and when, or even to rely on her to tell me what she needs, because she hasn't been here before, either. I am just going, as soon as I'm ready and she' s ready for me.

Many fond memories of Dale have been coming. It is Shelly who has been like a sister for almost 35 years, but Dale mattered too. He was always good to me, except maybe that one time at a dance when, mad at Shelly for something and at me for supposedly colluding with her (I was innocent and didn't know what the hell he was carrying on about), he hurled my shoes from the entry to the black field beyond the parking lot one muddy night and I had to be carried to the car when this was discovered at my leave-taking. It's funny, now. Happily for me, my memories of Dale are pleasant ones.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rough Sailing

Before hailstorm

The husband of a close friend has died unexpectedly.

I received her call early this morning.
Will phone back this afternoon and see what she needs me to do — if she knows, poor thing.
I think I can safely start packing, but I also don't want to be in the way, so am giving her a few hours to ponder my question: "Do you want me to come?"

After hailstorm

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Poor Drowning Trees

You may recall last October when we came home from a drive out to Kelowna and I was disturbed to find the trees lining the west side of the road where I walk had been knocked down and scraped away.

Well, here is what's happening to the trees that remain on the east side of the road, where the land belongs to Scott's family (big supporters of trees; only one of the things I like about them). The trees are drowning. That's water you see lying in the ditch.

All around us are trees drowning from the excessive runoff we've had this spring, and last year too. We have already lost a number of trees in the bush between our yard and the road; last summer, ducks nested in the middle of them.

I look at this with some sadness, and comfort myself with the thought that Nature Knows What It's Doing. Hope it's true.

Saw a moose on Sunday's walk.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

That Vincent

Tree Trunks in Grass, by Van Gogh

It is far too gorgeous a day to be indoors one moment longer than necessary.

Scott makes a better hamburger than I do, any day of the week.

All my reading is Virginia Woolf: her diary, her biography, and her novel Orlando.

With her brother-in-law, Clive

As a  young gal
With her husband Leonard & dog

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I am an Arteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeest

and this is my studio ... on the first day

The table is now covered with more clippings and I've carried two briefcases full of cards and papers out there along with a hardcover scrapbook I started for Emil years ago. It's been collecting odds 'n' ends for ages; time to tidy things up and fasten 'em down.

That orange ceramic thing is the ugliest ashtray I've ever seen. But it fits the existing decor close enough, doesn't it? I washed the caked-on ashes from it the other day in the rainbarrel, but haven't yet been able to part with it. It's probably been in the camper since the original owners.

It's a lovely little outdoor room to work in, where I can leave everything as it is when I move on to other activities through the day. The weather's been mild so I sit out there with the windows open and listen to the birds while I cut and paste.

This morning I went through cards given to Grandma on her 90th birthday; those with handwritten notes will go into Emil's scrapbook, and I kept a stack for "useable parts." There were also cards given to her and Grandpa on their 50th anniversary; some of those, too, will go in.

And so on. I'm having fun.
Am I easy to please, or what?


I hope to get a picture of the new flowerbed for you, but so far the colour doesn't show up well in my snapshots. There are pink painted daisies in profusion right now, and many of the annuals are bright and bravely doing their thing. The display is pretty, but not dazzling. With luck we'll see dazzling before the summer is over.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Number One Son Turns 24


Sure there are many flowers in bloom around the yard, but we need some sunshine around here if we're to see any serious action. I've arranged a weather swap with a work acquaintance in Ontario, where they're in the middle of a heat wave, so tomorrow we should see the mercury go up a little here in the parkland.

Two things it is risky for me to do:

* Leave the room while running water into the kitchen sink or the bathtub (for fear I’ll get distracted and flood the place; been there, done that).

* Fill the glass top of the blender while it sits on the motor base (for fear I’ll turn it on without the lid & make a hell of a mess); I take it off the base to be on the safe side.

You live, you learn.

Today is Emil's 24th birthday. He is permitted to take the day off from work, he says; I wonder if he will. His household will celebrate after supper with a cake from the bakery, and we here at home will take him for lunch at my niece's restaurant at Margo on Saturday. After which, he insists, we must drive by the Old Bartley Place (where he and I spent the summer he was three years old) and, he hopes, the new owner may invite us inside to see how it looks since it has been renovated. I've told him not to get his hopes up, as we are not acquainted with the owner. However, I do have a photograph of the Old Bartley Place, built brand new by my great-grandparents in 1916, and wonder if the new owner would be interested in having a copy of it.

This morning I pulled out old journals to see if I could put my hands on the one written when Emil was born. I did manage to find the right one and do a little reading. I was certainly smitten by this newborn baby who, I always say and absolutely mean, was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Da Boyds

My first impression, before taking a second and closer look, was that the yellow pansies had suddenly and miraculously spread into the grass. My little friends here, American goldfinches, are regulars at the birdfeeders in the spring but we see a lot less of them in that particular spot lately, so this bunch was a surprise. Usually you just see a flash of bright yellow whizzing past, although one summer a little male (the brighter ones; the females are the muted yellow) followed me around the yard, chatting. Apparently I was in his territory and had best watch my step.

A pair of hairy woodpeckers have been feeding their little one out here. It clings to the tree trunk and the parent (the male and female take turns with it) deposits a sunflower seed into a small hole in the trunk, smashes the shell, then puts the seed into the baby's beak. The baby is bigger than the parent, or perhaps it just looks that way because it's fluffier. After a while you can see the baby start to think that maybe he should give it a try himself, though I haven't seen it actually take action, yet. I guess when something's working for you as it is, why change?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beasts at Home and Afar

It was a mild evening with the sunlight slanting across the land, and Scott and I took a rare walk together. Afterward we stopped to have a look at the cattle (the two bulls have been moved to another pasture, and now there are about 10 calves and cows roaming about our acres and chewing down the grass), which were a long ways away until Scott called them. Then they came on the gallop, like he was the Pied Piper. For their trouble they get a few affectionate words and, if they're brave enough, their bony brows scratched.

They are curious, like all animals methinks (that's how trappers get them; they put something that moves and flashes, like a foil streamer, near their traps, and the mink -- for example -- will come to see what it is.)

Last night I watched a short documentary about abandoned, abused, lost, sheltered, rescued and euthanized dogs. It made me both tearful and furious, as I suppose it was meant to. Here's a story about the film: click HERE.

One strong lesson I took from it: Never, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. Their supply mostly comes from puppy mills, where dogs are horribly neglected and mistreated.

Back here at home, we've found two litters of kittens, which probably means there are two more litters yet to be found.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dogs We Have Had

First Zinnia Bloom

It may be wet out there, but the flowers and birds are happy. It's not cold, though the sky's grey-white today. I stand on the back step in my housecoat and breathe it all in as long and as deeply as I can. I love having this privacy and solitude in a place where traffic noise is minimal to non-existent and no other houses are in sight, though the neighbours' yard is within earshot.

In the inlaws' farmyard a mile south, standing outside under the stars on a frigid winter night, I remember hearing the dog from here barking. We inherited him when we took possession of this place; and overnight he became fearless and friendly, when always before he'd been standoffish and timid. Unfortunately he didn't live long; one morning Scott went outside and found him with part of his intestine swollen and bloody on the outside of his body. The vet pronounced it impossible to repair, and advised putting Buddy out of his misery.

Sometimes, walking around the yard, I think of Buddy living here many years; I also think of Chloe, the year-old pup we had to euthanize, and still feel bad about it; and old Casper, who is buried near the crabapple trees. If dogs can live on in spirit, I fancy they still accompany me on a ramble and traipse over "their" territory, warning off the foxes and coyotes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

De Lovely Lovely Lilac Tree

Uber-fragrant lilac bush

The scent of this lilac bush is so powerful it can almost knock you off the step. Is there such a thing as too much? Hard to imagine, when it comes to lilac, which I love. But such has been the case in recent days; I'm thinking we'll have to prune it ruthlessly so there will be fewer blooms next year.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Porch

Do you think it's possible my Scottie has good reason to complain about me having "too many" shoes?

Someday this porch will be bright and shiny. The old wood panelling will be replaced by gyprock and paint; the indoor-outdoor carpet will be torn out and we'll put lino down; if I get my "druthers," there will be a closet for the recycling, and a space for the washer and dryer. I've been making sure Scott has to do his own laundry, just to be sure he gets the message: it's a pain in the behind, going up and down those basement stairs too many times. At this point he still thinks the laundry equipment belongs in the basement.

See those little brown sandals there, in the front? Those were Mom's, and I still see her feet in them.
One of the red pairs are rubber; we've had a lot of rain this week.
The other red pair are a hand-me-down from Cathy and I've been meaning to tell you, Cath, that they make great walking shoes. The leather does allow my feet to breathe (a question we've discussed about shoes), and the soles are thin enough that I can feel the pebbles on the road, which is, to my way of thinking, okay, because they stimulate the healing spots on the bottom of my feet.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kathy & Karen

Moi with little sister Karen
Storm comin in!

"It was windy, so that the leaves now and then brushed open a star."
 -VWoolf, To the Lighthouse

"She grew still like a tree which has been tossing and quivering and now, when the breeze falls, settles, leaf by leaf, into quiet."
-same as above

And red-hot pokers are mentioned more than once.
I must find out what those are.

Look here:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Men on Tractors

What is it with me — that I find the image of a man on a tractor so appealing — so worth snapping a photo of? Is it that I was raised in farm country and this is what "real" men look like, to me?

But wait. I've waxed rhapsodic about men in carpenters' toolbelts, too.

Maybe I just like looking at men, period.
Or maybe it's just this particular one. Who drives tractors and wears a toolbelt.

Who came home yesterday afternoon and spent an hour or two dragging dirt around behind the house, where my flowerbed used to be.

God knows I don't find Chippendale dancers appealing in the least.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life Can Be Cruel

See him in the distance, the dark blob on the left? He is carrying a rifle and on the warpath.

Scott came into the office this morning while I sat working at the computer. He was feeling down; coyotes have killed a week-old calf in the pasture. Usually the mother hides her calf fairly close to where she is, but this particular cow tends to hide hers further away.

"They chewed off his nose and genitals," he told me, "the bastards. While the poor little thing was alive."

My stomach turns. I advise, not for the first time: Get a donkey! A donkey will protect the cattle.
"Or perhaps a llama," he says. His cousins have had one with their herd for the past year.
I remind him of the lady not far from here who was almost killed by a llama a few years ago, when she was tending the cattle for her husband, who was away, and the llama didn't recognize her when she stepped inside the fence. It sat on her until she nearly suffocated. If not for her dog, which barked wildly till help came ....

I keep thinking about the woman lying in a hospital in critical condition after a head-on collision near Rosetown over the weekend; her family was travelling from BC to attend a wedding in Saskatchewan. Her husband and two teenage daughters died at the scene; her 16-year-old son has been released from hospital. I am willing her to live, if not for her own sake then for her son's; if she doesn't make it, he will have lost his entire immediate family. But I feel for her and wonder if, in her position, I'd want to live; the horror of surviving such an accident and waking up to the unbearable news; the loss; the emotional pain. I don't know how parents who survive their children ever smile again, though they somehow do; she will still find moments of sweetness in life, much as you'd fear one wouldn't.

I wonder what I could possibly do for her, this stranger to me, and fall short of ideas. She and her son will surely have family that has flown in to be with them; they will have all kinds of support from their home community and the people who matter to them.  I send her virtual hugs and hopes for the best, and know that "There, but for the Grace of God ... go I."

A young man who was in the vehicle they hit when they pulled into oncoming traffic to pass a truck has also died, now.

My problems are simpler and so not problems, in the least, in comparison.
Our old dog Jenna likes to go to my inlaws' farmyard a mile from here and, though it wouldn't bother me otherwise (I rely on her to scare the deer out of my flowerbed, but when we had three of them outside our front window last week the dog was oblivious to their presence), she barks through the night and keeps Scott's mom awake. I brought Jenna home Sunday by making her walk alongside my van; last night she buggered off again and so I just went and got her. And darned if she gets a ride! I made her walk, attached via a cord to my vehicle. And now she's home and I've chained her to the doghouse. It seems wrong to tie up a farm dog, who should have all the freedom in the world. But how do we teach her to stay home? She's not listening to reason; she's not heeding polite requests or dictatorial demands (at her age she probably figures it's about time she does what she wants). Maybe I'll have to invest in one of those electronic boundaries I've heard about, where the dog gets a shock from its collar when it steps over the line.

Jenna catches her breath while I stop to get the photo at the top, of Scott hunting coyotes. If I didn't know better, I'd almost think she enjoys trotting beside the van!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Once Upon a Flowerbed

Once a vast and colourful flowerbed, now a pile of clay and black dirt
And I don't care!
Soon it will be grass — which I don't mow — and now my flowers are in front of the house, where I can see them while washing dishes or sipping on my coffee in the morning. And I can go through the flowerbeds, vanquishing weeds with my trusty horseshoe hoe, in about 30 minutes. Why, it's almost too easy. Whatever will I do with myself now, during my 10-minute breaks between hours of computer work? Heh. Just kidding. Always lots to do out there: digging up dandelions, watering, deadheading.

Scott is talking about making a place for a small vegetable garden behind the house, which is where it used to be before I staked my claim back there and left only room for a few tomatoes and green peppers. I hope he does; and also that he takes care of his tomatoes and potatoes and whatever else, because I'm not into it. He keeps on top of the weeding -- whereas I ... well, flowers come first in my heart, and vegetables I'd rather buy at the farmers' market than spend time looking after. However, if he grows them, I'll process them; make salsa, probably.

At 5:30 this morning I was up, standing in my housecoat on the step, waiting for Ducky Doodle to do his business. This is my idea of the best time to rise and shine; it's calm and beautiful outside, and you get a longer day out of it.

I went back to bed to read and have coffee, though. I'd really feel noble if I went for my walk right away, but I can't do it on an empty stomach and it takes me quite a while to feel like eating.

How lucky am I to have had for almost 10 years this luxury of mornings free to read and write and even go back to sleep if I choose? I am so very grateful for this freedom.

Here's what the flowerbed back there used to look like:

Yeah, I might've been crazy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Sister is a Clown

Scott finally bought a new barbecue

He put it together yesterday afternoon outside one of the sheds and was dragging it to the house when I went to take Emil back to town. I helped him haul it and, since it was so windy and we thought it might blow right over, suggested we tuck it in under the lilac trees where it's calm. But no, said Scott— it will get scratched up if the lower branches touch it.

And that's one difference between us. I couldn't care less if the barbecue is scratched up. I just don't want it to tip over.

He's as fussy with the appearance of his laptop, which sits on a table in the living room and looks, to me, like a handy spot for the television remotes when it's not in use. Hell no! they might scratch the lid of the laptop.

Who cares? I think. Well, he does.


It's cold and windy again today. I took the above photo while standing on the doorstep, glad I don't have to walk today. Fingers crossed tomorrow will be more pleasant.


Called Dad this morning. He was waiting to head onto the golf course. They've got so much flooding in Kelowna that at least one course is not usable at all, and others have only portions of their fairways available. So it takes longer to get onto the course as there are fewer of them, yet as many avid players.

According to Joan, if I just complain about the weather, it will change. Ha!
Go read her blog, and leave a comment. She has posted twice in a row in a short time; it's a miracle!
She thinks no one reads it, because I'm the only one who ever leaves a comment.
Comments are not the only indicator of readers, I keep telling her and anyone who will listen. Lots of people read regularly for years and never, ever leave a comment. They're like ghosts; even when they're there you don't see them.
Keep blogging, I tell her. Those of us who like you like IT, even if you don't think your life is exciting enough to blog about. I think she's a good writer, and her sense of humour and goofiness comes across. I remember once telling Mom how Joan had entertained us with her silliness, when us three daughters were living in Kelowna during Mom's last year, and Mom remarking, "So Joan is a clown, eh?"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Foot Draggin'

Just beyond my front window

Emil doesn't want to go back to the group home when it's time on Sunday evenings.

"Get ready," I say at 7 o'clock, and he replies "But I don't want to go till my watch says 8 o'clock."

So I say, "That means I'll be getting home later than I'd like, so go get ready now!"

He says okay, but then spends a half-hour in the bathroom. Don't ask me what he's doing in there that takes forever. He drags his feet at every opportunity; I want to kick his buttocks. Instead I remind myself that this is an opportunity to read for a few minutes while waiting, or in this case write.

Relax, Kathy.  Go with the flow. You cannot really hurry this boy, try as you might. All it does is make you cranky when you fail to get what you're after. You're better off to take a deep breath and let him be. And you'll get out to the vehicle, and you'll get him dropped off in town, and you'll get home ... eventually. And you'll live.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thick-Skinned People Live Here

The bodies of the people who live here must require a scrub pad and a three-inch screw for cleanliness

Whenever I notice Scott's "bathtub-cleaning tools" next to my scented oils on the edge of the tub, that is my exact thought.

We've got a humid, mild day here, quite damp, with an east wind and a forecast for an inch of rain. We don't need it. But around the yard there is serious action because Scott decided to start removing the layer of topsoil from my old flowerbed behind the house, and it now looks like a moonscape back there. The ladies who wanted some of my perennials have not come to get them, so the boys dug them up and dumped them under some shade trees for now. My new flowerbeds have no space for these rather large plants, but I did dig and transplant several smaller herbs just moments before the giant blade scraped over the ground.

We were up early for a Saturday morning because my great-aunt Marj was bringing 10 frozen apple pies to the farmers' market for me. We had to be there when the doors opened and couldn't stay long before getting those pies home and into the deep freeze. But we were there long enough to buy two more of Aunt Marj's pies — Emil wanted a cherry pie and a rhubarb pie — and I had laid claim to two bags of her homemade lefse. And bought a couple loaves of bread from another table while making my tour of the hall.

So now I've made a pot of fresh coffee and am waiting for Scott and his brother to come in and have some with lefse and pie. I plan to work a couple hours today and tomorrow since yesterday was a write-off; it started with "the neck thing" at 7 a.m., medicinal treatment, and sleep till 10 a.m., and then I had to be in town by one o'clock to take Emil to his massage appointment so there was barely time to eat, clean the kitchen, have a bath and dress before it was time to go.

We arrived home around 4:30 after all the errands were run, and there was time to haul in groceries and put them away, and make a quick supper, and then work? No. I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to sit up straight for several hours at the computer in the evening. I guess my body is tired by then. So instead I washed and dried dishes, put them away, climbed into pyjamas and then into bed to read. It was a beautiful night -- when I went out on the step to feed the old dog, the evening-scented stock was blooming! It took me by surprise. Glorious scent. I could have stood out there all night, but the mosquitoes were too quick to find me. Oh for a screened-in veranda...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Duck Dog

Burning old bales
It wasn't the first day I'd've picked for lighting a fire, but it's been so powerfully windy for so many days that I guess the boys figured they'd better go ahead and get one more job out of the way.

Today I think they're seeding; at any rate, they're coming in here expecting lunch at 12:30 so I'd better mosey on to the kitchen. I've got to put my small but powerful brain to work and come up with an accompaniment to the sausages Scott laid on the countertop when he tendered his hurried request.

Meanwhile, it's a dog's life:

Sara swims after some ducks

She has actually caught them sometimes; it takes them a while to get enough lift, and Sara jumps when she gets close, and ... I have made her let a duck go, and watched it slink away over the water.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Those Were the Days

Out of Order

"You just want to be outside all day!" my sister Joan said to me one time she was here. It was spring and the ubiquitous woodticks had her freaked out, and I had flower fever and was impatient to get the bedding plants into the ground.

Outdoors these days I've been reminded of my earliest memories of contentment. As small children my sister Karen and I spent time at Grandma & Grandpa Bensons' farm, where water for drinking, cooking, laundry and dishes was pumped by hand into a sink in the house, and the outhouse was just beyond the clothesline, from whose posts hung a rope-and-board swing at both ends. We'd lie cosy under warm blankets while Grandpa got a fire going in the cookstove for breakfast. Kitchen cupboards weren't built in like they are today, but were tall cabinets that stood on the floor.

 The screen door would click shut many times throughout the day and on the step, in the sun, the flies buzzed lazily. A bare mattress hung on heavy chains between two tall spruce trees and we lounged on that makeshift hammock for many hours. Karen carried a hen around. There was a toy cupboard in the living room; there was a painted clown with a round bottom, so that it wouldn't tip. We ate Hostess potato chips and were excited about the plastic disks with stickers on them (images of cars?) that we found in the bottom of the bag.

Those were the days. Or as my friend Maggie calls 'em, the "goodle" days.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bull Pen

"You lookin' at me?"

"What do you think of this earring?"

The bulls were moved over here to our pasture recently and happily so, as there's 30 acres of fresh, untouched green grass for them to pig out on. If you don't count the water, and we've got lots of it in every direction this year; but they like to wade into that to find new shoots, too.

And the two of them get along like the best of buddies:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Days Off

"runnin' like a white-assed deer" (lyric from a Joni M tune)

Emil wants to go a-gallavanting today. I seem to need more flowers. He wants to go visiting at Margo. I want to go to the greenhouse at Kelvington, where I haven't been yet this year.

But first, my walk.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Where'd the Day Go

Nearly Full Moon
In the Beginning:

• walk around yard in housecoat, with coffee mug in hand, admiring plants
• work in the a.m.
• men for lunch; throw leftovers together for supper casserole
• Emil to massage therapist; no other help for plugged-feeling ears, maybe this can make something move
• credit union (cash), hardware store (seed for red poppies and bachelor buttons; birdseed), post office
• BC fruit truck for nectarines and oranges
• groceries with Emil; he doesn't shop, but stalks the aisles for people he knows
• haul groceries into house (about 10 trips; the part I dislike)
• put groceries away (the part I like)
• heat casserole, eat w/Emil, run some out to Scott at 8pm

A late supper brought to the field
In the End:

• And now to bed, with Virginia Woolf! And an open window to listen to the birds and frogs on this mild evening.