Thursday, December 31, 2009


Lift up your heads, o ye gates!
Be lifted up, ye everlasting doors!

Happy New Year!

Learn from your past.
To fail means you tried. Hurrah! Try again!
This is the year of renewal!

A magnificent, boisterous 2010 to you all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Madcap Grumbles

Someone on my homeschool network posted this, and I thought it was interesting.

I'm extremely discontented with the quality of socialization and instruction in Poppy's high school, and becoming moreso every day. Unbelievable. I'm not at all happy that they've got my funding allocation. The school is a byword in the area for the drug and alcohol abuse, students having sex in empty classrooms, dealing, vandalism... The teachers spend their time putting out fires, literally and figuratively.

And there's my kid, someone who actually wants to be there and participate. Except there's nothing much to participate in.

(Why does she want to be there?

She likes to talk, and the audience at home has a limited capacity.)

But Mama's getting restless... Gonna be some changes.

The schools get a lot of money per head, certainly more than I'd ever see as a homeschooler, and yet we've got this mess. Stupid system.

The teachers have got their hands tied by parental apathy or outright facilitation, or what-have-you. I realize that. I also realize that I went to each of Poppy's teachers and volunteered to volunteer, just call me and let me know. Haven't heard from any of them.

You know, if there's going to be a public system, then why isn't the public responsible for it? I mean, if some wrong-headed teen-ager is bent on disrupting a class, why isn't one of his/her parents brought on the scene to shadow the child for a week? Why should the rest of the public have to pay that shot?

There's a lot of reasons why it isn't like that. Economics is the primary one. But you know, I think there's a little saviour-thing that can happen with teachers too, especially in areas like this, areas with a lot of substance abuse. They complain about the lack of parental involvement, but underneath there's the whiff of an attitude, a taste of superiority and rescuing, that the Loving Teacher shall wrest the Poor Child from the clutches of Family Dysfunction And Vice and set Said Child on the Road To Success And Enlightenment. A quiet tape playing in the background, you know? And that story doesn't have much room for the Nurturing Parent who raised the child not to need a saviour.

Teachers, sure. Messiahs, no.

I'm still cranky about the suggestions from some of the teachers when Poppy started school there, that she would "finally" get some "socialization". Snort. PLEASE! They call dealing drugs behind the maintenance shed "socialization"?


Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Attention Span of a Gnat

I glanced at my coffee-table in passing today, and noticed how it was reflecting my life. I can't do one thing for more than five minutes. Honestly! From studying, to checking e-mail, on the phone, more studying, copying notes, putting the binding on placemats (unfinished Christmas presents), gnashing gnuts, reading Christmas presents, putzing in the kitchen, flip some pages in my textbook, take pointless photographs...

There's nothing that gets my housework done like the need to study, I tell ya. As soon as I get even a smidge of mid-term anxiety, suddenly my senses are incredibly keen to notice the muck in the drip pans on the range, the plethora of insect corpses in my light fixtures, heaps of previously disregarded clutter, unbaked muffins. Even cleaning my fridge looks like a better deal than cracking the books.

What IS that?

I love what I'm learning, and I like being smug over what I can stuff into my cranium. But for whatever reason, as soon as I really ought to trot out the ol' self-discipline and do some orderly note review and homework finishment, I go all to pieces. I run around in circles. I cook and clean and fret over what I really need to do but can't force myself into.

And then, all in the last week, suddenly it all gels and I finish the last of my assignments, sit down with a composed mind (er... composed-ish), and make it work. Well, make it work well enough to get some decent marks, anyway. I'm thinking it would work a lot better and be a lot more permanent if I had a less frantic method to my madness.

But what am I do to? This is the way I've always been, though it's been magnified by the splintering that happens to a woman's mind after she has children and is forced to adopt the motto "Multi-Task or Bust!" I can wish I were different, but who knows? Maybe someone else is wishing she were me. Maybe there's some tireless, admirable soul studying her organized way through every single day between one class session and the next, just wishing that she could live my frenzy.

Yeah. Probably not, but I like to entertain that vision to console myself.

The boy-child, exulting in -10C. Yay! It's not -40!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Scenes From My Windows

The weather's been more temperate in the last week, but still lows near -30C at night. Brrr. Enough warmth during the day that the trees are all frosty, so everything's beautiful, and I love admiring it all from indoors, particularly if I'm tucked up with a quilt, hot water bottle, and a good book. I'm all for the Great Outdoors when I've got the Great Indoors as my base camp. Mother Nature is .... well, who am I to backchat Mother Nature?

Capucino Candy Canes...

... are better than peppermint. Much. This is your Madcap Christmas Tip, 2009 Edition.

And hey, it's Christmas Day! You know what that means?

The Big Draw! The Give-away! The Coaster Extravaganza!

Drum roll please.....


The winner is....


Annette and Shadowmoss!

Only two people entered, and I don't want to choose. So you both get a set!

Okay ladies, let me know what colours you prefer and I'll get working on it.

Merry Christmas to all! I'm off to play with my new fabric...

Thursday, December 24, 2009


This year Christmas
Became small and small and small
Like a god
Shrinking into a squally babe
This year
Christmas distilled
And all that remained
Was candles
And stockings
And oranges.
I can pick this Christmas up in my arms
Swaddle it in tissue and ribbon
Tuck it away like an ornament
Into the forgotten recesses of my heart
So it can sprout
Like a potato forgotten in the pantry
Sprouts from every eye.

Monday, December 21, 2009


So I promised the kids that yes, we would have a Christmas tree this year, even though I got rid of the 6' monstrosity variety that I couldn't abide crashing into every time I tried to walk between the living room and the kitchen. And we do have a tree. A 30" tree. It sits meekly on the top of a dresser, carefully keeps itself to itself and doesn't get up my nose. I can live with this tree until Jan 1.

I don't like Christmas trees. I might like them a lot more if I weren't bound to the artificial ones, but the allergies dictate that breathing is more important than aesthetics. Even so, you know what Christmas trees remind me of more than anything else? Those tacky Hindu shrines, with all the garish colours and lights and bling. And 19th century Catholic schlock-art. Think of all those copies of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart hanging above countless Catholic dining rooms. Same spirit behind it, I think. The spirit of Electric Pink and Brazen Blue isn't limited by geography. Must be one of them archetypy things.

So I'm a bit of a Christmas Tree Crank. But I love the candles, and bits of (real) greenery and red berries and gingerbread. And stockings. Quite like the stockings. The set I made when the kids were tiny is getting a little rough though, so one fine day I'll have to set my hand to a new design. Not today.

Today the sun dipped behind the building across the road just after 3 p.m., so I lit my Solstice candles. It's a sacrament. A call to prayer.

I light my candles for the weary of heart. This year I'm not one of them, but so often I have been. I light them for so much of the world struggling to survive, locally and overseas. Light for thankfulness for our full freezer and for enough to share. Light for health, and those without it, and my work with them, work that I love. For fresh water, safe enough to drink. For books, and those who share their knowledge, and the ability to educate ourselves.

And Christmas stockings!

I think there might be a book and chocolate and some fabric in that ol' stocking of mine this year. Maybe. You never know, you know. ;-)

And hey,
By the way
Don't forget to enter
The Give-Away!

(see previous post...)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fabric Coaster Tutorial and a GIVE-AWAY!

Upfront immediately - this isn't original to me. I learned this one recently from Encourager from Be Encouraged. Her tutorial was so helpful, and this project so simple and yet very finished and useful. I've made two sets of four so far. Why another tute? Well, just because it's fun! I changed mine slightly from the directions she gave, to accommodate a heavier bottom fabric. Just a little twist.

So, mes belles et mes beaux, choose yourselves four top fabrics and one bottom fabric. I used a flannel for the bottom, but a smooth cotton would work fine too. It's just what I had on hand, the trimmings off a quilt-back.

For each coaster, you need five pieces, 5"X5", one of each fabric.

Take the four top fabrics, and fold them in half, "wrong" sides touching. Press.

Bottom fabric is FACE UP. (Later the whole shebang gets turned inside out.) Take one top fabric and lay the raw edge along one raw edge of the bottom fabric.

Take another top fabric and lay it along the next raw edge, as in the picture. Continue with all four fabrics. The last top strip gets tucked in under the first one.

Like so.

There. You're done the "piecing". Pin it!

Now, stitch a quarter-inch seam all along the outside.

Take the pins out. Dock the corners and trim the seam allowance to 1/8", being careful not to snip through your stitches. Because, oh, how that will grieve you and cause your teeth to gnash when it you turn it through and find an unholy hole!

Turn it inside out. You just reach your canny fingers through the middle of the front fabrics and wiggle it inside out. I don't have a picture of this, and I don't have a better way of describing it. But it's easy, and You Can Do It!

Take something thin and blunt (I used the blade on my paper scissors, which is almost as blunt as my steak knives), and poke the corners out from the inside to square it up a little.

What have you? A finished coaster! Just press it. With an iron. Stamping on it with your boot doesn't give nearly the same crisp edge.

Now, press it to your bosom if you will, or tie a ribbon around the set you've made and tuck it in with some cookies for the nice person who's hosting the party you'll attend tomorrow.

Ta Da! Ta Done!

I enjoyed that so much, I'm gonna do it again! If for whatever reason you don't feel like making your own, here's the Big Opportunity. Leave a comment, and I'll draw a name. The winner gets a set of four coasters, made in the colours of his/her choice, from the wilds of my stash.

Talk to me, baby!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ready To Bust Mah Pod!

November 30, 2009

Dear Journal,

I feel like we've been in couple's therapy, you and I. A little intense, as if we were bound at the hip. Each day of this month I knew you were waiting for me, waiting to see if I could be faithful. Apparently the answer is no. I wander. I stray. Sometimes you're out of sight, out of mind.

It's not you, it's me.

I'm flirting with life, you see, the wider world where things happen and I stir the magic cauldron with my very own hand. It's not just kitchen and garden and sewing machine anymore. I need further fields. I have this urge to run away from the beckoning of your screen and taste foreign fruit.




More! more! more! I'm insatiable! I get bored, and as much as those real live people out there drive me crazy sometimes, I find myself drawn into that world of busy-ness and complication, of strangeness and exotic ideas. I want to know everything!

And then,

and then I want to be able to come home, and roost, and let it all slosh over me and distill until it's potent and eye-wateringly strong, and just a drop can dispel a host of ills. I want to sit with it in stillness. I want to watch it take germinate in the dark and send out roots and take hold in the soil of where I'm at.

That's all I want. Just everything.

Spontaneous Combustion

There are moments, o ye sistren and brethren, when it's a far better thing to just go to bed than fret over why your keyboard won't type letters. A far better thing. Because if you be so tired that you can't figure out that the blessed thing simply isn't properly plugged in at the back, you're definitely too tired to compose a coherent post.

This 'flu has hit me pretty hard. Last night I was so hopped up on Ventolin and fever that I couldn't sleep, so I lay there flying through the cobwebby corners of my head, having brilliant insights and making breathtaking connections between the various mysteries of life. Most of it I don't remember this morning (probably a mercy), but I did manage to suddenly recognize some patterns behind what a client is presenting, and some oblique treatment strategies to address those. Even looking at it more soberly this morning, it still looks like a heck of a good idea. Incredibly so. I've since spent some time looking through various texts, and the bonds between the seemingly unrelated parts are unmistakable, if you know where to look. I didn't know yesterday, but I know now.

In a lot of ways, I'm not a person with huge reserves of self-discipline. Fasting, long bouts of prayer/whathaveyou, sitting alone in the bush for days, those things aren't on my to-do list. I don't have it in my to motivate myself that way. But every now and then, through the discomforts and altered states of fever or (unintentional) sleep-deprivation, I have these moments when my mind loosens its scrabbling grip on what it thinks it knows, and goes wandering naked in unmapped territory. Lots of what it finds are just twigs and dried leaves, but occasionally I stumble into a cave of wonders, with ancient paintings on the walls, lit by fires not made by hands. It's strange, and it's humbling. I don't know how I got there, and I don't know how I got home again, but I've been, and I'm different for it.

I don't know what else to say about that.

Maybe nothing. I'll just ponder it in my heart.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I had a bath this afternoon.

When I got out, I saw a huge plume of black smoke rising from behind the big shed that serves as "garage".

Curiosity prevailed, and I found that my husband had decided to burn down one of the old buildings on the property.

Without a permit.

We live right next to town.

People notice these things.

People like the volunteer fire department, which is housed in the building directly across the field from us.

Apparently we're in for some " fire safety counseling" tomorrow. Hopefully we're not also in for a big fine.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Family Matters

Puss came home from her "fixation" appointment today. Amen and amen. No more kittens. As utterly appealing as they are, they grow up into cat-producing cats, and that's an endless cycle. Winter kittens are particularly bad up here. They tend not to live very long. That gives me the heebie-jeebies, thinking that there'd be kittens freezing to death in some frigid corner of the auction mart.

Forgive me, but through this gynecological ordeal all I could think about was something I read a long time ago, maybe a decade ago, written by a proponent of families "planned by God", and an opponent of birth control. She was walking with her legion of children, and some man came up and (very rudely, I agree), gave her a blast, declaring that people like her were the bane of the planet. And she said that she gestured towards her children, and asked him which ones of them he'd suggest that she should have done without.

Which sounds so pro-child, yes? Yes, I thought so, on first glance.

But for many people of the world, the question gets turned back, and parents find themselves a position to ask which of their children will go hungry, or be sold, or some other abomination, so the others have something to eat that week. Or perhaps there's no question. No one gets anything.

What if that same woman found herself in a very different economic landscape, where there was no safety net, how would she choose? Would she choose to watch child after child die while she continued to create more in God's name, if there was fertility control available?

When I was still plenty hormonal for about five years after the birth of my second, I desperately wanted more kids. Desperately. Everything in me screamed "Baby!" Now? I'm really glad my kids are growing up, more independent. I love them, and I love watching them as their own people. The hormones shifted. My perspective changed. I like this stage, for all concerned.

There's only so much land, so much fresh water, so much food. That goes the same for deer, cats, and people. Even if I'm easily able to take more than my family's share of those things, and so much else, by virtue of the fact that I live in North America, that's still what it is. More than our share.

I have more than my share by a long shot. My efforts to wean myself off this unfair abundance are pretty measly and I know it.

All things considered, I'm sure glad I don't have 10 kids. I wouldn't ever like to be in a position to have to choose between them in such a way. That's not something that every woman in Africa or South America or Asia, or even North America, can avoid.

And Puss?

No biggie. She took herself off to the auction mart for a long nap and now she seems right with the world.




Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Benefit Plan

I just had one of those pay-off moments.

I was lying in bed with my arms outstretched, trying to open my lungs enough to catch some oxygen. This cold/virus/bug has really hit me hard.

Patch knocked at the door. "Are you in there, Mum?"


"Can I come in?"

I wanted to say no, please let me wheeze in peace, but I didn't. "Sure, come on in."

He had a hot-water bottle for me, and then knelt at the end of the bed by my feet and started rubbing them. After a while he began finding acupoints, and holding them, and asking me about the meridians, and trying to trace them around my ankles and up to my knees. He's got a good touch for it, wise hands. The treatment lasted about 20 minutes, and then he rubbed my head, wished me a good night, and took himself to bed.

My boy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thread of the Fringe That Swished You

I've been collecting containers in anticipation of the holiday for a while now, because using gift wrap gets up my nose and makes me scroogish. I'm going to see if I can do without it altogether this year.

Most of the tins were $0.49, the big ones set me back $0.69. Second-hand, of course; the thrift shops are full of these. The ones I like best are just going to sit on my bookshelf and twinkle at me through the season, but the other (still very nice) ones are going to be impregnated with candied pecans and toffee and cookies and sundry other holiday bits and pieces.

You see the fringed tin in the basket? It was too boring. I was rummaging around in my fabric bins, looking for scraps to make a little gift-pouch (also in the basket, tied with green ribbon), when I came across a length of flamboyant gold fringe. Inspiration struck. I measured out a length on the circumference of the tin, stitched across the fringe to stabilize it, cut it, daubed the edges with Fray-Knot or whatever that stuff is called, and then glued it on with regular white glue. Swish, eh?

Right, that's enough playing. Time to crack the books. Ta!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mea Culpa

Shame, shame, double shame... I missed a day! Instead of posting, I just went to bed.

It was an extremely busy weekend, lots of friends over for supper, massage practice, studying, cooking, cooking, cooking, dishes, dishes, dishes, Himself experienced a sundance sweatlodge, two batches of wine went from one incarnation to another, Poppy had a Saturday job catching chickens for a local farmer, and Patch took advantage of the snow and hauled the X-country skis out of the auction mart. Much of a muchness.

And I found myself some kind of weird bug to join into the fun. Not exactly sick, but sneezing and wheezing like crazy, and big, swollen lymph nodes. Thankfully, after going back to bed for a few hours of extra sleep this morning, everything seems to be about 75% better.

I'm trying not to drive myself crazy. I swore at the beginning of the school year that I wasn't going to flog myself to get 100% on every little quiz, and so far I've managed that (hah! that's for sure!), but I can feel the craziness mounting. There's so much to learn! A case study that needs to be started, for a condition we haven't even covered yet, so I've got a bunch of extra studying for that, on top of all the rest of it. As much as I know it really doesn't mean Sweet Fanny Adams, I like getting high marks. Some kind of residual childhood approval thing, probably.

And then there's Christmas looming...

I gave the 6' tree the boot last week. It, and all its decorations went to the recycle tent at the dump. Poppy and I can't breathe with spruce in the house, so a number of years ago Himself found a $5 artificial tree at a garage sale. I've always hated it, but it was a big deal for the kids, so we kept setting the wretching thing up every year. No more. I told them if they wanted big trees, they needed to start the process by getting their own homes. Until such time, they'll have to make do with what I'm willing to live with . This year it's a little table top tree. I tried to push through a little green wire Christmas basket shaped like a spruce, about 8" high, and would hang nicely on the wall, but poor Poppy nearly fainted. I had mercy. We'll keep the 2.5' tree for a few years longer. After that? Just candles and pinecones and festive, glittery cookie tins.

But that looming Christmas thing... it's more about sewing. Not that I really want to start a bunch of projects, but I feel like I should. I've got seasonal stitchy-guilt.

And I suppose I should buy some presents too... and find the stockings...


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

I don't remember ever wishing for snow before, but I'm wishing now. It's the end of November, and there are dust-devils blowing through town.

Ack - water!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Convincing Case For Creativity

I've had case studies on the brain lately. I have to write one for my course, and I've never done anything like this before. When I reviewed the samples they had on hand, it was a pretty dismal outlook - all I could think of was being on the receiving end and how much chemical intervention I'd need in order to plough through 16 offerings of that sort.

So I've spent a little time searching the internet for "how to write a massage case-study". Not exactly a gold-mine of information. The few articles I did find didn't employ the same format we were instructed to use. And they were uniformly dull.

Maybe there's an inherent limit to readability of the genre, but I was really hoping to stumble over something scintillating and witty and absorbing.


It's only 10% of my final mark.

Maybe I'll take a chance and "innovate".


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Matryoshkas En Papier

(Not sure about my "French" blog title, but it'll do for now.)

I found this really nifty card tutorial yesterday, and I thought I'd give you directions over to Zakka's from whence it came.

It's the last lap of November, and that always means I find myself in the throes of MAKING THINGS FOR CHRISTMAS. This year, not so much, but I still have little pangs of handmade lust as my mind schemes to express itself through my fingers. Cards would be a lot less time-consuming than quilts, I'm guessing... especially if I only made a few.... hopefully it's not like potato chips; you can never stop at one...

Dang, they're cute! Somebody stop me!

Edit: Looking at these, I'm suddenly reminded of the little fabric creche sets I made one year when the kids were tiny. Too bad I don't have a picture from the olden days... I probably made about 10 sets for friends with children, and they were basically fabric matryoshkas of Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, who slept in a decorated tea-box manger. They were constructed with stitching and glue, and had cardboard bases so they'd stand up, and I hand-painted the faces.

When did I have the time?

Oh right. The kids were small. I didn't sleep for an entire decade. Selective amnesia.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Patch: "Mum, what's 'Sass Factor'?"

Me: "Not sure. What do you think?"

Patch: "I'm not sure either, but I think it's what they test for at Dad's work when you have to pee in a cup."

God help me if I'm ever employed at a construction site!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"The touch of an infinite mystery passes over the trivial and the familiar, making it break out into ineffable music.. the trees, the stars, and the blue hills ache with a meaning which can never be uttered in words."
-Rabindranath Tagore

I don't know who he was, but I love this quote.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What this is not.

This is NOT

-Kitty kibble

-Teeny-weeny bits of fried chicken


-The sorrowful remains of baking-failure.*


THIS is the 2009 Edition Madcap Christmas Tin Filler, aka Candied Pecans. THIS is now my favourite candy, being mostly nut and not a lot of candy. AND it's so easy that even I could make it, which automatically earns it the designation of Good.

I like giving some home-made sweeties for gifts at Christmas, but I find real candy-making rather stressful (not to mention regularly unsuccessful) so I was trawling the internet for a new beginning. I found the recipe here.

I've already rounded up the tins from the second-hand stores in the area, so now I'm all set. Christmas? Bring it on!

* Unlike the chocolate cake crumbs in my freezer, today's other baking adventure. Honestly, I need to concentrate when I'm in the kitchen. Forgot both the eggs and the gelatin binder that keeps the end-product from crumbling to chocolate ash. It's going to be reincarnated as trifle, I think.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2 A.M.

"The way to learn to do things is to do things. The way to learn a trade is to work at it. Success teaches how to succeed. Being with the determination to succeed, and the work is half done already." - Anon

I drive myself crazy, always living in the future, always fussing about what I haven't done yet. And you know, I think that's part of why I keep getting things done, so I'm not going to come down too hard on myself, but still. There's got to be some moderation.

Learning. I want to know more. It makes my heart leap when I hear about other people in middle life still pursuing new skills and understanding. Like Deb. She's studying herbalism. Too cool! Actually, my first thought was that it would be great to splice with her and share the brain-pool, so I could know that stuff without trying to shoehorn it into my head.

Last night I woke up in the wee hours, suddenly thinking about someone I knew a long time ago. We worked together. She had a baby, and the child was severely handicapped. I went to visit at the hospital, and brought a gift, but I didn't really hold the situation in my heart. I wasn't committed to real compassion, to seeing her life.

Suddenly, at two o'clock this morning, I remembered that, and was so sad that I'd been too immature and wrapped up in myself to be with her. I hadn't learned how. I'm still learning, and I hope I'd do things differently if faced with a similar situation again. I don't know. I hope so. I hope I'm still learning compassion and presence.

Learning just takes time, and it takes doing. You learn a trade by getting your hands into it, you learn life by living. I guess it's unrealistic to expect that I can be more of a person than I am with the limited experience that I have. I'm not particularly committed to reincarnation, but if there was ever an argument that would sway me, that would be it - that I'd make progress faster along the path next time I cover the same territory, and cause less hurt.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's Late, That's My Only Excuse...

Eeesh. Nearly forgot to post. I guess I'm like a bicycle... too-tired.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


This Meal Brought To You Courtesy Of Patch Catering.
Share and Enjoy!

(Roast beef, onions, carrots, potatoes, slow-cookered for 8 hours while we went to the city.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jogging Tax

I was working on the chest of Himself this afternoon, some active release on those crabby pectoralis muscles, when I began to think about breathing. Admittedly, I was mostly thinking about the possibility of not breathing if I happened to press too hard and collapse his lung, but it progressed from there.

After all, we've got two lungs, and surely that's a bit excessive, don't you think? Probably one's just for back-up.

In that case, there's a lot of superfluous, double-lung breathing going on. Especially with all those exercise fiends you see out there, running and power-walking and such, using at least twice as much air as they're properly entitled too. Don't these people ever consider the Peak Air scenario? I mean, sure, it seems like there's a lot of air, just because we haven't run out yet, but isn't prevention better than trying to find a cure?

I despair of them, I really do. You'd think they'd abstain, just out of common decency and kindness to one's fellow man/woman/person. But it seems that we'll have to take direct action against these wanton, wasteful breathers if we're going to have air seven generations from now.

I suggest a Jogging Tax. That would be a good name, though naturally it would apply to all frivolous athletic endeavour. We could apply to it every pair of new sports shoes, bicycles, or yoga pants, and use the funds collected to buy respirators for the chronically oxygen-deprived.

I would even volunteer myself as the Grand Poobah of the Fresh Air Initiative, and (in exchange for a generous per-diem) I'd travel the country by private jet, holding community meetings where the voices of concerned, sedentary citizens will finally be heard.

It's novel ideas like these that change the world, faithful readers. Mark my words.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Train Is Bound For....

This weekend, during the lunch break between classes, the conversation turned to oral sex.

Now, this is something I don't want to discuss particularly, not here and now. But it's something I even less wanted to hear about while I was trying to eat my lunch. After a few minutes I couldn't restrain myself any longer. "Please! Please! I'm going to be sick! Let me finish my salad in peace!" The ladies who lunch, they laughed. Apparently I'm silly and old-fashioned and prudish.

And then the talk took a more serious turn, as one of the women, more or less my age, related a story about her 14 year old daughter. Apparently this young woman was engaged in a game of Truth Or Dare at school, and she was dared to lick a classmate's penis, which she did. The laudable part, the point of note, was that her relationship with her mother is so open and trusting that the daughter told her all about it. The maternal counsel she received? "Make sure you only lick the side, not the end, because you might get a disease."

The consensus at the table was that this exchange was proof that in a loving, open mother-daughter relationship your kids can come to you with anything. Obviously this woman was a solid contender for Mother of the Year.

I'm sure my mouth was hanging open, Romaine dangling from my teeth. Is this for real? I CANNOT IMAGINE, I really can't, A) my daughter doing anything so stupid, or B) giving her such stupid advice. Who knew that disease is so easily avoided? And where did I get the silly idea that 14 year old girls shouldn't be licking their classmates like popsicles, on a dare?

This is a strange world. I'd try another one, but the train isn't due for goodness knows how long...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

I've got Patch making gluten-free bread today. He said he's interested in learning to cook more complicated things, and I think that's a great idea, especially now that he's reading more easily. There are a lot of ingredients, and a few steps, and a recipe helps a lot.

Knowing how to cook for yourself is one of those most basic skills, as basic and necessary as knowing how to brush your own teeth. I think it's a SIN when a person leaves home not knowing some basic cookery skills. It's a terribly handicap, both in terms of self-sufficiency and finances. Ready-made, or restaurant food, is horribly expensive, and most often less nourishing.

Even more so, to send this boy, my celiac son, out into the Wild Beyond without knowing how to bake his own bread, well, that would be cruel. He loves it. He's crowing about his talents as a chef, and making plans to master other favourite recipes.

I astonished a classmate this weekend by mentioning that I spent my summer raising and butchering chickens. She couldn't imagine that much DIY. I can't say it was my favourite-ever activity, but I'm sure glad I know how! Knowing how to get rid of a headache fits in there too, in the category of basic life-skills. I love my line of paid work.

I love fiction, and I love fabric, and I love speculative conversation. But I can't enjoy all those other things without knowing I've got a firm foundation in the earthly world of hands and soil. Funny. It's not like I love chicken shit or hauling water or weeding gardens. But something in me knows I need it.

It's just a drop in the bucket of available knowledge, useful knowledge. Drip, drip, drip... another fifty years or so and I might be up to the quarter-full mark!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Holy Homework, Batman!

(image from morguefile)

How am I going to get all this done in 4 weeks?!!!

My brain doesn't have enough storage space!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ghostly Gabor

Currently reading:

Great book. Go find yourself a copy.

Passion is a divine fire: it enlivens and makes holy; it gives light and yields inspiration. Passion is generous because it's not ego-driven; addiction is self-centred. Passion gives and enriches; addiction is a thief. Passion is a source of truth and enlightenment; addictive behaviours lead you into darkness. You're more alive when you're passionate, and you triumph whether or not you attain your goal. But an addiction requires a specific outcome that feeds the ego; without the outcome, the ego feels empty and deprived. A consuming passion that you are helpless to resist, no matter what the consequences, is an addiction. - Mate

Friday, November 6, 2009


I'm in the midst of packing for my November school weekend. Oi. Travelling gluten-free does NOT mean travelling light. I can't leave it to the very last minute, or I end up eating nothing but cheese and fruit, and I'm not that sort of woman. This month I'm raising the bar and bringing little individual containers of cooked chicken, romaine lettuce, homemade dressing and grated parmesan. Chicken caesar salad.

I should bring some extra cloves of garlic so my classmates have the option to join me in my vice.

Or, alternatively, I suppose I could bring my toothbrush.

It's frustrating, trying to be prepared for this many meals away from home, but the truth is that even when I can find a restaurant that serves GF, I certainly don't enjoy it more than my own cooking.

Mind you, I have no quarrel with the dishwashing staff. Really, that's the best part of eating out, don't you think? No dishes. Amen.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Escape Hatch

I'm too lazy to go back looking in the archives, but did I mention that Poppy goes to school now? She started last winter after we moved here, going a few days a week. The principal here was great about it - said she could come when she wanted, for what she wanted, no b.s. about having to jump through hoops that don't really exist except in some little god's fantasy.

And because he was so easy to get along with, this September she enrolled full-time. This is the deal we struck: they get the funding, and I'm the last word, and nobody messes with mama. She's doing Gr. 10 full-time this semester, but next semester she'll probably end up going half-days. When school doesn't work for us, when better things come along, we go with the better portion. If there's some kind of problem of "socialization" (believe me, there are a LOT of "socialization" problems in public schools that I've never witnessed among homeschooled children), Poppy has the option to walk away. Any time. She doesn't have to be there. Ever.

It's working out wonderfully. She's got a goal to be a psychologist, wants to do the academic paper-trail through high school, and is motivated by group situations. I bumped her up a couple grades because her age-peers are struggling through material better suited to elementary level.

You know? I think it's possible that she's the only kid in the entire school who actually wants to be there. She gets herself up at 6:30 every morning and walks there. She's the only one walking too, as far as we can tell. There's a bus, but she doesn't like taking it unless it's really cold.

And it's all because she doesn't have to. Anytime this stopped working out, she could stop going. I know it, she knows it, the teachers know it. The exit is always an option.

I love that. I love that my kids know they don't have to put up with crap that doesn't serve them well. I jump through the hoops of my schooling because it's getting me where I want to go, and the destination is worth the journey. If, for some reason, it stopped being worthwhile, there's no "must" involved. Same for Poppy. In her life, school is there for her - she's not there for school.

Patch? He doesn't consider school an option. Possibly ever, though every once in a while he talks about getting a trade ticket at a college in order to facilitate his business plans. He's got a strong entrepreneurial bent.

Yesterday he was discussing with me his future as a married man with children, and considering that he might like to be the one to stay at home with his kids. Homeschooling is really important to him - he wants to make sure his kids have that opportunity, but he doesn't consider it a foregone conclusion that his wife will be an at-home kinda gal. I love that too.

My kids have a wide world, possibilities on every side. We all do. The trick is letting the scales fall from our eyes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Difference

2 "kinds" of banana muffins. Believe me, baking soda makes a difference. Who knew it wouldn't only change the texture but the colour? You know what else gives you white banana mufffins? Using vegetable oil instead of butter. For a while I experimented with using vegetable oil as a percentage of the fat content, but at the halfway mark the muffins got very peely-wally and tasted a little odd. Back to the Faithful Recipe. Oh, except for the blueberries - I bought a great huge bag of frozen blueberries a while back, and I throw a handful of those in instead of chocolate chips now. My body has been saying NO to caffeine more and more over the last couple of years. Can you imagine? I still partake in chocolate, but I find that I enjoy fruit a lot more.

Does this mean I've finally grown up?

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.
- William Morris

Little details, big differences.

What I'd add to darling William's quote is that the ability to take an interest in the details of life is a measure of happiness in itself. I'm slowly pulling out of a very long-term depression, and one of the things that I notice best, and had missed the most, was the ability to care about anything. Yesterday I was at the second hand store, and I could actually muster up enough enthusiasm to buy some Christmas ornaments and candle-holders, and have the interior conversation about how to make things festive for the upcoming holiday. How long has it been since Christmas was anything but more work?

D is also for dent. In my head. The trunk of the car fell on me this morning, and there was blood everywhere. Nothing like a head-wound for a truly dramatic bleed!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I think, and I know a lot of other people who think it too, that "Swine Flu" is a profitable constructed fantasy of the hugely lucrative pharmaceutical companies. There's absolutely no indication that this "pandemic" is any more dangerous than any previous 'flu, and the population isn't in a weakened state, like they were in 1918 after WWI, that they'd be especially susceptible.

And this lady

the Finnish minister of health, has reason to believe that the "vaccination" campaign is an attempt to eliminate a huge percentage of the world population. She has nothing to gain by saying this, probably quite a lot to lose.

Follow the money.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I'm going to shamelessly copy Sarah at Handmade Homeschool and designate Tuesdays as "A Quote and a Question" days.

"Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other."
- Henry David Thoreau.

I think about bodies and souls a lot. I work with bodies of course, as a massage therapist, both in the sense that I work with my body and work on other bodies. And I love what I do. I think about it all the time, how things might work better, try to uncover seemingly unrelated patterns of strain. I want people to leave my clinic with more function than they walked in with, and more often than not, that's how it works out.

One of the places all this thinking leads me is into the realm of, what is a body? What is a thought? What is a soul? Is there any difference? Do I think any less with my kneecap than I do with my brain? I'm serious on that. Not so much quantitative contribution, because obviously a person can lose an entire limb and maintain a whole personality, but in the sense that it's a group effort, no matter how small the group is.

I often feel the meridians of my own body, with their subtle energies and flows, and I feel it in my clients, and I know, I know, I know that this is somehow what we ARE. And there it is, like a holograph, the thought in the knee, the tears in the skin, the holy of holies in the in-between spaces that have no name.

But on the other hand, all my limitations flood me, and I can only focus on one thing at a time, and it causes me to break things down into little classifications. This is the body, that is the soul, this is where the pain is, that is where I feel well.

And about 18 months ago I saw the Body Worlds exhibit, and you know? There was nothing there. They were utterly lifeless. Whatever connect or construct between those molecules and the energy of life that had been, was no more. And in a situation like that, it's very easy to revert to viewing the body as a cloak that the "soul" (whatever that is) puts on and off as it sees fit.

So here's my question, and feel free to disagree with everything I've written above. I'm interested in opinions.

What is a soul? Is there such a thing? If there isn't, what's asking this question? If there is, what is its relationship to these fingers typing?

Edit: What a hoot! I just realized that it's actually MONDAY! Can you tell my days are all one very much like the next? Right then, MONDAYS are Q&Q days!... or however it works out....

Sunday, November 1, 2009


November 1, All Saints Day.

For all the saints who from their labours rest
Who thee, by faith, before the world confessed
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed,
Allelujah, Allelujah

I can't help it - as soon as I hear "All Saints Day", I hear that hymn in my head, a relic of childhood. Sometimes I think every memory I have from birth to 20 years was molded by my church life.

And since? Well, it's a little different. Perhaps every memory since is molded by my reaction to church. And I'm not sorry for that, either the first twenty or the second (almost) twenty. Sometimes I'm wistful on behalf of my children, who haven't grown up terrified by an immanent Rapture, frantically learning Bible verses to keep sin at bay lest the Day come and they be Left Behind. It was certainly high on the anxiety scale, but boy, it added all these layers of meaning and complexity to my life and my understanding. But Poppy and Patch will have their own layers, I suppose.

Parenting is a tricky business. Stupidly, I allowed the first thing I read this morning to be a local online magazine on birthing issues and attachment parenting. I tell you, there's nothing that makes me feel more incompetent, insufficient, oafish, and insensitive than those kinds of articles. All the Granola Mamas, preaching the gospel of slings and quiet voices and contemplative parenting... who ARE these people? Here am I, the outspoken, loud-spoken, bellowing at my kids as they bellow back at me, who longs for a chance to be truly alone, figuring that my kids are usually left best to their own devices (and me to mine, hint-hint), hugging, rassling, cooking, running a little business that does NOT include my children, eagerly waiting the day when they take up on their own and leave me a little more space, hoping that they'll be okay, secretly longing to make quilts for grandchildren... I love my kids, and I'm on the last lap of parenting, and I've got all these plans for when I grow up. Where's a voice like that in those magazines? They don't publish them. Surely I'm not the only one picking and choosing the best bits out of the granola. (Give me the nuts...)

Do you know what I'm saying? I'm not sure I do. I can't live up to it, whatever it is. It's just as much an illusion as the Real Simple magazine. It's not real. I choose this, I choose that, I choose on the spur of the moment, and I choose it all! I choose to keep them home, and I choose to keep planning for the day when they leave and this chapter is done. And I'm not going to apologize for that.... no more fundamentalism, not for God, not for Granola. It's not all one way or the other.

Ask and ye shall recieve. I'm asking! I don't know what I'm asking for, or who I'm asking, but I've decided that I'm going to live life with my hands out, waiting for the windfalls of providence. Don't know how I'm going to get my homework done, or the motivation therefor? I'm asking. Don't think I've got enough customers to cover expenses? I'm asking. Too tired to work? Asking for enthusiasm and energy. Body in pain and falling apart? I'm asking for repairs. Find myself hating everything and everyone? I'm asking for an open heart. I'll ask for anything. Everything. Even if it doesn't make sense, and I'm asking madly off in all directions. Somehow it'll all come together, like the picture in a kaleidescope.

Er... that's all. Got a little carried away, but I think I'm done now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kittens. Yes, Again.

Soot (elder brother), Marmalade, Maggie, and Raggie. My favourite kittens, all lined up waiting for a picture. Badger (who used to be Maggie II, but earned herself an individual name by being extraordinarily ornery and grouchy) and Bleach weren't brave enough to make the long walk from the barn to the back porch.

Tomorrow is the first of November, and I think I remember that some people do a sort of forced-march blogging in November. I need that. Need some sort of boot in the arse to get the juices flowing.

Here's the Solemn Swear: I'm gonna blog me a blog every loving day in November. Maybe pictures, maybe not. Maybe even a picture without words. Maybe short, maybe long. But there'll be something, by Jingo, or .... or I'll be very disappointed in myself.

So there.

Yes, that's a threat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kittens.... Again.

Miss Puss thwarted me. She must have heard me say that I was going to have her spayed after she was done nursing #1 Son, and slyly continued to nurse him right through another pregnancy. So we have five more! Yikes! This time, it's the 10 week mark and no qualifiers.

They are:

Marmalade (M)
Bleach (b/c he looks like a bleached version of Marmalade) (M)
Maggie 1 (short for Magpie, b/c she's b&w) (F)
Maggie 2 (see above) (F)
Rags (short for Ragtime Gal) (F) a little callie/tortoiseshell.

And Soot, of course, the only survivor of the first batch. He's pretty jealous, and is just begging to get his nuts nipped with his aggressive behaviour. Trying to chew through a kitten's neck isn't the best way into my good books. He's on notice.

Seven cats.

This wasn't the sort of livestock I'd envisioned when we started this venture...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Effable, Very

Holy guacamole!

I'm no saint, that's for sure. I'm a screw-up and probably neurotic in a dozen different ways that I'm not even aware of at this point, but there's a line, you know?

And I've had a line severely crossed in the last few days. Actually, it was happening last winter, but I only found out about it now. The things you don't know...

Himself and I have been seeing another acupuncturist in the past year, on and off, because the other one was so busy, and this lady had a specialty we were interested in. And jeepers, she seemed SO nice, and wanted to HELP, and she certainly was good with the needles. I referred people to her all the time, friends and clients of mine, and she smiled in my face and talked about collaborating as practitioners....

And this weekend I found out that through last winter she had posted, on a semi-public forum, a very detailed description of the Spouse's medical condition, her take on our family dynamics, her opinion of all the ways in which we were dysfunctional, and then had a Madcap & Co. flaming party with the other practitioners on the site. Our names weren't used, but hers was.

When I found out, I went and had a look, and printed copies of the pages concerning us. Should be useful. She'd already had the moderator wipe a bunch of it out, but there were enough traces left that it's pretty unmistakable what was going on.

This was someone who has professional obligations through her association, obligations of confidentiality, respect, and compassion towards clients. I'm pretty sure this doesn't qualify.

The prevailing winds of incivility are disturbing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


While I was making the bread this morning, the word "ineffable" came to mind, and ....

Ineffable. Does that mean something that can't possibly be effed up?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Whoa Nellie!

Yeah, it's been a while since I've posted. Life, I tell ya!

Anyway, here's my astonishment of the day:

I've been doing a huge amount of transcription, on a purely volunteer basis, for someone who lectures and conducts workshops in her field (a branch of bodywork). She's quite well-known in those circles, and months ago I joined her online group, just to listen in on what other practitioners, far more advanced than I, were discussing about treatment options.

So one day she posted a request for someone to do transcription of the audiofiles she records during her workshops, and I put my hand up. I thought it was a great way to get more familiar with the material, and a nice change of pace from the things I do day to day. This board has a lot of people on it, an quite a few people who apparently originate from another planet as far as I can tell. Some bizarre stuff gets bandied about. But I put my hand up, and she just sent me a file, no questions asked, no further requests made.

I've done a lot of files in the intervening time. I mean, a lot a lot. Maybe a couple hundred hours? A lot. And I've enjoyed it, no complaints.

But today, rather out of the blue, she said she's never had anyone do this much transcription for her, and she'd like a contract from me, some way of "ensuring" that I won't try to publish her material or take credit for it.

And my jaw dropped.

No reciprocating offer, no free classes or treatments or anything like that. She wants me to sign my name swearing that I'll behave ethically towards her as a volunteer. After all this time and typing.

I'm trying to keep my temper. We all have issues, and I can understand that with all the research and time she's put into preparing this stuff, that she wants to protect it. That's reasonable. And I offered her references of people who've known and worked with me on various projects over the past 15 years. But she wants a contract instead.

I don't really know what to think of this request. Looking for enlightenment - please?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Show and Tell

Poppy's project. She's been playing with PowerPoint, taking pictures of us all and fiddling with them. However. PowerPoint isn't transferring well into My Pictures, and the upshot of that is that my freckles, when they're in a bit of shade, come across looking like five o'clock shadow. Nice. I've always wanted a new career - I guess I can join the B&W Circus.

My projects. I've been messing about with my fabric stash, trying to make little containers of various sorts for gift-giving when the fit takes me. The tute for the gift-bag (3 sizes provided) by Elizabeth of Oh Fransson is here, and the tute for the little zippered case by badhuman of Indie House is here. Quite happy with the overall effect, though in my second, larger gift-bag I put a piece of stiff cardboard in the bottom in order to give it a bit more stability and oomph. Happy with that.

The empty grommets are supposed to have cords looped through them for handles, but I didn't have any on hand. Next time into town, I guess.

Puss's projects. Or, shall I say, Puss the Perpetually Pregnant. I thought I'd wait until she'd finished nursing the first young lad before I got her fixed. Hah. He was nursing until last week, and at this point she's full to bursting by the looks of her. Oh well. After the next batch arrives she's got six weeks of mama-time and then she's off for the ole snip. I don't want to be the Bearded Lady and the Cat Lady of Gawdswallop.

Still allergic to cats, btw. Sniff.

Patch's project. He's been digging this huge hole behind the auction mart, sort of root-cellarish to my eyes, but he figures it would be a good bomb-shelter/hide-out sort of thing. He found this little feller in there one morning.

And the Spousal Unit? Off gallivanting with family in lakes and such. Nose to the grindstone and all that. ;-)

Fretful Monday

This is a bit delicate to write about because I don't want to come across as trumpeting virtue, but it's a subject I've been thinking a lot about lately and I'm not entirely easy in my mind with it. I'd like to hear what other people's opinions are.

As a family, we've been helping out a single-parent family with groceries and an occasional tank of gas, as well as just staying in contact on a regular basis. This lady left a pretty chaotic, insane situation and set up on her own. She's working hard on her own "issues" as well as holding down a job and creating a stable home for her children. She's not frivolous, no expensive habits, and is a very economical, d.i.y. kind of homemaker. But the money's still very tight, even with a housing subsidy, and it just feels like the right thing to help her out, since our heads are firmly above water right now.

(Please don't congratulate me on that. It's the same sort of thing that most of you are doing on a regular basis too, and I'm only giving out of my plenty, not out of my scarcity, so that's not exactly a moral occasion.)

Anyway, I was making up a grocery run for her, and on an impulse decided to research what food items are most in demand at food-banks, just in case I'd forgotten something basic. But on several of the websites they mentioned that cash donations were really helpful because food-banks have "four times the buying power" of an individual. That stopped me. Four times. Holy crackers. They could buy four times as much food as I can (if what they're saying is true), and four times as many people would be helped...

But why does that not feel right to me?

I mean, on the surface it seems like a no-brainer. Bare math. Four times. But that doesn't take into consideration so many other things that are important to me.

Like contact and consistency. When you're floundering, and goodness knows I've spent enough time floundering, just to know that there's someone there who keeps you in mind and cares how you're doing is so important. A person, not a collective. Collectives are important, community is important, but I wouldn't want to be married to a community. A little impersonal, you know what I mean? Not really a relationship. And the same with care. I can't really work up a lot of concern for The Village, but I can be concerned about X and her family.

And yeah, I guess maybe care in this circumstance may be a bit embarrassing, but is it more embarrassing than going to a food bank? I don't know. She doesn't seem upset about it. I try to fence it round with as much dignity for her as I can muster, but still, it must be a pang. I know that, but I don't know what the option would be. She's been a giver in the past; hopefully we all can rassle up the grace to receive when necessary. It's the harder end of the stick, I think.

The other thing is, that I know I'm giving to someone who's working very hard at self-sufficiency. I know that lots of the folks who end up resorting to the food bank are doing that too, but not all. And I really want to see these resources going to the people who are working but coming up short, rather than those just waiting for the ravens.

I guess this is the way I can do it, for now. Maybe always. There's probably call for both approaches, like most things. More than one street in this town. This is just the road I live along.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stitching With Dropped Threads

Poppy picked up several thick books at the library on our last visit, so I helped myself to one of her choices the other day. It's called Dropped Threads, and it's a compilation of short essays and excerpts by Canadian women, professional writers and otherwise.

I didn't expect to like it. But I did. Not all of it, not every single piece, but as a whole it was a pleasant surprise. Lots of feminism from lots of perspectives, bits and pieces of women's lives, small truths and revelations that I needed to hear.

It's me, it's my age, it's the circumstances of my life, and I'm finding more and more as I creep up in years that I need to hear the voices of other women. Older women. Older women who aren't trying to feed me religious propaganda. I've heard so much of that, and seen so much of it, and continue to see it in a lot of my clients, hush-mouthed women speaking what they've been taught all their lives, and suffering for it. Not all of them, obviously, but enough that it's a worry to me from a health point of view as well as a frustration as a person who's messing her way through life and needs to hear what's real. Needs to speak what's real, not a superimposed "should".

And I found that. I read women talking about aging, and loneliness, and second-guessing. Talking about their bodies, relationships, ambivalence, regret, lack of regret. And spirituality too. Most of it seemed pretty real, their own stuff after peeling back the layers to find themselves underneath.

Getting older is something on my mind a lot these days. Because I am, I guess. But how do you do it? I don't expect a set of directions, but I want to hear other women's walks, and how they came to peace. I want to hear what it is to settle into your own wisdom, and stop chasing youth, how to sink into maturity of years and maturity of vision, and bless that settled-ness that isn't the hyperactive, performance-driven frenzy of the earlier decades.

Dignity. I think that's what I'm struggling for. Not apathy or resignation, but dignity in the fact that I'm a woman almost forty, and then almost eighty. Or ninety, if such things come to pass. Not to compare my greying hair or wrinkles to other folks my age and think how much older/younger I look than them, or how busy/not-busy, smart/not-smart, creative/dull, ambitious or staid or ... or any of those other things that I've measured myself against all my life.

I'm trying to come to terms with myself. A big part of that is being female, and not trying to win male approval by being willing and able to run with the boys. I don't want that. I know I've done it in the past, and I'm not happy about it anymore.

I want to be a person, a woman-person, an aging-woman-person who looks both directions and knows herself.

It's not really about gender, except that this is the gender that I am.

I want to be wise.

Yeah, I know. Don't ask much, do she?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

We've been on the Chicken Channel all summer - all chickens, all the time. Feeding chickens, watering chickens, moving chickens (which, given the creativity of Himself in designing the "portable" coop was a soap-opera all of its own), frantically trying to keep chickens alive, and now, helping them onto the Heavenly Roost.

Killing cone #1. This is supposedly the standard size killing cone for the breed of chicken we raised, Cornish Giants. I'm here to testify that if I'd managed to get the head of one of these birds through the hole at the bottom, it would have been already dead by crushing. There was no way. I phoned the dealer to ask, but he was very huffy and implied that only an idiot wouldn't be able to figure it out. I think we'll be dealing elsewhere next year when we buy the next size up.

So we had to come up with something else. This was Himself's idea, augmented as we went along by more and more twine, grocery bags, and duct tape to reinforce the widening rift that threatened to part asunder. It'll last until we finish the last 11 birds this weekend, but only just.

The first weekend we had a go at this, we spent most of our time running back and forth trying to heat up water to the right temperature from the stove indoors, and then carry it out for scalding the birds before plucking. Very stressful, a little dangerous, and definitely very time-consuming. Between that weekend and the next, I made my way to Canadian Tire and picked up this turkey deep-fryer, which works like a charm and really shaved a lot of time and hair-pulling off the whole endeavour. The idea of deep-frying a turkey gives me indigestion, but I'm sure glad of the appliance for our purposes. I'd never heard of deep-frying a whole bird like that before. Live and learn.

The first two weekends we plucked by hand. Oh my Lord, mercy, mercy, mercy. Not so bad if you've only got a handful of birds, I suppose, but looking at 60, more or less, and figuring on at least 20 minutes each, if we were really rolling.... well, I was getting desperate for a plucker.

Hallelujah! I had a new client show up, and he was curious about what we were up to with the chickens. We chatted a bit about the show, and when I was mourning my whole summer disappearing under the weight of wet chicken-feathers, he volunteered his plucker that was "somewhere in the garage". You're not supposed to grab your clients and kiss them, but I tell you, it was a pretty near thing.

And what a difference! It doesn't take every little thing off, but certainly about 95%, and it reduces the yuck-factor of wet, poopy chicken-feathers by about 150%. If we do this again, there WILL BE a plucker lined up BEFORE I order any birds.

Bless Poppy. Just when I want my picture taken - in my ragaday best, with my hand up a chicken's arse. Anyway, yes, I was the guttress. I've done about 50 now, and I'm getting better and faster at it, but they're not exactly prize-winners of chickenly beauty. The lady who showed me on the first two hadn't done it in many years, and had only done it as part of an assembly line (de-sembly line?), so she'd forgotten a lot. But I've got the basics, and I watched some You-Tube clips that were helpful, so it's not too bad. I wouldn't mind a lung-ing tool though - my already minimalistic fingernails are splitting down to the bed.

End product. I had three bins of cold water at the ready - first, second and third baths, and the third one had a big block of ice that I'd frozen in an ice-cream pail. I wanted the birds thoroughly washed out and chilled for food-safety, of course, but I also wanted them good and cold before going into the freezer. Friends of ours, who'd done a lot of birds at one time, said that they lost a lot to going moldy in the freezer! I've never heard of that before, but they attributed it to the fact that there was such a lot of unfrozen meat going in at the same time and some of it not properly cooling down. Given that we're only doing about 10-12 per day, I don't think it's an issue, but still. Raw meat + cold is a combination that doesn't twig off all my bacterial fantasies.

The three in the final bucket there remind me of three Renaissance muses dancing; robust, buck-naked and upside-down.

I think we'll be able to get them all into the deep freeze. Somehow there are more of them than I thought, about 60, and we rather poorly planned and underestimated the freezer space, having ordered half a beef not too long ago. If not all, then certainly almost all, and if worst comes to worst, I guess it'll be a chicken feast this week.

CG was very helpful with my questions along the way, and she was wondering how the meat was, unaged. It would be better to age it for a few days in the fridge before freezing, for the sake of tenderness, but we can't do that with so many birds. Here's my two cents. I cooked two this past week; one frozen solid and straight into the roaster, the other I allowed to thaw. The frozen one was tough, the thawed one was really gorgeously tender.

And that is the final chapter on the broilers for this year. Eventually we'll probably get layers, but right now we're all in need of a rest from chickens. The peach has lost its bloom, so to speak. Monday we'll deal with the final 11, and THAT'S ALL FOLKS!!! Yay!