Thursday, May 28, 2009

Meet My Peeps

So, I walked up to the counter at the Co-Op, and left with a boxful of LIVE ANIMALS AND THEY DIDN"T EVEN ASK TO SEE A PERMIT OR ANYTHING!!! It was such a peculiar feeling, just like when I left the hospital with Poppy - feed it, keep it clean, and beyond that just do whatever feels right, huh? I didn't have a clue, and it didn't seem right that I was being entrusted with a helpless human being.

I don't have a clue what to do with chicks either, but I'm beginning to have more faith all the time in the natural propensity of living things to continue living in spite of me. I mean, we've had a dog for six whole days now and she hasn't died. The cat's been hanging around for seven months, and not only lived herself but put out a bud that lived. Even my trees pulled through (though I'm having some niggling doubts about that Evans cherry...). Geez, my kids are 11 and 12! So I guess there's a pretty good chance that majority of the chicks will survive my attentions long enough to make it to dinner.

You know what? (I didn't know this before we got interested in ordering chickens, so I'm sharing my wonderment.) Baby chicks can easily go 24 hours without food or water, and they mail them all over the place. Mail them! Mail order chicks. Makes me think of mail-order brides. Though brides don't come in boxes, of course.

It's also extremely strange and new to me to care for animals that I intend to eat. Wow. Strange isn't the word. It feels... very spiritual, in a fear-and-trembling sort of way. I'm going to care for them as best I can, and when the time comes, they'll contribute to my well-being. And I'll look them in the eye everyday knowing that's how it will be, and when it comes time to butcher, it'll be my hand. I don't know why this strikes me into the soul, but it does. The spirituality of Real.

I'm so much tougher than I used to me, and so much more tender. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to spill over with compassion for this world and its foibles. Even my own, occasionally. And at the same time as I'm feeling that, I know there's little room for folly or illusion, or ya lose yer chickens.

Thus sayeth the High Priestess of the Brooderie.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Televised Solemnities

Heard during the BBQ, spoken by one very religious man in his late sixties to another of the same:

"For the longest time I couldn't figure out how everyone in the whole world at the same time would be able to see Jesus coming back in the clouds. And then one day I was watching Oprah, and it suddenly came to me - it's going to be on T.V.!"


On The Brink of the Sink

My spouse served as godfather at a baptism this morning, and afterward we were invited to the family's house for a BBQ.

I thought I'd help out with food prep, so the first thing I did on arrival was nip into the bathroom to wash my hands. This is a home with three small children, so the bathroom looks as bathrooms will under those circumstances - utilized.

Now, I'm not an entirely unfettered freak about cleanliness, but I do have this underlying urge to bleach things. Thankfully I'm far too exhausted almost all the time to disinfect doorknobs the way I might otherwise, and I'd like to think that I'm enough in possession of myself that even if I weren't too tired, I'd still be able to refrain.

However. Little kids are kind of... well, bacteria-laden. In a rather blatant way. I'm sure we're all completely loaded up with various bugs all the time, but the little people show theirs so much more visually than the taller varieties, so when I'm around them I have to work harder at not thinking about it.

But I tipped over the edge while I was washing my hands. Posted on the wall next to the sink was this little ditty, to be sung to the tune of "Put Your Fingers In The Air":

There are germs everywhere, EVERYWHERE!
There are germs everywhere, EVERYWHERE!
On your face and in your nose
On your hands and on your clothes
There are germs everywhere, EVERYWHERE!

And then... nothing. That was it. Probably this lyric offering was complements of the local preschool, but it still seemed unkindly brief, and I'd like a word with the librettist. There are germs EVERYWHERE, and - ??? What? What are we to do about it? Doesn't this seem too cheerfully fatalistic? I'm merely a perpetual perambulating host for the unseen hordes? Where's the plot, the heroic stand, the conquest and sterile denoument?

Ugh. And now here I am typing on my loathsome keyboard. Somebody pass the Lysol.

We Are Legion... Almost

We have a dog.

The name she came with was Justice, but Mercy might have been a better virtue. Or Amity. Or Docility. Stern Justice just isn't so much in her nature. So now she's Jess, which I figure is close enough to the original that she won't be completely unaware that we're addressing her, but makes me a bit more comfortable calling her. Rather than calling for Justice, which would have a rather naive air about it, really. Justice. Ha.

She's an indeterminate cross between Bernese Mountain Dog and Husky. This makes her somewhat larger than I was strictly looking for, but she's not too enormous, and has the sort of coat that will allow her to live comfortably outside even out here on the prairies during winter.

We have a dog. Good Lord.

She's digging in the yard, but she doesn't bark, loves the kids, has a sweet temperment, and probably won't live more than 10 years total. She's 4 and a half now. I think I'll be able to handle it that long.

We now have a cat, a kitten, and a dog. I've got a hundred chicks arriving on Thursday.

We'll have gone from zero to 103 in six months. Population explosion.

And there's something wrong with my camera. When I first got it, the colours were fairly true. Now they all look sort of washed-out and overexposed, even on a sunny day in the shade. Drat. Oh well. Hardly a priority at this point.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Long Weekend

The Victoria Day Long Weekend is traditionally when we plant our garden. Usually it's warm enough that the soil's thawed. And it was. But Lord, it was cold outside! Snowflakes and wind swirling all around us.

We didn't actually plant, just staked out the beds and moved the manure onto them. The kids poured it on, and I spaded it in. Quite the family endeavour. Nice to all be working at something together, at least for a while. It's not always like that around here, that we can all pitch in as a unit and not only tolerate each other but actually get into high production, but we're learning. And I imagine that somedays it'll be like that, and some days it won't. We'll take it as it comes.

We have four rows, 3'X42', and Himself is planning some sort of French rowcover thing with binder twine laced over the plastic in order to keep it from blowing into the next county. He's reading Four Season Harvest, I'm reading Root Cellaring. What can I say? I tend to live in the future. So far we're agreed on beets, carrots, peas, potatoes, lettuce, chives, onions.

And... today we went to see a man about a dog. A man, a woman, and two kids, to be more precise. Looks like we're about to be dog-owners sometime in the near future. She's part Husky. Good thing. It wasn't that long ago I remember -35.

Talk about untrammelled growth. I swear, the whole place is leaping forward like we're all on chick-starter!

Yikes! It's really happening!

Friday, May 15, 2009


There's a lot of growth happening around this place.

The kitten, of course, growing at a small mammal's greatly accelerated pace. It's really quite astonishing how quickly the little animals mature, compared to us; how quickly they go from being an easy snack to being the snack-er.

We're certainly hoping that somebody makes a snack of the new pocket-gopher. Honestly! Just get rid of one, and before we've properly finished crowing over its remains, there's a new mound in the front yard! Roxanne has been rather preoccupied with her kitten's recent mobility and keeping him from falling to his death from the top bleacher in the auction mart (I'm going to assume that mother knows best, but I have to say that I wouldn't choose to keep a toddler up there....), so she hasn't been on ground patrol. And this is what happens to farm security. Huh.

All those dead trees I was lamenting? NOT DEAD AFTER ALL! Land-o-Livin'! There are buds coming out on all three, even the cherry that the deer stripped the bark off of. And the haksap that got mowed to nothing by the hired un-help last summer, even it's regenerated. So we've got a total of 2 haksaps, one cherry-bush, a long row of raspberries, a strawberry bed, one each Brookgold and Brookred plum trees, a September Ruby apple tree, and an Evans Cherry tree. Wow! This year I want to add a crabapple, not to mention a some fertilizer. I figure with all those different varieties, we're sure to always get some form of fruit coming up, even if every year isn't good for every sort.

I'm so pleased that everything didn't die over the winter. I guess sometimes even when things look dead, they're just dormant.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whimsical Weather

Yesterday, high of +20C.

Today, high of -2C.

The usual prairie May thing.

Just Thinking...

You know, this morning when I read the news article about the Pope's reception in Israel, I started thinking about his election. There are, I think, about 120 cardinals eligible to vote among themselves for the next pope, and after deliberating amongst themselves, and everyone considering everyone else's potential liabilities in the post, they picked him. They picked someone with a past history of Nazi membership.

Now, I have absolutely no opinion of his complicity in the Nazi machine, but even if he was wholly innocent of any willful, personal wrongdoing, it looks terrible.

Out of 120 potential candidates, they figured he was the most likely one....

What does that say about the rest of them? I mean,

a) They didn't think it was a big deal,


b) He was the one with the fewest, most discreet skeletons in his closet.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day

Our fine, pocket-gopher-killin' kitty has a bit of dramatic flair about her.

She showed up all de-pregnified on Easter morning, then acted for weeks as if she had nothing to show for it. Yesterday afternoon, Mother's Day, she followed Poppy into the auction mart bleachers (where Miss Poppy practices singing), waited until the show was over, wandered over to a crack in the top row and called out a kitten!

Just one. Due to her rotundity on the penultimate day of her pregnancy, I'm going to hazard a guess that there were at least two others that didn't survive. Kind of a blacky, grey-y little body; I think it's a male. Hard to tell in the depths of an abandoned auction mart, and especially when any equipment is on the microscopic side. He seems to have a friendly outlook on life, and Roxanne is certainly proud of him.

Patch suggested we call him Asher (y'know, ashes and soot and all). He's got a friend named Asher as well. Then he revised it to "Ashfur", which somehow doesn't roll off the tongue in quite the same way.

Our farm's first baby!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Madcap, Madcap, Quite Contrary

How does my garden grow?

Richly and deeply, I hope, though it'll take a little work to be sure. I've been digging out well-established weed-beds for the past couple weeks in order to break up the entrenched chaos, and yesterday someone showed up and rototilled the whole shebang. It had been so neglected and compacted over the years, and people drove over it pretty freely last summer while the push was on to get the house livable, so it was definitely hard-packed. It was great to find someone who just lives a few blocks away who could drive over on his little wee garden tractor and fluff it all up for me, for only $25.

What we're thinking to do now is establish permanent beds. There's a lot of elderly discarded lumber around here, which looks likely for laying down as walking paths between them. I think we'll probably end up with beds about 3'X9', partially because I like the 3/9 proportional feeling, but also because I can easily reach into the middle of a 3' wide bed. The 4'X8' beds we built at the last place were a little too big for me to deal with comfortably. And nine feet long means I won't have to run too far to skip over a row or two!

I haven't actually measured the established garden space, but I think it's about 25'X50'. Not huge. It's definitely big enough to begin with though, and I don't doubt that I won't be at any loss for busy-ness.

One of the challenges of this property is that it used to be the area auction mart, and a lot of the acreage is gravel, and compacted, and probably contaminated. So even though I've got all this land, not all of it is workable for gardening. However, there is a fabulous stretch of grass running east/west just past the garden, a great big run that'll be wonderful for putting our chicken tractors on. ( a la Pastured Poultry). We're not going into that really big, it's just something to help feed ourselves. I'm definitely noticing the food bill rising in the past couple years, and it's not just increased costs at the grocery. Dem kids o' mine are growing like Canada thistle, and they can certainly put it away! If this keeps up we're going to need an acre of potatoes alone!

We found a hatchery that supplies meat birds. I've got a hundred day-old chickies due to arrive at the end of May, so Himself and Patch are going to spend a weekend cobbling together a brooder, and then a few mobile pens. It looks like the laying birds are going to have to wait a little. The way things work out here, it's just not a good idea to put too much wood on the fire all at once.

Speaking of fire... I don't know if you can tell from the picture but it rained last night. It was a beautiful thing to wake up to puddles in the yard, let me tell you. Especially since the whole countryside has been going up in smoke. Very sad. I drove past a client/friend's house the other day, her beautiful acreage that they used to run a greenhouse business from, and everything was charred except for the house. The volunteers managed to save the house. But everything else gone... thirty years of cultivation.

Blessed be the rain. And the volunteer fire-departments.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Catch of the Day

Yesterday was Death Day out at the farm, at least for some of us. First thing in the morning Patch nailed a crow with his pellet gun, and when he went to retrieve the body, he discovered the remains of the vile pocket gopher that's been plaguing our immediate surrounds. Apparently Roxanne (resident pussy-cat) had been busy in the night. It's not easy to shoot a crow, or snag a pocket gopher. These are worthy accomplishments, to be sure.

I'm not the woman I once was, I tell you. I have a frozen crow in my freezer. I coo in admiration over the uneaten half of a largish rodent. Life, and death, look different when you're trying to grow/raise your own food.

There was a massage therapist I saw once, and I thought perhaps we'd have something in common, since she lived on an acreage and said she gardened. She then proceeded to tell me that she considered her garden an intentional stopover for the pestiferous deer that overburden themselves as well as everyone else, in the interest of coexistence and "non-violence". Huh.

I'm hoping for good things. I don't know what that'll look like, but I don't want social chaos and destruction. I want peace. But I need a certain astringency to that peace, a healthy Wood element influence, a recognition of what's real and what's not. Peace is gardens, and clotheslines, and chickens. (And acupuncture! Couldn't let that one go!) Peace isn't deer decimating the countryside to support their overpopulation, and "gardeners" enabling them, and buying their own salad from the grocery store instead.

Mostly I'm just talking. I dig a little, plant a little, order some chicks, try to do a little more than I'm doing now. I have this hope that if we all do just a little more than we did last summer, and up that again next year, and the year after that, maybe that'll be enough to regain some stability. But I've got such a long, long way to go....

Oh well. Gotta start somewhere. At least my Astonishing Kitty got that damned pocket-gopher!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Face Behind The Fingers

So there I am.

I turned 39 a little while ago. Whoa! 39! I read someone's quote not long ago, of course I can't remember who it was, that she always had the feeling that everyone else her age was a grown-up, but she was an imposter. I feel like that too, and I suppose so many of us do. When I look in the mirror the wrinkles and white hair are right there with me, but inside I'm still trying to grow up, mature, be an adult.

When I think of it as a continuum stretching on into infinity, that helps some. I'm the "grown up" in the house because I've learned that dishes need to get done at least once a day, even though it's not necessarily fun, and my sense of time tells me that next month is coming and we should plan for that a little. It's not much maybe, not the pinnacle of sagedom, but enough to keep the household running.

That's enough of a base to operate from, to explore reality on all its levels as it unfolds. When I'm 79, or 89, or dead and whatever else lies beyond, I'll keep working on that.

So I guess I don't need to feel like a grown-up, because I'm not. I'm just where I'm at right now. 39, in this timeline.

There's so much I don't know...

"Health that has been restored due to the cultivation of virtue is not the same as health
that has been restored simply due to the dispelling of illness."

-Thea Elijah

Reading and listening to acupuncture/herbalism lectures might not seem like something that would have a wide-based appeal for non-practitioners, but Thea's perspective on healing and life is worth reading through the specifics in order to get to the generalities. Why not go browse through her website?

Someday I'd love to go study with this woman....