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!