Monday, March 31, 2008

For Laura: A Burdock Education

Today I am covered in invisible pricklies despite my bath last night and vigorous scrubbing. Yesterday was another battle in the war on burdock. I burned more than 50 second year plants. This after burning HUNDREDS of them last fall and already having 3 previous burning sessions this spring. I don't know how I get these pricklies everywhere. I wore a non-stick jacket and a kerchief over my hair. Yet, I have pricklies on my neck!?! When did burdock ever touch my neck? They wormed their way through my jeans and even my hiking shoes. How do they do that? But I have only about 10 more plants left standing on this 7 acres... not bad.

But it has come to my attention that my sister, Laura, does not know what burdock is. I see this as a great oversight in my big-sisterly-education. And although I left her a lengthy comment on her blog, I am sure she is dieing to know more! So the following is for you, Laura! (and for Bethany so she can righteously object when called burdock!)

Here is what a 2 year old plant looks like in the spring after all the huge, rhubarb like leaves have all decayed.

And on the end of all those arms are clusters of the stickiest burs ever grown. They are the inspiration for Velcro and have ruined many a hair cut and fleece, cheapened the value of wool and caused the manes and tails of many a horse to be cut short.

Here is a young second year plant. You can tell it is a second year plant by its vigorousness and by the white underside of the leaves.(A first year plant likely wouldn't have sprouted yet and it would be much smaller and look deceivingly like foxglove or violets.) This one is headed for burdock beer.

And this? This is a velcro pile of burs that I picked up off the ground. It tripled in size before being cast into the fire.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The last couple of years I haven't had much luck germinating foxglove. So I was excited when these wee sprouts appeared in the container clearly marked foxglove.

This year I am also trying to grow some Loofah so as to have my own source of bathing and pot scrubbies that I can throw in the compost when we are done. I planted 3 in well marked pots. None of them have sprouted. I also planted one other but I have been searching for the pot everywhere but haven't been able to find it....

I think I just found it. Here. In the foxglove.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sent back inside

I have been outside these past few days. Outside trimming trees, gathering sticks and waging war on burdock. Now I know burdock has healing properties and the Japanese even eat it but I have enough here to supply the Japanese army with burdock... Now I am planning on making Burdock Beer from the recipe in my herb calendar book but I think I will have enough burdock that will survive my wrath to make that. I have been pulling up and cutting down (whichever is easiest) the old burdock from last year and burning it and all its plethora of seeds. I even go around and pick up the seeds off the ground, making huge velcro balls of seeds. I try to be careful but I end up with burs in my hair, on my clothes and shoes. Today I am covered with invisible pricklies on my feet - tiny remnants of last night's battle. And then, I burn them all. With glee. Thinking of all the burdock that won't be growing around my home this year.

Here is the picture outside my window just minutes ago... Today it is cold so I am indoors feeling a bit at a loss... what? housework again?!

You know what they say about March... "In like a lamb, out like a lion". Rhiannon wanted to know where I learn such sayings. She asked me if it was from the 1960's.... I told her I thought it was a little older than that....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Movin' Out

These were hatched January 29 so it is time the got moving out of doors as they smell like full grown chickens these days. So I've been taking their cage without the bottom and plunking it out in the yard and they are loving it. These are pictures from their first day.

So, no, this is not a special long-necked variety. He is just really curious and stretching out his neck to check everything out.

See, now the other one is doing it....

So did anyone get the Billy Joel, "Stranger" reference hidden in this post?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On Raising Teenagers

There is nothing quite as humbling as being a parent to teenagers. Nothing quite like it to make you doubt your parenting skills and wonder if it is possible that you have ever done anything right. It is truly unchartered territory for most people, I think. Oh sure, I have not doubt there are some parents and teens who sail through these hormone charged years with finesse. However, this is not my experience. And wouldn't it be nice if you could just read a book and find all the answers there? This also has not been my experience. But I have had some really great mentors...

Monday was an interesting day. On this evening one of my teens (who shall remain nameless) did something exceptionally bone headed. And then, while fetching bed linens, I overheard my other teen bragging about having done something exceptionally bone headed on the week end very loudly. So loudly and proudly that what I did cannot be described as eavesdropping as it was impossible not to hear and did not require me to put my ear up to the door. I won't describe these bone headed acts for several reasons: to protect the privacy of my teenagers and to protect myself from the judgement of all those who don't yet have teenagers who read my blog and who would be certifiably certain of my complete lack of parenting skills as evident in the behaviour of my children...

So I have a theory about these kinds of things that I developed while parenting my first teenager (now 21). It seemed that anytime she was planning to pull some kind of stunt or in the midst of pulling one, I would inevitably find out by some serendipitous way (that did not involve snooping) what was up. It happened far too often to be coincidence and I grew to believe that some part of her really wanted me to know so I could rein her in when she couldn't rein in herself (my usual modus operandi) or she needed my guidance and involvement in this aspect of her life.

So, I gave these 2 current teens an option. They could choose to be grounded for a month (an outrageous consequence that I hoped they would not choose) or they could spend the next 2 days doing everything together with me. I told them I was so excited that we would be spending so much time together and their assumed grouchy stance was hard to maintain. We decided to celebrate by making apple spice waffles from the "Simply In Season" cookbook I have out of the library. (Well, maybe I was the only one openly celebrating but I think they were celebrating on the inside.) We cleaned the kitchen, I rushed off to an almost forgotten Ballet Jorgen production of Anastasia with Rhiannon. When I got back home, we decided to have a wiener roast for dinner and went out to do some yard work and gather sticks. Yesterday they came with me to a first day of spring celebration on my friend's beautiful property. Before these '2 days with mom' are over, there must be a 2 hour one-on-one chat with me which will become a biweekly connection and for one week end a month, we will do this very thing - spend the entire week end together. There they are in the background - they don't look like they are doing so bad, do they?

For me it is always a dance. I was raised on fear with so many rigid rules based on the same fear and I resented not being trusted to have good judgement or make my own decisions. I have always told my kids that they have good judgement and can make their own decisions and have respected their right to choose their own paths. However, I have discovered that sometimes they need me to be a little more involved. They need to know I care enough to have limits about their boneheaded behaviour and that I love them enough to try to do something about it and that the solution usually is spending more time with me.

And as for parenting teenagers, it seems I will be getting lots of practise. When Rhiannon turns 20, I will have been the mother of at least one teen for 20 uninterrupted years (she turns 13 two months before Drew turns 20 who turned 13 one month after Erin turned 20. It would seem I am destined to learn the finesse of these skills...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Too Cute!

Rhiannon whose hair grows almost so fast you can see it growing... had to get in on the action last week. She hates having to do her hair up in pony tails for things like soccer or ballet. Ballet started a few weeks ago so she has been harassing me to get her hair cut ever since. And seeing as I was getting mine done on Thursday, she was especially persistent. So Friday afternoon....

Her friend Megan in Calgary recently was a little adventurous with her hair so Rhiannon wanted to go beyond her usual bob. Here is the outcome. She was so totally delighted with her hair, she was floating along for several days. And the whole experience captured her imagination. She set up a hair shop in my office/studio (as soon as I get the table cleared off someone else moves in....) and set about creating a 'catalogue' complete with before and after pictures. She has informed me that the next time I need a hair cut, there is no need to go to Cyenthia....

Monday, March 17, 2008


Well, you can't really get the full effect of my 'cool' outfit. For some reason, I was not the main photo attraction... So I took this photo of myself at the end of the night.

Dean and I were fooling around in the bathroom (not like that
get your mind out of the gutter!) taking pictures of ourselves. This is my favourite. He's looking at me and I'm looking at the reflection of the camera in the mirror. I did wear make up but it looks like it is almost all rubbed off by then.

And Mary Sue? That necklace got as many compliments as my 'outfit'. (is there a better word? I feel like my mother everytime I say that word and I remember her saying 'pantyhose' and 'brazier')

So, the gig? By some respects it was a huge success. The place was PACKED!! They sold lots of CD's. Dean got many compliments for his ripping guitar solos. However the sound was so tragically 'off'. It was WAY too loud so the sound was really distorted and Eddie couldn't hear himself singing so was often off key... but then, it was so blasted loud, you couldn't really tell anyways unless you were listening carefully and I have a most unflattering (to Eddie) video clip which I won't share. There was somebody there filming the entire thing but I am pretty sure most of the footage will be unusable unless the delete the sound track...

There were also some unfortunate band politics that were a bit of a disapointment for the evening and in retrospect we wish we had made different decisions. BUT we had lots of friends come up there and we had a lot of fun with them both before and after the gig. However, Dean kind of got ripped off the 'party' aspect of CD release party so we will be remedying that very soon!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Getting Cooler...

Okay, so I told my friends that it (my hair cut, of course!) wasn't going to be that dramatic and probably no one would even notice... okay... so maybe 3 - 4 inches is a bit dramatic... My good friend Cyenthia who owns Styles on Mane downtown lopped off my locks last night and waxed my legs, eyebrows, and lip over a bottle of white wine... My hair simply bounced up after being relieved of all that weight. I tell you, it is fun having a friend who owns her own salon and hanging out and playing with all the stuff when everyone else is gone!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Remember these guys? Here is an update.

They're looking like miniature chickens these days (and smelling like them, too). The one in front is the Ameraucana (isn't it beautiful?), the offspring of Edgar and the one behind is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.

And why, yes... that is my living room in the back ground. What?! Doesn't everyone keep chickens in their house?

Monday, March 10, 2008

After Shocks

I have always found it hard to follow up on big intense posts like that. Sometimes I just don't write anything or sometimes I write something silly to break the tension. Either way, I usually feel a bit foolish - like somehow I should keep up that intensity (who would want to?) or that I shouldn't be that intense in the first place.

But here are my thoughts another day later. After talking to that guy, I am left with the bizarre impression that although at his age (retired) he operated from fear and was very aggressive, he expected my 14 year old son to a) not be afraid and calmly explain himself and b) have more presence of mind than he did. And of course, the next day, in the daylight, faced with the mother, he is minimizing his behaviour and insisting that he has the right to assault anyone who is on his property (so be warned - although I wished I had pointed out the fact, that I was right then on his property). And I am still a bit outraged about that. Andrew read my blog and we talked about it more last night. His comments are that he still thinks the guy is a jerk. Fair enough. He said it would have been much more satisfying for me to freak at the guy (and, yes, I know his name but I won't put it here as he is well known in our community). So we talked about that and I told him some of the things I thought of saying and we laughed a little and he said it would still have been more satisfying for me to have really said them to the guy.

And my other much larger thoughts reflect on how this little altercation is just a microcosm of the bigger world picture. Fear and aggression, fear and aggression. Tell me this isn't what is happening in the middle East? Tell me this isn't what happens in parliamentary debates? Tell me this isn't how politics basically works on every level. And we are incapable of changing those structures or how the work when this is still how we operate on an individual level. And this is how it is all related to me - the personal is political. And sure that is true when it comes to the personal choices we make - vote with our wallet and all that. And it is also true in how we feel about ourselves, how we raise our children, how we love ourselves and each other, the Earth. In this way the personal is political, too. Just as each cell of our bodies has the complete genetic information of our entire body, so do each of us for the world. We are at once a small pare of the earth and the entire world. Like the Prince of legend that when he opened his mouth, you could see the whole world.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Warning: Mother Bear Alert

At birth when I held my baby daughters in my arms, I looked at them in amazement and thought of all the women who had fought for their rights. I knew that they could really be anything they wanted to. The world was open to them. When I held my baby son in my arms and looked at him in amazement, I didn't feel the same sense of freedom. There are still so many things it is not okay for men to be. Some radical feminist friends and colleagues have got rather bristled when I have commented on this. But to have a rigid, patriarchal society isn't good for men, either, even if they do seem to have the power. But I digress and this is not really a philosophical post. I encountered these uneasy feelings again when Andrew was in grade 3. When he went to kindergarten, he and his friends used to greet each other with hugs and loving enthusiasm. But by the time he was 8 things were changing. I could see the 'boy culture' that he was a part of and this was my motivation to begin homeschooling him. It was a culture that alienated boys from their parents, that said that to be a boy is to be getting in trouble and to be careless with the feelings of others - to be 'tough' and mean. (I am not, of course, saying all schooled boys are like this. I'm just saying it is a cultural norm that is out there.) I could see him drifting away from me at the tender age of 8 and I knew that he still needed me. Joyfully, homeschooling restored our bond and gave my son's naturally compassionate nature space to flourish.

However, he is 14 now and he spends a lot of time away from me as seems developmentally appropriate. He spends hours and hours riding his bike at the skate park, working on different tricks ( it is better for me not to watch him practise... just him telling me about his wipe outs is enough to turn my hair grey...) He has retained that childlike quality - the ability to play and I love and admire that about him. I love that he has had the experience of growing up in the same town (we moved here when he was only 7 months old) and having that continuity that I never had - feeling like he is well regarded by adults who really know him and that his community is a safe place for him where he is well known.

Yesterday he spent the day at one of his friend's grandparent's place building dirt jumps with a couple of his friends. They came home for dinner and headed back out. On his way to be home by 9:30, he and his friends were racing down a long hill. One friend in front, ducked into a driveway so he could pop out and scare his friends after they went by. But they saw him and followed him into the small driveway. Just then, the owners of the house roared up in their car. Suspecting foul play, the man, leapt from the car and started yelling at them. Drew's friends took off but Andrew stopped. The man demanded to see ID before he left his property so he could know who he was. Of course Drew didn't have any. The man grabbed him and hauled him off his bike and pushed him to the ground. Andrew was terrified and confused. The man wouldn't listen to him and when Andrew swore at him as he was leaving, he chased after him. The man called the police who came and talked to Andrew and his friends on their way to our house and seeing that they didn't do anything, left them alone. Andrew got home and burst into my bedroom and poured this story out to me on the edge of tears. I called the police myself to see about this man assaulting my son but they never called me back.

I was very distraught that Andrew had experienced this and kept waking up all night with it on my mind. I knew I had to do something. Here is the thing. I know the man is a Mormon and a retired Fire Chief. I ranted in my head all morning - all the nasty things I would LIKE to say to this guy but would not actually be a good thing to say. My mother bear was roaring - someone had messed with my cub. I told Andrew that he and I were going to talk to this guy.

So we went. I started off by introducing myself as Andrea Clarke and I said, "I think you know my dad, Doug Clarke". So the guy knew that I knew he was a Mormon and that I knew what being a Mormon was supposed to mean. And I think that helped it go better. Andrew just wanted me to kick his butt. And I didn't exactly but I told him I was very disturbed to hear what had happened and we listened to that guy's side of the story and I told Andrew's. I wanted my son to hear me tell this guy that I knew he was a good kid. And I said it several times. At first the guy was very defensive. Finally he asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted him to know that every teen age boy who happened to be out at night was not up to 'no good' and that in fact, most of them weren't. And I wanted my son to know that I would stand up for him. I repeatedly pointed out to him that Andrew (and the other boys) hadn't done anything wrong other than be on his driveway. He actually eventually apologized to Andrew (after saying there was no way he would in the beginning) for hurting him. He wanted Drew to apologize to him for swearing which Andrew didn't do. He said Andrew could come any time - with me, with is dad or alone if he wanted to apologize at a later time.

I don't really think that Andrew needs to apologize. I think he experienced being powerless and that he retaliated with the only powerful thing he had - language. In those moments he was caught in the horrible, terrible way that male culture works. If that man had come home to find 3 fourteen year old girls in his driveway on bikes, he may have still been concerned but I don't think he would have acted so aggressively.

Why are we as a culture so afraid of young males? (okay, now I am getting philosophical) I think it is because we sense deep down that how we are treating them is not okay. We mentor and encourage young girls to come into their own power but we are afraid of the boys. We want them to adopt our culture's false power illusion - the illusion of 'power over' rather than power from within. We want them to grow up, get a job and aggressively advance in their job; their job must have priority over everything else in their lives - their relationships, their health, their peace of mind. Those men are winners. The others are losers. We (as a culture) harshly ridicule those men who have chosen another path - who have chosen happiness and inner peace over being a 'winner'. A man who doesn't buy into all of that is very threatening.

Back to young teen age boys... People assume they are criminals. And really, are most crimes like vandalism and break-ins really committed by young teenage boys? I don't really think so and crime reports don't say they are, either. Sure, maybe more often by men, than women but most of them are not actually teen agers. Yet we have a sense that it is young teen age men. Why? Is it because we have neutered them - taken their legitimate male power and confined them to classrooms and deny them the satisfaction of contributing meaningfully to society? And deep down we know it isn't right; we know they aren't happy and we are afraid of their revenge. Happy, well adjusted young men don't go out destroying the property of others. Disenfranchised young men who feel powerless do. I know this isn't true for all young men but it is of too many. I saw it again and again when I worked with the unemployed. Men who the school system had completely failed - talented men who had never had their real value reflected to them because they didn't fit into the very narrow role we have for boys and men. And smart men for whom school had seemed irrelevant because it wasn't meaningful to them. Truly I don't know why more people don't homeschool their sons. I think the school system is especially toxic for boys.

And I want to roar by biggest, loudest, homeschooling-mama-bear-roar because I HAVE A SON! And I don't want him to be experiencing the world like this. He is good and he is kind and he knows what is right and has the courage to stand up for what he believes. And he is a young man and he is sweet and very physical and it is OKAY TO BE LIKE THAT!!! I adore my son. I love him so hugely and I would protect him from all that. But of course I can't. I live in the world of women. All I can do is wrap my heart around him and let him find his way in the world and pray that world will change. And I know it is changing - I just want it to change fast enough for my son... He knows his mama sees his soul and knows him. I pray for a world where more men can do that for each other - can look at each other's souls and not see threats to their place in the male hierarchy but see the wonder of each other.

Funny. A long time ago, a mother would love her daughter, would raise her but knew that she had very little power and that her daughter must survive in the unfair world. I don't feel that way about any of my daughters. The world has changed since then for us in the Western World. But I feel that way about my son. My heart breaks. I wish he could be a little boy for longer. But I know he is a strong boy and I know I have done my best to fill him up and prepare him for his life. I believe in him.

In Search of Cool

No one who knows me well would say that I am cool. Maybe my children when they were younger - before they are old enough to know what cool means. Maybe then they might have thought I was cool. Not to worry, they soon grew up to understand otherwise... But I am not and I know it. And I never was, really. Growing up in Terrace, I would rather be warm and dry than cool and I always cared a lot more about comfort than looks. And hey, I grew up in Terrace! Even if I thought I was cool then, I would have just been a small town hick. My style now is a cross between hippie and sporty. I often wear the same thing for days on end because it is warm, comfortable and hey, it saves on laundry. I get my hair cut once a year.

But.... the big day is coming. There is a CD release party up on Silver Star next Saturday. This CD is a really big deal. They have gone about it as professionally as possible. I have heard a few of the songs in their rough state and I think this CD is going to be awesome and a really good representation of where the band is at right now and the talents of its members. So on Saturday I need to look like the wife of a rockstar. My 'dress up' clothes are sadly depleted through lack of need. Most of what I have makes me look like I am ready to go to work in an office...

Of course, when I ask Dean what I should wear, he says "wear something you feel comfortable in..." Nevertheless, I don't think my jeans and sweater would be a big hit. So I have an appointment to get my hair cut and my legs waxed and I'm meeting a friend at Value Village to find myself something to wear. Oh c'mon! You didn't think I was going to get THAT cool, did you?

Saturday, March 08, 2008


First planting (tulips).

First view of hollyhocks

First catnip.

First stoned cat.

First fire.

First hot dog.

First entire day spent outside.

Blog Crisis

Okay, I will admit it here. I have been having a bit of a blog-o-crisis. When I first started writing a blog almost 3 years ago, it was ostensibly to stay in touch with my 6 sisters - 4 of whom also blogged (and I would be the 5th with one sister who does not blog). Now one of my sisters hasn't blogged in about a year and I know that my sisters seldom read my blog. I have google analytics and there have only been 8 hits from Nanaimo in the last 30 days. 7 hits in the month before and 7 in the month before that. Time to face facts. I know one sister who lives in Victoria reads it and one other in Vancouver may occasionally read it. So things change.

I had been blogging for about a year before I shared that fact with any of my close friends. Now many of my friends check out my blog and other people who I don't know, even. Not that I have a huge readership for my sporadic, unorganized blatherings but I don't know who I am writing to. And I don't just do it for myself. I have a pen-and-paper-journal for that where I get far more personal that anyone else would want to know about! I do blog for an audience.... Anyways, when I was writing for my sisters, I would think of things I wanted to tell them about, share with them or aspects of myself I wanted them to know about me. But when it seemed no one was listening any more (for whatever reason - all legitimate, I am sure and I'm not taking it personally) I started to not know what to talk about.

So this is almost like starting over again. What do I want to share of myself and who am I sharing it with? I'm afraid I am a bit all over the place. I know I read other blogs and there is a wonderful coherence to their topics. But my brain doesn't work like that. I am one day consumed with my love for my family and another with some political topic and another with my garden/chickens/home and some other time I have some rant to air. Whatever it is that grabs me, it won't last enough to have an entire blog address on that topic I want to blog more often - more regularly. So here is a new start of fresh growth emerging from the all-to-fertile humus of my mind! Watch for a contest soon to 'out' my readers.

Just another ramble!