Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Rush

Some years I practically hibernate over Christmas, avoiding the malls, the busy streets, the crowded activities and prefer to stay at home happily crafting my own Christmas, trying to lure in my older children with promises of Christmas baking.... But this year has felt like a time of getting the most out of what is out there. Dean and Rhiannon took in the downtown Christmas light up at the end of November. And this weekend was action packed. It started on Thursday when Penny treated Rhiannon and I to a Christmas play at the Alliance Church. It was so very well done - the acting was excellent and of course, the story had a very uplifting message.

Friday found Rhiannon performing with not only the Carriage House Orchestra but also with the Debut Orchestra and the Suzuki group. This year she has moved up to the Carriage House Orchestra which has been an exciting challenge for her. This Christmas they learned 3 pieces from the Messiah which were beautiful and of course included the Hallelujah Chorus and For Unto Us a Child is Born. Even listening to them practise was wonderful. One week I had to help point (help the less experienced players like Rhiannon follow along in the music as they are learning it) and I was lousy at it but to be sitting in the middle of the violins during those pieces was so incredible.

Here she is waiting to go on. I couldn't convince her to tuck in her shirt....

And here is a recording from my seat at the back of the church. You can't see her because she is in the back of the second violin section behind some tall boys but you can hear the effect.

And here she is with the Debut Orchestra. You can't tell its her that she is the one on the far left closest to the front.

Then Saturday I put on a Christmas Party for my dance classes here at the house. Eryn came to help. 10 of my 12 dancers were there and an extra kid besides. We had snacks, visited the animals and watched my copy of the Nutcracker danced by Baryshnikov - well part of it until they started to get too restless. And then we decorated some Christmas cookies and played a rousing game of "Upset the Fruitbasket" which was so fun. While still riding the wave of energy, I suggested after the last one had cleared out that we go do some Christmas shopping. After about 15 minutes in the mall, my exhaustion hit but now I was committed so I dragged myself about for awhile longer, trying to be supportive of Erin.

Sunday we picked up a friend of Rhiannon's and headed out to O'Keefe Ranch to see their Victorian Christmas. We were there right when it opened at 2pm. If I ever go again, I will go later so you can see the lights. We listened to carols, roasted marshmallows, drank hot chocolate and went for 2 hay rides. And Rhiannon and her friend soaked Dean in snow balls.

On our way home we picked up our Christmas tree. Eryn and Tyler came over and we made homemade pizza, decorated the tree and then decorated a slough of sugar cookies. Most of Tylers have happy faces on them which he did mostly to bug Eryn.

Rhiannon and I have a goal to watch a Christmas movie every day. We're not doing so well but we have watched "Its a Wonderful Life" with a young and handsome Jimmy Stewart. Rhiannon had never seen it. I have several more ready to go. Any recommendations for good Christmas movies?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Way of the Farm

Last Wednesday was a hard day. I had tried to sell Mila and Blue all summer and fall. At one point it looked like I had them both sold. I was so excited to have our first ewe lambs on the farm - who wouldn't have to be eaten. But alas, the sales both fell through. I would love to keep them but I simply can't as long as we rent here and have limited space. If I kept them, then I would have 7 in my permanent flock. If Brida had triplets, Draga and Eirina had twins and Lifa, Meela and Blue all had singles and all the lambs survived, then I would have 10 lambs and have to feed 16 sheep. Overcrowding would endanger the health of my whole flock. I am keeping Lifa because I need/want another white sheep.

I had to face facts. It was pretty easy to sell them as meat. The slaughter guy came last Wednesday. It was the hardest one yet. Basil was hard but I always knew that was his destiny. These we really hoped to sell alive and to think of them going on. The hardest part was Draga. That ferocious mama was ready to take out the slaughter guy. She knew her babies were in trouble. I tied her up where she couldn't see what was happening and then I sat with her in the snow and stroked her face and told her how much I appreciated her babies and what a great mama she was and how well she grew them and that I was sorry we couldn't keep them. She pushed her head against me and took my comfort.

I have their hides hanging on the fence and this week I am going to start tanning them. It seems only right and respectful of their sacrifice to do that.

And she really did a great job of raising them. They weighed out at 46lbs and 39. And that is awesome and the biggest spring lambs I have raised so far. Of course, Eclipse is still on the hoof until closer to Eryn's wedding.

And that is the way of the farm. As much as I love my sheep, they are not pets but farm animals. The sale of those two sheep more than pays for a winter's worth of hay. Thanks Mila and Blue!

Monday, December 06, 2010

More About the Fall

I am glad to see the 'Stretched and Ripped Off' a ways away now. It was a challenging summer in some ways and the summer left abruptly, much sooner than it should have, that's for sure! But we made plans to make up for our missing holiday. We bought a new van - a Toyota Previa, which I am in-love with. And the next day we loaded it up with a huge turkey, a huge leg of lamb, pumpkin, tomatoes, bike and suitcases and headed down to Nanaimo to my sister Katie's place for an extended Thanksgiving.

Let me tell you, Katie and Brent are great guests but they are even better hosts! The weather cooperated. In Vernon it was sunny and + 20 degrees leading up to our holiday. When we drove out of town on a Wednesday afternoon, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. We stayed at Doug's in Mission that night and caught the 10am ferry the next morning. There were dolphins or porpoises leaping and doing flips in Horseshoe Bay. It was misty but the sun was peeking through every now and then. I loved smelling the sea air again. Andrew and I spent most of the time outside on the decks.

So we got to Katies around noon on Thursday. The weather in Nanaimo was pretty good, too. There was some rain, of course but that didn't stop us from enjoying time outside. There was glorious sunshine, too. Katie and Brent got right into the summer holiday mood. N and M took Friday off of school and Brent even took the day off of work. We went to Coombs and snooped around the shops, ate handfulls of bread and icecream, even though it was kind of cold. We stopped in Parksville briefly on the way home and I got some yarn and a not-as-good-as-expected yarn store to make Elizabeth a toque. It was super windy at the beach but we hung out for a little while.

Laura came that night and we had Basil's tasty leg which Brent cooked to extreme perfection - pretty good for the first time cooking lamb! It was all soooo good! Saturday we hiked around Piper's Lagoon in the rain. Laura has posted some awesome pics here (we left our camera on the table at home...). And the next day just Laura, Katie and I hung out at Sugar Loaf which I had never been to before. The turkey was fantastic, of course. Brent was involved, after all. I made a pumpkin pie from my pumpkin - two actually in pie crusts that Sarah had left behind. I made it with one of my french cooking pumpkins - a Galeux d'Eysines to be exact. It is the same as these but mine are a paler orange and not as warty with wonderfully textured, thick flesh.

Dean watched a lot of imax on Brent's surround sound and ate a lot of bacon that Brent cooked up and layed around reading his book. Rhiannon disappeared into her cousins' bedroom and surfaced occasionally to play wii. Drew tried out the skate park that was close to Katie's place, read his book, helped Brent make popcorn, watched girl movies with us and slept alot.

It was just an awesome visit. I am so blessed to have such great sisters and this great sister in particular. It was exactly what I needed. We stayed up late talking and watching movies that no one in my family would ever watch with me and laughing and laughing and laughing about the past, about each other, about other silly things. It was just so good. I went home feeling grateful and filled up and not ripped off at all.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Holiday Reading

3 posts in a row, could I be back in the saddle? Perhaps... except this is a post I have been meaning to write since the hot, sultry summer. It happened that Rhiannon had run out of things to read and was requesting my help to navigate our overloaded bookshelves and recommend some books. I came across a book that had been given to Dean long before by someone who had weird ideas about his reading proclivity. It had won a children's literature award and was considered juvenile fiction. Rhiannon started reading the book and enjoyed it.

There are two times of the year when good novels are a 'must' for me - summer on the beach or sitting in the backyard when it is too hot to work in the garden or do any of the many other chores I have and Christmas - especially between Christmas and New Years on the blissful cocooned days after the storm of getting ready for Christmas. So I am making these recommendations now. I picked up Rhiannon's book and started reading it myself, just to check it out and because I, too, had run out of something to read. And I got hooked. I loved the story and went on to read the rest of the series, even when it meant buying the last book in the series in hardcover.

So here is my holiday reading recommendation sure it was meant for the beach but it will work for winter holidays, too. Megan Whalen Turner's Thief Series that stars with this book, "The Thief". We loved the whole series. There is also "The Queen of Attolia", "The King of Attolia" and "Conspiracy of Kings". They are very will written by a master storyteller. "The Thief especially has an awesome ending. Rhiannon and I marvelled about it for days. One of the things I really liked about it is that because these books are considered juvenile fiction, although there is a wonderful romance as part of the story, there is no explicit sex because I would prefer not to read about that. It was just very well written and very compelling.

They are set in the past, based loosely on a fictional, Byzantium Greece. I just might read this series again, I loved being in the story so much.... and I never do that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Okay I am just starting to menstruate and due to 'the change' my hormones are stronger than usual but still this made me bawl my eyes out this morning. Considering I was raised with more records of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir than anything else played in my home (aren't you guys lucky you had me and the brothers to ameliorate that a little!)I do love Handel's Messiah and especially the Hallelujah Chorus. There is something about the way it is presented here with the choir members dressed like mall shoppers and workers that gets to me - the symbolism it evokes - kind of like the lyrics to Drummer Boy. Anyways, here it is. Enjoy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

For my sisters - Faith

Okay, it has been waaaayyy too long since I posted and I have a lot of things I wanted to share with all of you. The only advantage to such a long hiatus is that likely my sisters are the only ones devoted enough to still be checking my blog. I wrote this poem yesterday. It has been a hard 10 days since the temperature dropped way below norms and the snow piled up. They say it hasn't been this cold here since 1985 and I know they haven't had this much snow in November since 1994 when Andrew turned 1 - our first year here. We were totally unprepared. It has been stressful and I have had to face my ugliest, most dramatic fears and try to let go and have faith. I would hesitate to share this poem with anyone - although obviously, I am posting it in a public space and anyone could read it.

It is true that I left the Mormon church 17 years ago and it is a decision I don't regret. And perhaps I left it in an unusual way because I am not bitter about the church. I am not into all the myriad of anti-Mormon literature. I don't need to prove Joseph Smith a fraud. In fact, I hope he's not. It just ceased to matter to me. I am grateful for my LDS upbringing. Jesus, as the Mormons conceptualize Him, continues to be very meaningful to me and the greatest comfort in my life. But it has become a very private thing. His picture hangs in my bedroom, festooned with ribbons that mean something to me. It is the LDS picture of a strong, broad shouldered Jesus with a confident, knowing, loving face. In my heart I consider myself a Christian although I would never openly declare it (although I guess I just have) because of the many connotations and judgmental-ism that have unfortunately been attached to that term. I am a Christian in the sense that I am a follower of Christ and I strive to live up to the ideals He preached. However, I don't believe that He is the only way. I believe there are other ways. But He is my way.

Anyways, this week has been a week of prayer, of contemplation, of being with myself, of fighting the demons of doubt, fear and judgment. And yesterday while I was writing in my journal, this poem emerged and I wanted to share it with my sisters because I thought they might understand and appreciate it.

Sunday, November 28

Come unto Jesus ye heavy laden
Tired and careworn, by sin oppressed

I come
I creep
I lay my burden at His feet
Down my armadillo armour
Heavy as lead

My plated armour guarding against slings and arrows, responsibility, blame,
My own shame
Leak through; pour through
And fester in my heart
Their cruel words a chant in my ears
A reverberating wound
Denying abundance, grace, faith
And love

Armour left at His feet, I uncurl from my foetal position
I open slowly, unfamiliar
Pale, soft, vulnerable
I open at His feet

I tremble, exposed
And clutch for my armour
In a frantic panic


My breath a sigh
Ahhhhh, Mmmmmm
Bless this armour
Love this armour
I uncurl at His feet
His wounds exposed
My heavy armour light upon His shoulders
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light Matt 11:31

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stretched and Ripped Off

I have been sitting here reading a good dose of my sister's blog posts - almost everyone had a new one from the last time I read and eating a good bowl of borscht made from a rooster named Paganini whose death Laura witnessed. He was the fattiest rooster I have ever cooked - I should have skinned him first. By the time I was done scooping all the fat off the top of the broth, 1/3 of it was gone! He's delicious, nonetheless but that is not what I am writing about today.

Sitting here sipping warm soup, I have to face it. Summer is over. Usually September is a lovely month. Even as the nights get longer, the days are still hot. Its not uncommon to have 30 degree days. It is a time we like to go to empty beaches and swim. The latest I have ever swam in the lake is Sept 30 and it was awesome. I doubt that will happen this year. Since the end of August it has been cool and damp - highs during the day of less than 20. I've been wearing long pants, sweaters and socks! And I had to give in and turn the heat on. And I NEVER turn it on before October - and usually I aim for Eryn's birthday, Oct. 18, which I did the year she was born.

So I feel ripped off. There were still summer things I thought I had time to do. I had a lot of company this summer, which was wonderful. I loved seeing my brother and his family, Bethany, Sarah and Laura - I was pretty lucky to see so many siblings! But I never got a holiday. We had to kibosh our original plans to go camping with Katie and Sarah the beginning of July because a) we were worried the van wasn't up to it and b) because of an extremely expensive chicken coop, we were behind on having the money to replace it. Then we were going to go somewhere close in mid August but by then, the van really had died a peaceful death - the transmission went. We were expecting it but hoping for a little longer. We are in the process of making payments on a new-to-us van. Anyways, that kept us homebound. I feel like I facilitated several other people's holidays but haven't had one. Although me and the kids made it to Winnipeg and had a great time in May, we didn't have our family holiday, which usually involves water, a tent, and nothing else to do but camp. I love those times as a family - they are precious. But the time for that has past. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving at Katie's and I hope to get at least a little of that. We are planning on taking a couple days off so we will be there for longer.

So, I didn't get the recharging that I usually do in the summer. And right now I am working on some really hard (for me) things. I feel really stretched. The kind where there is nothing to do but put my head down and watch my feet make one step after another. I seem to do that with big shifts - put myself in a position where there is a choice between dire consequences (crash and burn) or do this thing I am afraid of doing. I am not too fond of crashing and burning so I am doing it. What exactly 'it' is, I am not going to share just now. Nothing bad, just my own development and growth that I am sure is very easy for some other people.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Note From the Present

Here it is, August 29. The end of summer is inevitably nigh. (yes, Laura, archaic word, is it not?). The sun sets sooner, the nights are cooler and yesterday morning I could see my breath! And there are still things I want to tell you about from the summer but soon, it will be everlastingly too late and unseasonal. But today, I have a note from the present.

I have never lived alone. Its true. I left my family of 12 (pre-twins when it would be come a family of 14) just 11 days after the 10th child was born to live with my dad's cousin's family of 8 while I went to University at BYU. I left BYU to get married. Although that only lasted 3 years, by the time I was 22 and I had a 1 year old. And that was that. The window for living alone for me had passed until the other end of my life. And because I homeschool my children and we run our own business from home, I am alone very infrequently.

Although I am an extrovert and I enjoy being around people and being busy, this is such a constant in my life that being alone is truly golden to me. This weekend, Dean is playing in Revelstoke and Rhiannon had a sleepover birthday party. Although Drew did find his way home to sleep sometime in the night, my evening was spent totally alone.

So what did I do? I cleaned the kitchen. It was Saturday Night and I cleaned the kitchen which had been in a state of disarray since Sarah, Kyle, Adriel and Sloan ate breakfast there... on Thursday morning. The frying pans from the baked apple pancakes were still on the table on hotplates although there was no danger of burning the table.... As I organized everything, the mound beside the sink grew to momentous proportions. I played Fleetwood Mac music that I have downloaded to my ipod and deleted stuff I didn't like (almost everything pre-Lindsay Buckingham), fed all the animals and got them all tucked in for the night. Then I heated up some falafel and made myself a wrap with tziki that Eryn and I made and fresh tomatoes and cucumber from the garden. I took it along with some cherry tomatoes upstairs and watched "The Soloist" which I hadn't seen before. And then I went to bed and read a little of Mitch Album's latest book, "Have a Little Faith" and went to sleep with ear plugs in so I couldn't hear the stupid dogs from next door.

When I am alone like that, I find it so peaceful and I am able to really be right in the moment and be aware of the moment at the same time. Like when I am walking back from the coop, I like the effect of my music spilling out onto the porch and into the evening - my happiness, my quiet joy. I notice the light as the sun sets. And when there is no music playing, I notice the stillness around me. Like right now. I have 2 1/2 hours left of my own time before I go and get Rhiannon...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life and Death on the Farm

Its something you have to accept but it is never easy. There have been some accidental deaths on the farm. It turned out that Eclipse was not just one huge baby. Hours after I had even written that post, his mother gave birth to a still born ewelamb. She was small and not fully developed like Draga's stillborn last year. I buried her and thought that was the end of it. But hours after that, Brida was struggling with what I thought was the afterbirth when I left for dance class. But when I came back there was another dead lamb in the lambing pen. Another black ewe lamb who she had given birth to breach. She had obviously been alive when the whole birth process began but a lamb cannot survive a breach birth due to the umbilical chord breaking and the nose not being out. She was a good size. I was very sad to discover her but even sadder that I had not known and that Brida had had to push out a large lamb in the breach position. Her vulva was swollen and very sore. It is a testament to her fortitude that she managed to give birth this way and survive. So I buried her, too. Brida had triplets, not one huge baby. But only one huge baby survived. We grieved, we buried them.

This spring, I bought a nanking cherry tree and planted it over the graves of Freya and Bjorn. She loved nanking cherries. And when little Lifa was born, I celebrated her return.

I worry over my sheep, listen to there sounds, checking for health and distress. When Zeus barks furiously in the night, I get up to check if there is really a bear in the pen (so far there never has been). I feel gratified when the sheep shearer tells me what good health they are in - especially when he says that he would have never guessed that Brida could look so good (he had shorn her in her previous life as Princessa at Pineridge Icelandics).

Then it is with sadness that I call the guy to come and slaughter the first lamb to survive on my farm. And I lead him easily (because he is so tame and even tempered) to the slaughter. My heart was in my throat that day that Basil met his end. I brought him into this world, I looked after him, I loved him and then I had him killed. It was hard. And I think it supposed to be hard. I take life to eat - we all do. Even if we eat only plants - they were alive once, too. And I, too am in the circle of life and will one day be food for plants. On this day I am reminded of my place. Reminded to be thoughtful of what I take to live.

However, this does not stop me from thoroughly enjoying eating him. We had the first lamb chops for supper last night along with pesto pasta salad, corn on the cob and a gooey dessert. Look at that - nice thick lamb chops. He weighed out at 63 lbs! More than twice what any of the others have been. I am so impressed. And grateful. Thank you, Basil! Last night we ate him with BBQ sauce, though....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Before That

Before that I had some of my favourite visitors. My brother, Doug, was in the middle of moving. He came to get our Dad's trailer that was left at my house and left 3 of his kids. His trip here actually involved a middle of the night rescue from a tire problem that needed towing on the tail end of the Coquihalla Connector about 50 km's out of Kelowna, in true Doug fashion. It just wouldn't be a visit from him without a little vehicular drama.

So I had 3 of his 7 children for the week. I had to keep up my 'fun-auntie' image so after I recovered from my lack of sleep, Eryn and I put on an action packed first weekend. It was cool that first Saturday so we headed for O'Keefe Ranch. As luck would have it, it was Cowboy Days with lots going on. We toured the ranch, took in some cowboy events, did some felting, rode some horses and visited all the usual spots.

Here they are in the bunk house where you can dress up in old clothes. They are purposely not smiling to make it more authentic.

We thought that Caleb looked like a certain figure from Mormon church history, if you know what I mean, with his longish hair and that blousey shirt.

Here are the other two in their get up.

And here is Rhiannon in the schoolhouse posing seriously in the desk. I am not sure who took this picture. Maybe she set it up herself...

We got to go on a tractor ride around the ranch. And then they each got a turn riding a horse. Those were tall horses! No pony rides, here!

For supper, we packed a cooler and headed down to Juniper Bay to cool off because it was no longer a cool day.

At my house there was lots of chick taming.

And music making.

And we even got a visit from some other cousins who happened to be in Penticton and came for a BBQ one evening.

We took in the Science Centre and the water park and we went to Kal Beach several times. I would say it was a successful visit and I think I managed to maintain my reputation.

Then on the following weekend, Doug and Delanie came back with the rest of the family and hung out. They got in a little beaching and then it got overcast and cool, as it often does when coastal people visit, somehow. And then Monday morning they packed up and were gone and it was soooooo quiet around here!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Start Here

It is dawn. I've been up for awhile. I woke up at 3am and decided it was time to do my taxes. They're done now and I'm watching Renauld and Eclipse play tag with Zeus. It is a game for boys only, I guess because the ewes and ewe lambs never participate. Its a funny game. Eclipse started playing as soon as he was steady enough on his feet to play - even then, he was knocked flying the first few times. Zeus has learned how to not play too rough. Wool doesn't get torn out of hides any more. But Renauld does occasionally have a sore on his head from a stray tooth - it doesn't seem to dissuade him, though. The rams are usually the instigators - they paw at Zeus when he is laying down. It used to be a four-way game with Basil, too. But Basil is gone. Well.... not gone really. He's still here - just in the freezer, so he can't play. But that's another blog post...

I can't believe it has been so long since I have blogged. It bugs me. Bethany's beautiful skins are always an inspiration - I feel duty bound to blog when she has gone to all that trouble! In my mind, I have written dozens of posts. Somehow they never made it onto here. I took the pictures and everything. I'm going to try to complete some of them but in the meantime, I'm starting here.

This is what I wanted to tell you about this week. Phil was here. (no not that Phil, thank goodness!) Philip Copping, the sheep shearer. I always mean to document it every time but somehow I get caught up in catching sheep and stuffing bags with wool and no pictures get taken. To be honest, he was halfway done before I remembered and ran and got Rhiannon's camera.

Here he is almost done Blue - one of Draga's twins - the first one to come out.

And here is Draga being relieved of her fleece. Its true that sheep do not especially enjoy the process of being shorn. But they sure like it afterwards and run and leap like lambs.

Here's Draga's sleek, new look. I always think she looks a bit like a holstein when she is shorn.

These are the piles of fleeces accumulating on the cleanly swept basketball court. The little black piles are the lambs and the big white one is Eirina's.

Eirina and her lamb, Lifa are pretty hard to tell apart now. Eirina is only a little bigger with slightly longer horns. She has been a super mom. However, on sheering day, her and Lifa spent the whole day looking for each other - standing only feet apart, baaing and baaing. Lifa baaed so much she was hoarse by the end of the day. They just did not recognize each other without their fleece. Silly sheep. When I put them in the pen at the end of the day, they finally figured it out.

Renauld is always the most dramatic. He is the best wool grower - he is bigger than the ewes and he doesn't have to grow babies and then feed them milk. He can put all his energy into wool, which he does fairly well. He is now full grown at just over 2 years old. The shearer says he weighs almost 200 lbs now.

Here he is without his fleece.

Now I need to sell two of these lambs before it is mating season. Want a black and white ewe lamb?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Out of my Comfort Zone


Okay, so. Two weeks ago I went and bought 5 more rabbits - 3 satin angoras and one satin angora hybrid and a french angora. 2 bucks and 3 does. Great. Only that means that I need more rabbit hutches. As my dad is in Guyana, it means that I am more or less on my own. I have procrastinated 3 weeks now (I was supposed to have them built before they arrived) and the temporary housing I have been using is very much less than ideal. So today is the day. And I am really on my own. Eryn who has been working very hard all week is not up for helping. Kaetlyn doesn't want to and Andrew has 'other plans'. Dean has gone to Revelstoke to play in the music festival there and Rhiannon is reading a very exciting book...

For some reason I feel very sad. Its not because I am on my own with the rabbit hutches - the rabbits are my thing, really. I think I just really miss my parents. My grandmother - my last grandparent's death has accentuated it. Your grandparents are your first line of defence in mortality, in the natural order of things. Now mine are all gone. The next to go will be my parents. Maybe that is morbid or whatever or dramatic but, really, that is a big part of how I feel and my grief. I really wish my Mom was somewhere near or that I would see her at the memorial. It would just be really good to touch her right now. I really, really miss her and I have never been much for missing anyone.

Anyways, this is where you come in. This will be a blog post in progress. I am building the rabbit hutch by myself. I am trying to copy the last one that my dad built. I am going to update this post as I go along. Maybe you could lend a hand? Or at least be a sympathetic ear? I am not a huge fan of power tools and I have seldom used them and never all on my own like this. I am rather attached to my fingers... but here goes!

What? Why of course I can fit a sheet of plywood in my minivan! I don't need to sit up straight while I drive!?!

All the wood and supplies. Can you help me with that plywood? No? Okay, I'll just drag it.

Time to get changed into my work clothes and get my hair out of the way.

Got my dad's tools out of the basement - drill batteries all charged (but man that thing is heavy! I'm going to get a work out just screwing in screws!)

Here I am with all the supplies. Bags of screws and hinges by my feet. Hope I remembered everything! I'm going to eat something and get out to work. Be back in an hour or so to let you know how its going!


Okay, so an hour took longer than I thought... I spent too long trying to figure out how that mitre saw worked. I tried calling several people (no one was home) and looking it up on-line. I didn't find anything that didn't assume that I already had a basic working knowledge.... But somehow I figured it out. I found the switch that doesn't look anything like a switch, if you ask me. I cut the wood. I still have all 4 fingers and both thumbs.

Then I did this. While doing this, I pondered on the mystery of the drill. Like why does it snug up the two pieces of wood sometimes and not others and no matter what I do, I can't get it to 'snug up'? What is the trick? Why has no one taught me this?

And then of course, I realized that I did it all wrong. So I had to take it apart anyways and do this:

and then this:

Which I did before coming in to write about it. Next I will attach the welded wire. This is the bottom of the cage. Then I will reattach all those legs that I had to 'unscrew'.

Did I mention that I hate 'screwing'? I do. I always strip screw heads. And curse. Screwing makes me curse. I hate it that much. I see some people who can use a drill and screw in screws with ease. It isn't easy for me and I'd like to know why!

See you in another 'hour'!


This is how far I got - the basic frame with the bottom wire attached. Whew!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Betty Helen Cooke McLean

My grandmother left this world around dawn on June 20. My uncle says she went peacefully in her sleep. I'd like to go that way. And thus ends the era of grandparents. She was my last living grandparent and somehow I thought she would last forever. She was the oldest of my grandparents (except for Grandpa Clarke was was 10 years older than my grandma Clarke and died when I was 18) and she had never really been in great health - always something going on. She had had TB, lupus and arthritis and 2 nervous breakdowns. But somehow she just kept going. She was 93 and a half.

I had no internet from Thursday to Monday afternoon. When I finally got back online, I got the news in an e-mail from my uncle. I was just shocked. She was gone. And I can't remember exactly when the last time was that I saw her. I think it was shortly after she moved to the longterm care facility she was in until she died. We took her out for a walk in her wheelchair and she told us horror stories of the other residents lunchtime behaviour and worried about being back in time for lunch. She was always glad to see me and proud to show me and my children off to anyone who would listen. Mostly that first day I was just in shock - feeling nothing, really. I talked to my aunt for about an hour on the phone who cried and I listened.

Then I woke up the next morning feeling like my chest had been cracked open. It was homeschooling waterslide day so I took along my journal. I sat at a table by myself and I wrote and wrote, cried, slid and slept on the grass and wrote some more. My grandma was an introvert. She could seem rather aloof in person but luckily that is not all that I knew from her. She wrote letters to me my whole life until she couldn't write any more. I have more letters from her than from everyone else who ever wrote me put together. In her letters she was warm, witty and shared with me her thoughts and beliefs about politics, religion, my ancestors and the birds at her bird feeder and the flowers blooming in her garden. Some letters are more than 20 pages long, describing family members or some important event. Her descriptions are eloquent.

When I was a child, I named all my cats after her - Betty. I can remember being babysat by her, taken to the library by her. I can remember her reading to me, teaching me to count in French, introducing me to Sesame Street. When I was a teenager she was the first person to talk (write) to me like I was an adult. She took me and my ideas seriously and discussed them with me through the mail. Sometimes seeing her in person was a let down after the intimacy of our letters. But I am so grateful for those letters. Grateful that she shared herself with me, that I know her. I know that she loved me in the best way that she could. When I was distant from my family, she wrote to me still at regular intervals with news of her life. She reached out.

When I lived in Richmond and she lived in her co-op in Richmond, we saw her often. I have a picture of Erin in her red dress sitting on Grandma's red chair from one of those visits. She loved to have pictures. She had an ever-updating collage under a sheet of plexiglass on a bureau in her dining room and on her coffee table.

I carry so much of her with me - my mother's mother. I have her green eyes and share her same fascination for genetics and family history. I am so grateful to be her granddaughter and to have had the privilege of knowing her in this lifetime for almost 45 years. Good-bye Grandma B. She believed there was nothing after death but I have a hard time believing that the essence that was her does not go on. I love you Grandma - did I tell you that enough? Thank you for everything.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What's for Dinner

Its that time of year. I have sheep milk to play with. This year I am just milking Brida. I have tried a couple of times to milk Draga who was so eager to be milked last year but this year, although she is happy to jump up on the stanchion, she is not so keen to let me touch her udder. Seeing as she has twins who are growing wonderfully, I have just been letting her be until the twins are gone.

Anyways, with sheep milk comes sheep cheese. This year I made Labneh, which is a cheese made from yogurt, so I first made yogurt and then made this cheese. Oh my goodness! It is so good! I am going to make some more feta but I haven't got around to it yet. I need to soon, though. I have a lot of milk in the fridge.

Tonight we had one of my favourites during sheep cheese season. I used what was left of the labneh to make Cannelloni with fresh nettle, oregano and basil from the garden and lots of garlic and some Parmesan cheese and fried mushrooms on top. It is so good! It smells so good when it is cooking and it is so delicious! Creamy and tasty!

Here's what it looks like when you cut it up.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

So About Winnipeg

It was the perfect vacation, really. Lots of activity but at a good pace with enough downtime in between. Having the Okanagan Science Centre membership was really nice. It got us into the Children's Museum for free which was just a couple of blocks away from our hotel so we could go hang out for an hour or two as we felt like it and didn't have to worry about making the most out of paying to go once, if you know what I mean. It also got us into the Science Gallery downstairs of the Manitoba Museum. We also went to the Museum and the Zoo which we got to use Rhiannon's homeschooling money to get into. We connected with some of Ronni's old friends and my midwife who attended Andrew's birth. We got a lot done in those few days. And of course, I did my fabric shopping. Not quite the same as when I left it 16 years ago but pretty darn good! Oh how I hate Fabricland and the fact that it is the only fabric store in Vernon... Eryn wanted to go in there today to look at a sale and I just couldn't believe it... fabric I had just seen for $8 a metre on for $25. If Mitchell's can make money for 60 years as a family owned store, why does Fabricland have to sell their fabric like it is made of gold? It takes all the fun out of sewing for me. I like to feel like I am making something better and unique AND it is a bargain, too - like my effort is worth something. I felt a little frustrated standing in Mitchells and looking around... so many things I would like to make, so many projects I could do if I had a fabric store like that in my city. The upholstery fabric.... the fancy fabrics, the unbleached cotton, the netting, the tablecloth material.... ah... sigh.... I was even a bit angry! Why aren't there better fabric stores in Vernon! (So, you bet, Sarah, if you moved there, I would definitely come and visit you! I'd come in February and we could go to the Festival du Voyageur together and I'll show you all my favourite places! And I'll come in the summer and we'll go to Lake Winnipeg!) As it was, the empty suitcase I brought with me was full of fabric on the way home. And there is a stack of inspiration upstairs in my sewing room!

The kids were great. It was so fun to be with Ronni and Megan. We just had a great time. I forgot the camera and Drew's was acting up so there are not a lot. But it was one of those times when I preferred just being there and in the moment instead of documenting the moment. There are many images in my mind of the kids playing and talking to each other, listening to each other, caring about each other and making it fun for one another.

And wow, it was something to be back there after all this time. I revisited my old self. I could remember so clearly how it was when I came there; my sense of adventure. And it was a great 3 years. It is hard to put into words - so many feelings and deep thoughts. Life is such a journey. We think we are going one way but we end up somewhere else. I can't imagine my life without Dean who is my rock and Rhiannon. And they were here in BC. I am a BC girl. I was born in Vancouver and have lived my whole life all over this province. I have lived in every region except the Peace. And I needed to come back. I just didn't really realize it at the time.

And I arrived here in Vernon 16 years ago June 1. After I had been here about 3 years, I almost left. A single mom of 3 kids at that point, I applied for a job in Qualicum Beach and was interviewed. While I was pondering if I would really move there if I was offered the job, I decided it was time to stop moving. I wanted to know what it was like to live in a place for more than 5 years (my previous record - 5 years in Terrace, even in the same house). So I stayed. Now this is my kids' hometown. Kaetlyn and Drew can't remember living anywhere else and Rhiannon hasn't.

I've come to realize that it is a real investment to live somewhere for 16 years. There is a huge and complex web that holds us here. It is something that I never got to experience as a kid. I think it is something to live in a community where there are people who have known you since you were a little kid. It connects you in ways that can't be simulated in any other way. Over the years I have done so many different things - counselled, employment counselling, free seminars, the Inner World School, volunteering for minor sports, window washing, homeschooled, schooled, that it is pretty hard to go anywhere and not see someone that I know somehow. At this point, it would take a lot to get me to leave. Not to mention the weather, the climate and the growing season. At this point, I can't imagine why I would ever leave!

Anyways, I have been slowly recovering from our vacation. Processing what it all meant to me. And feeling grateful for how it all works - beyond our puny consciousness. I needed to go to Winnipeg. And then I needed to come back. And here I still am 16 years later.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Day's Sewing

Well, things have come together on the sewing front. First of all, Kaetlyn moved out and my sewing machine moved into its very own room. Then Eryn and Tyler gave me one of their extra tables when they moved into their smaller townhouse. Then my mom lent me her serger while she is on her mission. Then I got my sewing machine serviced. Then I had to clean up the mess two certain sewers left of my sewing stuff to make it ready for Dean's guest while were in in the 'Peg. Then, I got to go to my favourite sewing store of all time and buy fabric in Winnipeg. I came home full of ideas with a room ready to roll. Eryn and I were going to garden today but it was raining so we sewed instead. It was quite fun to work on sewing stuff together. While she cut up one pattern, I fixed my blanket/quilt thing and made a new duvet cover for Rhiannon's duvet (which I restuffed with feathers from an old feather mattress for another day's project that resulted in feathers being found all over the house for months afterwards...). Then I sewed 3 matching pillow cases after supper. I'm pretty impressed. It was so fun to use the serger. I had found the material to do it at Value Village a few weeks ago - sheets. So she has matching bottom, fitted sheets and can reverse the duvet for different looks. She loves it! She was using the same cover that her grandmother made for her great-grandmother before she was born... and it looked grandmother-ish. Now she is styling!

So, I haven't started on my Winnipeg stash yet but I am now warmed up and my previous 'to do' list is mostly cleared.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I'm in Winnipeg right now. Still operating on BC time, though so I am awake and everyone else is still sleeping so I am here blogging. Ronni and I concocted this trip last summer when I visited her in Calgary for some fun non-kid time. We met and became friends here and neither of us has been back here in a very long time. She left almost a year before me for another teaching position at another University.

I came to Winnipeg in 1991. Kaetlyn was a babe in arms. I had just graduated from University and I wanted to see more of Canada. And I wanted to be out of reach of a certain troublesome person from my past. So we packed up and left beautiful Sidney for this prairie town. It was a decision conceived of and executed within days. It was an adventure.

And I loved Winnipeg. The people, the city, the culture (the ballet!). It was a time of huge growth for me. I did my first counselling for a women's group. I started to really become myself. Its what you do in your 20's I think. I started homeschooling here and I had Andrew at home with an amazing midwife. And I left the church. All that in a space of just less than 3 years. We left just as suddenly in the spring of 1994. Andrew now a babe in arms. Another hasty decision.

Hard times followed and everything changed again. Bitterly hard times followed when I lost almost everything. And emerged much wiser and with greater understanding of myself.

Standing here is like visiting my other life. A life that started before I came here, flourished here and then petered out to nothing. My life is so different now that it is hard to find the threads that are stitched through them both. They are there, of course. It is like seeds planted when I was here are the trees in my life now. I had no idea at the time how it would all turn out.

A rather dull and philosophic post, I suppose. But it is what I am thinking about. What could have been. What was. What is. It is a wonderful city. So many things I have missed about this area.

It is so fun to be here with Ronni and Megan and Andrew and Rhiannon. It is just so easy to be together. Andrew, Rhiannon and Meg - all 'onlies' or 'babies' of the family to some extent are all so secure that the world revolves around them that there is no jostling for position. Andrew remembers how to play and Meg and Rhiannon are old enough these days that there are actually lots of things that they enjoy together. It just flows. The time together is easy. Its a magical time. All too soon these times will be memories. Our daughters will be teenagers and Andrew will be grown up. Times to hang on to.

What I love most about these vacation times is to watch my children together - with no other distractions, they play with each other. I see the love and affection they have for each other and it warms the cockles of my mother's heart. These little stolen moments out of everyday life that give me the chance to see that when you strip all the extraneous stuff away, what is there - what is true - is the love they have for each other. Andrew's kindness to the younger girls. Their adoration of him. Laughing. Goofing. Fun.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


There was one thing that was hard about having my parents here for 5 weeks. And its not what you might think. They were both really here for me. My dad building me needed farm buildings and accessories; driving Andrew places; fixing things, etc. My mom cleaning and being concerned about me doing so much and doing her best to help me with my responsibilities. It was really wonderful.

Then they left. And for awhile it felt like.... "oh, right.... I'm left with YOU people (the 3 other people I live with - husband, son, daughter). The ones who complain anytime I ask you to help me with even the smallest, little thing. Yes. Right." There was a bit of withdrawal, I admit. I had been spoiled. I was feeling overwhelmed and just a little alone in my strivings. My garden was full of 2' high crab grass (called cooch [sp?] around here). The laundry was piling up on the couch and I was really lagging at meal preparation/planning (as in: none happening). The bathrooms were dirty. I was starting to feel like I was doing a bad job of everything.

The thought of going out for the day for Mother's Day filled me with anxiety and stress to think of losing yet another day when there was so much to do around here. So I told my kids that what I would really like for Mother's Day was their time and effort in the garden.

And boy did they ever come through. Dean and Rhiannon did my morning chores and made me a most delicious breakfast. I still woke up before them but instead of doing my usual chicken/rabbits/sheep chores, I walked down the railroad tracks and picked wild asparagus in the early morning sunshine and stillness. Then Rhiannon and Dean cooked it up in an omlette with fresh mushrooms and green onions from the garden. And there were strawberries and blueberries.... lets just say that lunch was superfluous. Andrew spent most of the day and Eryn and Kaetlyn and their respective significant others and Dean spent the afternoon shovelling manure, digging garden beds, weeding furiously, tying up raspberries, moving rocks....

And when they left, I felt thoroughly restored. I felt seen and loved by my family. They heard me. They listened and they showed me how much they cared. Their time and effort helping me with something that is so important to me means more to me than any brunch or gift or picnic. I know they are all busy and have lots going on in their own lives. I really appreciate the time they all took for me. A day like Sunday goes a long way to filling me up. Thanks, family!

Friday, May 07, 2010

And then there were two!

When I went to bed last night I had one white sheep. And then I woke up to this!

As Icelandic sheep are supposed to, Eirina gave birth all by herself, with no help to a healthy, vigorous lamb. Another ewe lamb. I am sure it helps that she is just a wee little slip of a thing - weighing in around 3 - 4 lbs. (keep in mind that Eclipse was 12!)

Eirina who isn't even quite one year old herself has settled somewhat confusedly into motherhood. Zeus didn't get to help - not that he wasn't ready and willing. She had it in the corner where I feed them - far away from where Zeus could reach. All the other sheep were laying with him - giving Eirina her space. This is actually how Eirina herself was born to a ewe lamb last May 18 - in the field with no problems to her mother, Snowflake.

I went in to check her out. She was cleaned off very well and almost dry but now shivering. I brought her in and blow dried her for a bit and trimmed her umbilical chord and managed to install them in the lambing pen.

Here you can see just how wee she is.

Isn't she sweet? Its my wee Freya come back to me. We let her choose her own name - we put three names in a hat: Kelda (source or spring), Idunnr (to love again - the goddess of spring) and Lifa which means life itself. And she chose Lifa. Seems appropriate. Welcome little Lifa into the world!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Little Bits

My Dad is a big person and not just in stature (although he is clearly shrinking from his almost 6'). He's a big strong man but that is not what I am talking about. He is the kind of person who fills up the room when he enters it. He does things in a big way. And often he gets all the glory. But I wanted to mention my Mom here.

When she comes to visit, she contributes in more subtle ways. She washes dishes, cleans cupboards, helps with meal preparation and washes the floor. She finds little things to clean that haven't been cleaned in awhile (since the last time she was here?). So the end result is that when she leaves, there isn't one big thing (like the chicken coop or rabbit hutches) but there are lots of little touches everywhere that remind me of her being here and make me feel loved by my mom. Her contributions allow me to work outside a lot, help my dad, run to the hardware store 15 times a day (it felt like it some days!) and still have the house run smoothly. Right now I am spending a lot of time in my garden and with the animals and my house looks like it.... (the chicken coop might be tidier...)

This time, in true 'Mom' fashion, she sewed me some new oven mitts and 2 pot holders. She made them out of old jeans and she felted an old sweater of Dean's to use as the insulation. She sewed on little sheep for decoration made from scraps of fabric (that I had used to make Kaetlyn and Rebecca matching outfits when they were 5 and 6). So long after the cleanliness fades away (pretty much all gone now except for the nice clean cupboard doors), I will have a bit of my mother's love to use everyday. Very Mudsy - as the twins would say.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Draga's Day

You might remember that last year Draga's lamb was stillborn. One wee black ewe lamb in the middle of the night that had obviously died inside of her sometime before.

This morning I noticed that Draga's water had broken - goop coming out her back end. (in fact for the last 2 months I have spent a lot of time staring at ewe vulvas...)

I notified some friends who live close by and soon there was an audience. Draga, always a very cooperative and friendly sheep eventually walked right into the lambing pen like she knew what to do. However, she would only lay down briefly, give one push and then stand up, looking for a lamb and licking like crazy. I let her go on like that for about an hour. Then I got in there and began to feel around. Nose and feet were in the right position but she just wouldn't lay down long enough. I finally got her to and with the help of one of our friends who had worked in a vet's office we got the lamb out. A beautiful ewe lamb at just the right weight - 6 lbs and black and white spotted, too - just like Draga. With a lamb at her feet, Draga was licking even more enthusiastically but she still didn't quite get what to do. She licked my pants and my hands and my feet and the boards of the lambing pen. And occasionally the lamb. I brought Zeus in and he set right to work and showed her what to do.

Then within minutes another amniotic sac burst and her sister slid into the world with no help from me. She is black and white, too only she has the badger face like Draga. They look very similar to each other. Instead of white legs with back feet like Draga, they have black legs with little white feet. So cute! And perfectly healthy. They each found a teat before too long and without any help.

Here they are.... as yet unnamed. They are valuable as milk sheep as Draga, her mother and her grandmother have all been milked. And Renauld has excellent fleece. I hope we can find a place for them to live with people who are interested in those kinds of genes - fiber and milk. Spotting and badger face are both rare markings, too. Anyways, they are very sweet. As I type, they are already pretending to eat hay with their mother.

Lamb Number One

Lamb Number Two

Less than an hour old and already being cute!

With Mom

And here is Zeus all flaked out after all that hard work but still not far from his lambs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As Sarah would say, 'why not post'? Normally I would be going to bed about now but I had a nap and I'm not tired yet. It has been almost 2 weeks since Mom and Dad left. They were here for one day short of 5 weeks. It was an action packed 5 weeks. Mom sewed herself an entirely new wardrobe for Trinidad (and, I discovered the other day when I went to use it, went home with my Fabricland card!).

They were here for so long, we really got used to them being here. Although I don't think I could keep up that pace for much longer. And for the last 10 days or so of them being here, Bethany and Owen were here, too. Although, as I told Bethany, it didn't count as a Bethany visit because her and I didn't really get to spend any time together and I didn't get to spend enough auntie time with Owen, either. It was harder for Andrew and Rhiannon once Bethany got here because they had to share a room. They are both the baby of the family, really. Andrew was 7 when Rhiannon was born. Although neither one is particularly tidy, they are both particular and are used to having complete control over their space. Rhiannon was known to break down in uncontrollable sobs because Andrew left a towel on her bedroom floor.... what is that right beside it, you ask? Is that HER towel on the floor?.... well yes it was.... but that is besides the point, according to Rhiannon. Rhiannon had a list of rules for Andrew to use her room. Which basically amounted to 'don't exist in my room'... They made it through, though and I am sure it was good for both of them... right?

Laura came for Easter weekend and Eryn and Tyler's engagement party. So then the house was really full. It was very fun having everyone here for Easter. Eryn's party was nice but Eryn was very stressed out. She worries too much about Tyler's family and her family getting along. Tyler's family seems very nice and I am sure that Laurel (Tyler's mom) and I will make wonderful grandmother's together! Eryn's older sister, Sarah, my step-daughter, came down for that, too. It was very nice to see her after so long!

Laura was supposed to do a family photo shoot of us on Easter Sunday. But it was a disaster. Rhiannon had not been getting enough sleep, sharing her room with her brother for almost a week by that point, not having as much of my attention as she is used to, a breakfast of chocolate.... It was the makings of a disaster. Eryn messed up her hair that she had carefully arranged and she lost it and then she was embarrassed and ran away and it took me about half an hour to find her. I was so upset. I wanted to cry. I so wanted to have family pictures. But that was it. Kaetlyn and Nadia had to go to have Easter dinner with Nadia's parents so our window of opportunity passed. The last time we had family pictures done it was 2000 and Rhiannon was 2 weeks old. Laura took some nice pictures of Drew and his bike and Rhiannon and I with the animals but the elusive family picture slipped by. I will remain jealous of all of the rest of you who have beautiful family photos done by Laura.

Laura left on Monday and then the rush was on to finish things up around here. Dad put the finishing touches on the chicken coop. I painted the inside floor and the inside of the nest boxes and the outside of the end that had to go up to the fence. On Wednesday, Dad, Andrew, Dean and Tyler levered and rolled the chicken coop into place right up to the outside of my chicken yard. The next morning we attached the fence and cut a hole for the chicken door. Dad also finished another rabbit hutch in the last couple of days.

Mom, Dad, Bethany and Owen rolled out of here just after 1pm on Thursday afternoon heading for Williams Lake. It was awfully quiet around here - the hush after the storm. Slowly we (who am I kidding, it was not a we project, it was an I project) started putting the house back together, washing bedding, reorganizing furniture.

Then Rhiannon and I decided that we would sleep in the chicken coop. So we took out the thick foamy off of her bed, her duvet and a sleeping bag and Jodi and made ourselves a very comfy (although a little short for me) bed in there. We hooked up the light, took out some reading material, water bottles and kleenex and snuggled in. We had a great sleep and it was very fun! For the next couple of days we called it the guest house. Rhiannon's friend stayed over night the next night and they slept in there, too.

In the end, I had to force the chickens to go in there - carry them one by one out of the old coop and put them into their new deluxe quarters. I left them shut up in there for 2 days and in the meantime shovelled out the chicken yard and demolished the old coop. Now they are loving it. And it doesn't look so much like a guest cottage...

The coop is beautiful - beyond words. I loved sleeping in it that night because I could feel in every board, every detail, the love of my father. I know that he made me this most beautiful coop because he loves me and I can feel it inside my coop and I can see it every time I look out my kitchen windows. It is a hard thing to put into words but I feel in it the best love that my father has for me. Thanks Dad and I love you, too. I'm really going to miss you for 18 months!