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.