Category Archives: Animal Lover

Giddy at the dawn

It’s the second day of winter, and I’m at home, doing laundry and making food in preparation for a feast with friends tomorrow night.  Oats and I celebrated Solstice a couple nights ago, and as our chosen family who live upstairs and across the yard will all be out of town, we’ll be spending most of the holiday weekend cat-sitting and hermiting instead of your typical merry-making.  I’m looking forward to this:  A single big dinner party, at the house of another person so that we don’t have to fuss with our own tiny home, and otherwise simply days of no obligations or distractions.  I plan on reading a lot, and sewing.

For a couple years, Oats and I volunteered for the Christmas Eve shift at the community radio station, then went out for noodles.  It was such an excellent alternative to the Christmas focus of everything… I wish I still had my membership at the station, so that we could have done it again.  At least we can still enjoy Chinese food, though… Hopefully on Christmas day, when so many other folks will be digging into their roast turkey.

Growing up, a lot of my friends didn’t do Christmas, or they did it very differently from my family, which celebrated a sort of cynical Anglicanism that erred on the socio-cultural side as opposed to the religious end of things.  Some of my friends followed religions other than Christianity, or different types of Christianity, and some simply didn’t celebrate any holidays.  I didn’t know any pagans, though, or at least that I remember:  No one ever got excited about Solstice, or even talked about the return of the light after the longest night of the year.  Now, it’s so important to me that I can’t imagine not counting down the days or feeling giddy at the dawn.  It’s such a welcome new beginning.

Walking with Mo among the garry oaks and hawthorns this morning, I was completely content, and I realized that I can’t remember the last time I felt so overall optimistic.  While things aren’t perfect, and I’m still struggling with occasional bouts of intense anxiety, my heart is lighter than it has been in ages, and I don’t feel hemmed in by fog like I have in most winters past.  The news of the world is dreary and terrifying, and I’m waking up to the fact that I’m okay.

It’s strange, and wonderful.

A happy Solstice to you, from all of us at FG HQ… May your new season be similarly filled with hope and joy!

 

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6 weeks, or sooner if a spot opens up

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Ladder to a roof, which I've climbed too many times to count.

After a short week of looooooooong shifts, I got today off from work. So far I’ve spent most of it cooking and cleaning: Things that get neglected when I’m working a lot. Okay, to be honest, Oats does most of the cleaning around here, so I really was more organizing. The cooking was much needed though, because we’ve been quickly eating through all the stuff I made and froze in the summer. Local carrots and leeks are crazy cheap this week, so soup it is!

My dad texted me at work on Wednesday, asking me to call. Since I was on lunch, I called right away, and learned that my stepmom needs surgery to have some polyps removed from her colon. We barely had any time to talk and it was so loud where I was… When I got home that night, it was too late to call them again, so instead I spent an hour on the internet researching colon polyps.

You know what’s a bad idea? Consulting Dr. Google when you’re trying not to freak out over a health issue.

Anyway, I called my parents last night, when it was only a little past their bedtime, and got the full story. I’m actually glad I’d done some research, because I knew more than a little about everything my stepmom mentioned. The polyp is too big to be removed via colonoscopy, and though an initial biopsy revealed it to be benign, they could only sample a small portion of it so it’s still a concern. Especially since her grandmother died from colon cancer. So, in 6 weeks, or sooner if a spot opens up, the surgeon will remove my stepmom’s polyp laparoscopicly. It’s looking good, all things considered.

I’m trying very hard to remain calm and logical about this.

My dad’s pretty upset, though… And my older sister is being too blase about it all for my taste. I’ll be talking with my younger sister this evening, and have no idea how she’s coping: This is her mother, my stepmom is I mean, and they’re very close.

Le sigh. We’ve been so lucky, my family, to have been relatively untouched by disease and disaster. I try not to take it for granted.

Funny, that this should happen, just when Oats and I have decided we’re definitely not moving to Ontario anytime soon and are most likely staying here for the next year at least… In part due to how damn trying Oats found it, to be visiting her own family there last week.

In other news, I found a dead mouse in the (empty) washing machine this morning. This did not upset me nearly as much as did the second dead mouse, which I found later amidst my clean laundry. It was in bad shape, and my laundry no longer seemed so… Clean. Fuck, I hate vermin.*

* I had a pet mouse as a kid, who was simply lovely… And a pet rat later on in high school, who was also sweet and friendly.  But since then I have lived in waaaaaay too many rodent-infested shitholes, and I draw a firm line between the sort that are pets and the sort that eat my stuff, shit and piss all over everything, and then die messy deaths in bad places. Ick ick ick.

Self-sufficient in greens! (I hope).

Earlier this week, I had an unexpected (and unpaid) day off, and I immediately threw myself into garden tasks.  You’d think I’d have relaxed and found a friend to hang out with or treated myself to a cafe visit or something else more frivilous, yet none of that appealed to me.  I just really wanted to get shit done, and lose myself in something satisfying, something useful, something for me.

It was midafternoon before I realized that I was wretchedly hungry, not to mention even more sweaty and tired than if I’d been at work.  But the garlic was all planted, rotting seaweed was layered into the beds that’ll lay fallow until spring, the bamboo stakes were all pulled up and tidied into a corner, most of the seeds were harvested, peas and chard and beet starts were finally in the ground proper instead of their tiny pots, a lot of the beds got mulched with straw, and all the over-wintering veggies were given a bit of attention. I even found an old window that fits neatly over the raised bed (actually a bookcase laying on its back), and planted some lettuce seeds inside this impromptu cold frame.  Who knows if or when they’ll sprout, but it’s my own mix of seeds from last year’s crop and I have tons of it, so figured I might as well.

My only goal with creating this garden this year, aside from keeping myself entertained, was to get our house self-sufficient in greens.  We all like brassicas and chenopods and their ilk, and could easily eat them every day, so it seemed like a good plan.  Also, this climate:  Rumour has it that kale and chard will become weeds if you let them, and I’m keen to test this theory.

Considering that I totally ditched the entire care and maintenance of the garden when I got a job (and to be honest was very negligent of it even before then), I’m surprised to find that it’s worked out.  There’s enough cabbage and kohlrabi  heads for a few dinners in the sooner-rather-than-later category, the broccoli and karam and chard are excellent, and even all the kale that got hit with both a blight and grey aphids seems to be doing great now.

Plus, ignoring the garden at the end of the season meant that a lot of stuff went to seed and for the first time, I’ve been saving it.  Crazy, to have been gardening since I was a little kid, and never even thought to do this before now!  More proof that doing something for a long time can mean very little in terms of skills and knowledge.

Mo was stoked to have me at home, but completely nonplussed about my choice of activity.

 

Birthday butch, beer, books, berries, bear

It was a certain butch’s birthday this past week, and to celebrate, we went camping at what turned out to be the raddest spot ever.  It was quiet and remote, on a lake with a dock, lots of trees and a woodland trail, plus the bonus of nearby easy-to-hike logging roads into more mountainous territory!  All within a couple hours drive from our house.  Say what you will about the timber industry (and believe me, I’ve said it myself), but at least it makes for some great campsites.

My handsome companion. And her new gun.

What do dykes do in the woods?  Shoot guns, of course!

I preferred to steady my hand using my dear Audubon field guide... And the table.

Actually, there was only one gun:  An air pistol, which Oats bought with her birthday money.  I was pretty surprised, cuz she’s usually rather focused on things like art supplies and nice clothes, but then I quickly got over it… Because it turns out that I myself have an inner sniper.

Yes, we drank beer and then shot up the cans.  Classy!

I also spent many hours swinging in my hammock and reading… Got through 5 books in 4 days, which felt soooooooooooooooo good.  You’d think I’d read more, given that I’m unemployed and all, but I just don’t make the time.

What else did we do?  Oh yes, hiked.

I love a good view.

Even if it comes with sombre reminders of *why* there’s a good view… Hard to imagine how it would have been to walk up this slope before it was clearcut.  Those stumps are massive.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this land, and how I feel about it, mostly in light of the notion that I’ll be moving to a completely different part of the country this time next year (I hope!).  I read a lot of sci-fi, and it has forever altered my ideas about spatiality and colonization, complicating all my thoughts on “here-ness” in delightfully interesting ways.  I feel like my love for this place is so deep that I can leave and be okay simply knowing that it exists.

A wild larder:  Magic!  Not this fungus, I mean… It’s a lobster mushroom, and very much so edible without causing euphoric insights.  Or at least not yet.  I still haven’t eaten more than a nibble, because I was saving them for tonight’s dinner… I’ll let you know if they get me high.

More magic: Wild fruit!  I picked just over three pounds of thimbleberries (the ones that look like raspberries), tiny native blackberries, salmonberries (the orange ones), red huckleberries (the smooth red ones), and salal berries (the smooth dark purple ones).  Today they are becoming jam, to be sent off to my more eastern relatives as solstice gifts this winter, provided we don’t eat it all first.  I would’ve picked more, but there was much evidence of others wanting the fruit too and sometimes I like to avoid competition.

Yes, that’s shit… Bear shit, to be exact, which is what I’m referring to in my previous sentence, in case it wasn’t obvious.  It wasn’t totally fresh, but new enough to make me give careful consideration of the needs of my wilderness friends.  Three pounds of berries for me seems pretty good.

 

I turned 30 years old last week

I turned 30 years old last week!

Oats woke me at 7 am with breakfast in bed, and in the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should tell you that I did not react well. I wanted to sleep, and told her so rather meanly, then realized that I was being completely horrible.

Which made me cry.

Then it occurred to me that starting off my thirties by wallowing in self-hatred was the kind of thing one might eventually regret… So I mustered some hidden reserves of happy energy, and insisted on driving Oats to work, which she initially declined but then finally accepted, no doubt because I was threatening more tears if she didn’t let me at least try to make amends.  Somehow, it all worked out: Oats forgave my earlier meanness, I felt better about myself, she got to work on time, and I eventually reheated my lovingly-prepared breakfast and enjoyed every bite.  Yay for being an adult!  Or at least trying to change up the script of the little emotional traps that sometimes suck me under.

After I dropped Oats off, I went to a nearby beach.  It was pouring rain, but I didn’t mind.  Summers here are generally very sunny and dry, which makes the odd rainy day into a bit of a treat.  I wore gumboots and my raincoat, threw the ball for Mo, and took in deep breaths of salty sea air.  The tide was way out, and the seaweed was quietly rotting on the sand, stinking in a way that I now realize signifies home to me.  How would I cope with life on the prairies?  I take it for granted, the ocean at my feet and the mountains on the horizon… Which isn’t reason enough to stay here, just a useful thing to realize.

Mo is at times a rather goat-like animal, especially when he climbs things.

One of the reasons I was so tired on the morning of my birthday was that I’d been out at the bar the night before, drinking whiskey with a couple good folks to commemorate the year that had gone by since our mutual friend’s death.  As I’ve written before, I was no longer close with this person at the time of her sudden passing, but she was a big part of my early life in this city.  I think about her a lot, and about all that’s changed since she’s been gone.  Not to be terribly morbid, but it was really good to spend some quality time reminiscing, on the eve of turning 30.

For the past several years, I’ve hosted big parties for my birthdays.  Not this year, though… It just sort of snuck up on me, and I found myself more in the mood for being alone.  Most of the day itself, I spent at home, sewing a dress, which was pretty great.  The day after my birthday was a Friday, when I usually host pizza dinner for my housemates plus a rotating cast of regulars, and so that became my birthday event.  All I had to do was make the pizza ingredients: Oats and Sum and Captain Pestou and Jag did all the cooking, and Oats made an amazing cake!  That’s Mo, sculpted from crispy rice treats and covered in chocolate. In case you can’t tell, he’s sitting in a boat.

Timtams + chopsticks = Oars!

Speaking of Mo, he’ll be having his own birthday this Saturday… Two years, which seems so amazing.  Forget me still feeling like I’m 20:  I feel like Mo’s still a tiny puppy.

Mo at 8 weeks old

I couln’t look for a job today because I had to build a sunporch for the cat

And I built it entirely from scrap, including a window and some old wood that we’d hauled along in the move to this house last fall, plus some bamboo harvested from the overgrown patch along the street side of the property. Yay, me!  As my mother, who was born during the second world war and hates waste, would say, “You get points!”  Never a specific amount of points, mind you, just a comment that they are now mine, as the innovator of this excellent reuse.  In my mother’s world, every time a good use is found for leftovers from the fridge or a piece of junk from the alley or a scrap of material from another project, the person responsible for the initiative “gets points”.  It’s the sort of funny familial habit I’ve only recently begun to the notice.

Yay also for the cat, who seriously has been driving us crazy with her desire to go outside these last couple weeks. You know what happens when Ballou goes outside?  She falls off things, gets lost, or trapped in ridiculous locations. She has survived for 11 years, but it’s likely that this is only because Oats has kept her strictly an indoor animal for most of them. In the wild, cats like her do not last.

For months, Oats has been saying that Ballou needed an enclosed area off our bedroom window, to which I’ve been replying that the bloody feline is not getting a single square foot of my precious vegetable garden, also located outside the bedroom window.  All this meowing really wore me down, though… And I like getting into Oats’ good graces when I can, so that she’ll overlook the fact that I never clean the bathroom and am often rather snarky.  Happy cat, happy partner, happy FG.

I’m kidding, with the title to this post… I actually did do some job-related stuff today, including nailing down an appointment at the shipyards, to *finally* sign off on the security clearance and the rest of their forms.  It’s taken them forever to get back to me, so I’m relieved that something’s actually happening.

In the meantime, I’m back at the farm.  Yesterday I picked strawberries for 8 hours: On my knees in the hot sun, bending over the rows of plants, severing the stems just above the bulging red fruits and getting the overripe sticky juice all over my hands, my mud-stained t-shirt, my scandalously tight nylon short-shorts… Sexy as hell, it’s true, but *fuck* it hurt my body.  Tomorrow I’m going back, to hull and weigh the berries leftover from today’s sales so that they can be frozen, a job I specifically offered to do in exchange for a share in the fruit.  Then Saturday I’m earning a cash wage again, running the farm’s stall at one of the markets, which is my most favourite farm job of all.  It’s crazy busy, but there’s a variety of tasks, and tons of folks to visit with, plus I get to take home scraps for my chickens and fresh food for dinner.

Yes, summer is still hitting hard.

Summer hit hard

Summer hit hard a couple days ago, with sun and heat and days that seem to go on forever.  At this time of year, I completely lose my ability to guess what time it is, because it’s just as bright at 6 am as it is at 8 pm. I also lose a lot of my ability to focus, so this blog post will no doubt wander more than usual.

Yesterday afternoon I biked out to the lake for the first time this season, and as another first, Mo came along:  Running next to my bike for an hour and a half each way, with a long swim in between!  We’ve been practicing this trick at the sports track of the local high school for about a month now, and I went at half my regular speed to ensure he didn’t completely exhaust himself.  It’s safe to say that he didn’t, since he then spent the rest of the evening bouncing around the yard as per usual.  What a dog.

I gave my mom this hammock when I was 13 years old, in that phase where I had enough income from babysitting jobs that I could afford to buy gifts for people but didn’t have much sense as to what they’d actually want so would just buy them things that I wanted.  Wait, am I still in the phase?  Hmmmm…  At any rate, my mother never used it, and gifted it back to me when Oats and I were driving back west from Toronto last fall.  It’s so comfortable, I can’t even describe it.  Mo likes to sit on me while I read (or while I take a million photos of him).

A couple weeks ago, during a big yard clean-up, we found a hazelnut tree, a currant bush, and a blueberry bush, all growing quite happily despite having been hidden by weeds and piles of brush.  They’re getting more sun now, and we’ve added my old grapevine nearby for company.  It’s glad to be out of its pot, and I’m glad to think that we’ll actually have some exciting fruit in the next few months.

What I’d really like to grow is a pistachio tree, but I think the climate is too wet around here.  In the meantime, my dad gave me this little jar of crema di pistacchio that he bought in Sicily, and I made it into the best gelato I’ve ever had.  I used David Lebovitz’s recipe from his blog (and then spent way too long reading every other recipe he has posted, and then ordering his books from the library).  My ice cream maker came from a free bin in my old neighbourhood, and though I can’t say I’ve used it more than a couple times, I grew up making all kinds of frozen treats in the exact same model of maker under my stepmom’s expert tutelage.  Maybe that’ll be my new hobby this summer:  Homemade gelato.  It’d sure be a great way of using up the jars of jam that have accumulated from the past four years of canning, and perhaps also my recent failed attempts at homemade yoghourt.

I’ve decided that the only canning I’ll do this year is teaching.  Due to the big move last fall, and spending most of the winter on renovations and house-arranging, my lovelingly preserved food was hard to access until a week or so ago.  I barely made a dent in last summer’s haul, let alone ate up the less popular remainders from the years before.  Now it’s all on shelves and a bit overwhelming.  The greatest lesson here is that I should test out each recipe at least once before making more than a single batch of it:  For example, I have dozens and dozens of jars of quince jam, and we all hate it.  Why did I make so much of it?!!

(Answer:  Because I had a ton of free quince, was under a time constraint, and wasn’t very creative)

But teaching is different:  I may only get to take home a  single jar (if that), yet at the same time I have more fun and enjoy a sense of satisfaction that’s a bit different from just doing it all myself at home.  Plus, it forces me to be more organized and plan ahead!  Though this isn’t always something I manage to achieve:  Last Tuesday I’d already reached the community garden where I was running my class, and it was due to start in 20 minutes, when Oats called to say that I’d forgotten one of the legs for my tripod propane burner… Aieeee!  I turned around and went back home for it, but remained a little flustered for the entire evening.  Not my best teaching moment!  Since then, I’ve made myself a little checklist of everything I need to bring with me.  I’ll get to try it out at this week’s class, which is at a high school, with their environmental club.

In other household news, I’m practicing being a grad school widow, in a precursor to Oats’ entry to an MFA program:  She’s painting a mural on the wall of the steps that lead from the street up to our house, and I have barely seen her all day, nor am likely to as long as this weather holds.

I’m only teasing, with the grad school widow schtick:  I think her art overall is fabulous, this mural in particular is totally fantastic, and I’m super-stoked that she’s so passionate about creating beautiful things.  It’s also quite rad that it’s doesn’t have much to do with me, because I’ve got my own million and one things to think about and do.

That’s actually our number one secret to a sucessful marriage:  We are both very easily entertained by our own funny minds, and while we do like hanging out together, we spend a lot of time doing our own things (sometimes while in the same room… for hours… without talking… I love it). Hey, am I allowed to give out marital advice yet?  It’s been almost 3 months, and we’re still together… That counts for something.