Category Archives: Scavenger

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.

 

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A dress for a 30 year old.

I know I said I wasn’t into sharing much of my DIY projects these days, BUT… Here’s the dress I sewed myself for my birthday.  Well, I actually finished it yesterday, two weeks after my birthday, but I’m not counting.  It’s still my present to myself, and I’m just relieved that A) IT FITS and B) I LIKE IT.  I’d never made a dress before, or any complicated sewing pattern with more than two pieces, so this feels like quite the accomplishment.  Also, it only cost me a couple dollars, because I got the fabric from the thrift store… And as I may have mentioned before,  ready-to-wear dresses rarely fit me very well because my chest is around two sizes smaller than my hips.  In sewing for myself, this isn’t much of a problem:  All I had to do was use the right size for each portion of the dress, then figure out how to fit them together.  I love a good puzzle!  And I love making stuff, especially when it actually works out.

Pride, and little creations

Monday morning after the big local Pride Week finale, and you’d think I’d have slept in. Instead, I was awake at 5 am, tired but buzzing with happy thoughts: A recurring theme these past several days. It’s hormones, I’m sure, but hey, at least I’m not wallowing in despair or full of inexplicable rage, as has been the case in the past.

On Friday, the Pride event for under-19-year-olds that my queer dance party collective organized was AMAZING. Around 50 kids showed up, and I personally was so nervous about everything going terribly wrong that it was more than halfway over before I realized how great it was. During the last minute organizing decisions, most of which centered around creating policies to safely deal with intoxicated youth, I realized that I’ve got no knowledge about or experience in working with teens. Luckily, lots of rad people stepped up with excellent ideas and protocols for creating respectful, fun, safe spaces! And I stuck to serving (non-alcoholic) drinks at the bar all evening, which gave me a great chance to have brief chats with most of the youth. I also had a fantastic view of the dance floor, so I can tell you with good authority that the youth were really into the DJ. At the end of the evening, we had a couple parents thank us as they picked up their kids, and even a few of the teens themselves made a point of letting us know how much they appreciated our work. I can’t say for certain that we’ll take on such a party again next year, but for now it feels nice to have had this success.

Yesterday at the Pride festival itself was another first for the collective: We actually had a table! For a loose, anarchistic group like ours, this was a big step. Since we still had the button maker we’d borrowed for the crafting station at the youth dance, we decided to bring it plus all the required supplies to Pride. It was so cool… People loved making buttons! And they couldn’t believe we weren’t charging anything. The funniest thing was how many folks asked if we were some kind of promo gear company, or other media business. No, just your local radical queer dance party collective, making stuff and having fun and co-creating a revolution… You know, the yooj.

I made A LOT of buttons, mostly just mini collages of text and images from magazine, plus glitter glue.  Almost all of them got snapped up by the people who stopped by the table but didn’t want to make their own… Which is going to be fun:  I hope I’ll randomly see these little creations of mine around town in the coming months!  I did manage to keep a few though, including the three on the left in the pic above… Oats made me the one on the right, because she said it looked like me.  Note to self:  Pink barrette? Also, consider sculpting eyebrows.

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.

A book of oddities.

It’s my mother’s 71st birthday in a couple weeks. I know, I know: She is very old, to have a daughter as young as my green tender self. But sometimes these things happen, as they say… What’s most unexpected about our age difference is not the fact that she had my older sister and I at the end of her thirties and start of her forties, but rather that we are her only children. Most later mothers began early and kept going, whereas my mom just never got knocked up until… Surprise!

And here we are.

I like to send her books as gifts, because she sends so many to me; it’s a passion we share. My usual modus operandi is to think through the ones I’ve borrowed from the library in the past year, and then track down any I think she’d like, via online book sellers. In past years, I’ve sent her gems such as Scandanavia Beckons by Amy and Thornton Oakley, The First Century after Beatrice by Amin Maalouf, and My Turquoise Years by M.A.C. Farrant… Like me, she loves travelogues, speculative fiction, and memoirs.

She also appreciates books of oddities, which is why for this latest collection of birthday volumes I’m including The Book of Shadows, edited by Jeffrey Fraenkel (of the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco). Oats has to take credit for finding this one, when we were killing time at the downtown library a couple weeks ago. We’re very rarely at the library together, let alone hanging out there with no specific goal, so it was especially fun to drift through the fine arts section and look through random books together. I think this one jumped out at her from the shelf because of the strange velveteen texture of its cover, or perhaps the spooky font. I flipped through it once and immediately found this photo:

Yep, I’m sold.

Awesome queer action aside, this book is rad: Fraenkel simply presents us with selections from his extensive collection of diverse photographs that all feature the shadow of the person taking the photo. The presence of these unknown photographers are thus imposed into the scenes that weren’t necessarily meant to include them… And Fraenkel provides no commentary, no text, no explanation of where he sourced the pic. It effectively elevates the photos to being works of art, and records of events that include reminders of all that did not fit into the camera’s frame.

Or maybe that’s just me and the couple glasses of wine I drank this evening. At any rate, here’s selections from the book:

More homoerotic snuggling...

...And a cute couple!

Blank gravestone, big shadow, damn weird.

Mew.

Huh... I'm told that I have cousins in Prince Albert... I wonder if this is one of them.

Look at this shadow... It's like evil Nanny Poppins! I also love how awkward this young woman looks: Totally adorable.

For more about the gallery exhibition of these pics, click here.

I’ve got a couple other books I want to send to my mom as well, and I’m going to get her a copy of Adele’s new album, 21. I rarely share music with her, but I know she likes strong female vocalists. Besides that, I’m rather taken by this song, and I think she will be too:

Bittersweet, indeed.

Natural born gleaner

I’m at home this afternoon, admiring the sunshine from the comfort of my bed, while a head cold (or something) does a number on my ability to get shit done. I did work for a while this morning, but no one wants baby greens that’ve been sneezed on and I was slow as hell anyway, so my boss suggested I go home. That’s the crappy thing about labour jobs: It’s not like in my computer geek days, when I could soldier on as needed, through most ill health… I couldn’t always make it to the office, but emails and IMs made my physical presence less than necessary. Which is in direct contrast to now, where my physical presence pretty much *is* the job.

I’m reminded of when I got my period during the months I was working at the construction site: Standing at the top of an 8 foot ladder in an unfinished section of the building, measuring a length of steel conduit for installation on the ceiling, as a sudden massive mentrual cramp rocked my body. I grabbed the top of the ladder and held on until the pain dulled enough for me to climb down, then dosed myself with more pain killers. I think that was the first time I missed working a desk job, where there was nothing much to fall off of save an ergonomic rolling chair, and nothing bad to land on save a dirty section of wall-to-wall carpet.

Before I felt as crummy as this, the illness was just another round of bad asthma, and I was trying to keep busy in between long bouts of laying around in bed with Oats, who has been sick as well. One of my projects has got me kinda stoked, because it might make me a bit of money for a pretty small investment of time and supplies. There’s a lot of random waste at the farm, simply due to the economics of staffing and space: Sometimes, it makes sense to plow in a field of young, under-producing rhubarb plants so that the area can be sown with higher-grossing winter root veggies. Enter the over-enthusiastic farm hand! I dug up as many of the plants as I could, and stored them on my patio in a big bin. On Friday, I went through these rhubarb roots, chopping them into smaller segments and replanting them in 1 gallon plastic pots (also free, from the farm). It made 22 new plants, and that was only 1/3 of what’s still to be done. My plan is to let them grow for a few weeks, then sell them via the local free online classifieds.

I did the same with the strawberry runners, which I had to cut and remove anyway as part of my regular strawberry bed maintenance last Thursday.

Realistically, this little gleaning project is not going to make me rich, but it sure as hell makes me feel better about some of the decisions I’ve made in the past few months. Despite my last post, I’m still uneasy with choosing farming (and sustainable energy networking) over moving up through the world of trades. In fact, I’ll probably always feel like this, because I’m a product of a capitalist system and my mind is warped.

Also warping my mind is the impending visit of my father and stepmom. I love them, and am looking forward to having them here, but every conversation I’ve had with my dad these past several *months* has been about the visit and I’m so bored by it. He oscillates between casually insulting my chosen city, and casually questioning my success as an adult human being. Really, Dad, there are *lots* of things to do here (he keeps lamenting the lack of interesting stuff around where I live), and really, you *don’t* have to rent a car (he’s free to use ours, as we’re far from car-dependent). I haven’t argued with any of his offers of grocery shopping, however, because though Oats and I have a very well-stocked pantry, we’re penny-pinchers who buy store brands in mass amounts, and rarely treat ourselves to the variety or quality of foods my parents would get.

Also, cooking will unite us… I’m even planning on getting fresh goat milk from a local dairy, so that we can make cheese together. Stuff that into squash blossoms, then fry in a cornflour tempura batter? Yes, please!

I hear parents always have trouble treating their kids as grown ups: Is this rumour true? I suppose my mom’s still pretty parental towards me, just differently than my dad, and I can handle it better. She likes to sit and read or write emails in a companionable silence, whereas my dad likes to do more talking. As well, she’s already semi-parented my three older step-brothers into their adulthood, and seems more comfortable with stepping back from her role as guardian. My dad, he’s a hoverer.

My stepmom, luckily, is not, or not with me at any rate… My younger half-sister, her daughter, bears the brunt of that. With me, my stepmom is fun and interesting. She has also been very supportive of me going into the trades, more so than other 3 folks I call parents. That’s the nicest thing about having so many of them: I can shop around for opinions, more so than my peers who have just two.

In other news, wanna know what Oats and I have been doing while sick in bed? Hmmm… Okay, aside from the obvious? We’ve been watching a certain television show about four women in a big city, because Oats had never seen it before and this fact blew my mind. Let me tell you, watching Sex and the City with a (gender)queer feminist for the first time is hilarious, especially if she’s simultanously reading the snarky episode summaries on Television Without Pity. Oh, the snark! Oh, SATC! How I love to hate thee, and even more, how I love to share my hate for thee with my lover.

Hate-ons aside, I should probably add the show to the list of things that are warping my mind, because it made me desperately crave nice hair. I haven’t had my hair cut since before I went to Australia over a year ago, and it was getting not only frizzy but boring. I recognized the teevee-induced vanity for what it was just in time, and managed to solve the problem myself with a pair of sharp scissors. One step further and I’d have dropped $80 at a salon, and that’d be all my gleaning money gone in one fell swoop. Now I’ve got asymmetrical shaggy bangs and the hair on one side of my head is much longer than on the other side, and I like it very much. Take that, New York City.

Why hello there, Chicken. May I come in?

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*knock**knock*

“Brawwwwwk?”

Actually, that’s not what the chickens say. And they don’t really cluck either. I should know, because we put their coop and run right outside our living room window, which we keep open most of the time. They aren’t very loud, but keep on a fairly constant conversational-sort of chuckling.

People have been asking, so here it is: A slideshow of the pics I took while we made the coop and the run. As usual, this is me we’re talking about here, so please realize that the primary factor driving most decisions about materials and arrangements was frugality. We had the phonograph radio cabinet already, and the battered turquoise-painted wood (used for the planter and the frame of the run) was leftover from our landlady’s porch renovation some years ago. We used hardware and screws and stuff like that from our stashes, and only paid for the hardware cloth and the paint.

None of us had done anything like this before, and we are in no way chicken experts! Hell, I’m currently struggling with the forms to enter my chicken in the poultry competition at the local fall fair, because I’m confused by the vocabulary.

Also, I’m confused about why the chickens aren’t laying yet: We were told they’d start around June 15th, aka a month ago.

Also, I’m confused about why the damn birds pile on top of each other in the nesting box at night, instead of sleeping on the roost or even just in the bedding on the floor of the coop.

Yes, I have a lot to learn. Probably should read a book or two, instead of just going by intuition and advice from other chicken enthusiasts.

A note about size: Our coop is pretty small, only 3’x4′ (and 3′ high), but the chickens spent most of their time out in the run anyway. The reason we only have four birds is that we’re limited by our municipality’s bylaw, which only allows for that many “urban hens” per parcel of residentially-zoned land. We’ve tossed around the idea of setting up another coop for our landlady, who lives in the other half of our duplex, but know that it’d be a risk because we’re still the same land parcel. In case you’re curious, the other restrictions are:

  • no roosters, cocks, or cockerels are kept on the property;
  • a minimum enclosed area of 0.4 m2 [4 sq. ft.] is provided per hen or chicken;
  • any structure containing hens or chickens, whether portable or stationary, is always located at least 1.5 metres from any property line;
  • only one structure containing hens or chickens is permitted on a parcel;
  • the ground underneath any structure housing hens or chickens is kept clean and dry and the structure placed on a solid surface during prolonged periods of wet weather;
  • hens or chickens are not permitted to run at large;
  • every structure housing hens and chickens and the grounds surrounding it are kept free of vermin;
  • any diseased hen or chicken is killed and the carcass destroyed;
  • no slaughtering of hens or chickens occurs on the property;
  • structures housing hens or chickens are kept clean and free or odours;
  • poultry manure and waste products are composted or disposed of to prevent odours;
  • any structure containing hens or chickens, whether that structure is portable or stationary, must not be located within the front yard setback unless such structure is screened by vegetation of a sufficient height and width to prevent the structure being visible from the street or from any adjacent residence.

We may technically run afoul (afowl! ha ha ha ha!) of that last one, since the coop is pretty much visible from the street and neighbours’ homes, though I don’t think any of them realize what it is. I’m not sure what distance counts as the front yard setback, since our house on a corner lot and a good 10 metres or so from the road. As far as I understand it, though, there shouldn’t be any trouble unless someone complains, and I’m thinking the neighbourhood is way too mind-your-own-business for that. Besides, our landlady likes the chickens, and she knows everybody: As long as we keep her on our side, it should be fine.