baby it’s cold outside

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Whoo-hoo it’s c-c-c-cold today!!!   -29C this morning when I went out to start the bus.  With it’s new starter it zoomed to life as if it was +29 but once it caught, it chugged reluctantly for several minutes before I was confident it wouldn’t stall.  This is always the time of morning where I hold my breath–am I going or not?  Much as I would like the morning off, I take it as a personal failure if the bus won’t go–not really my fault, it’s usually a mechanical problem and very very infrequent–once a winter or so.  But it was grinding away so after a quick peek in the pumphouse where my new heater was also chugging away, I headed back to the warmth of the house.  The bus never really gets warm.  It gets comfortable but not warm and if ever, at these temperatures, the heater were to quit, it would take about three seconds for the inside temperature to drop to match the outside temperature.  I have a rural route where most of the kids come dressed for -40, especially the young ones.  Teens are the same in either an urban or a rural setting–simply too cool to dress warm.  They come in bunny hugs and summer shoes, and we are not allowed to send them back for more clothes.  “We don’t know the family situation”.  I’m not really sure what this means.  Maybe they can’t afford winter clothing??  We do live in Saskatchewan.  But I bite my tongue and hope no one gets frost bite and loses a finger or a toe.

When I came home at 9am, it was still -27C.  Molly was standing just on the other side of the gate, soaking up the sun.  The frosticles on her eyelashes and nose showed how cold it was but she was just dozing.  I had to get a picture, she was so pretty!

 

two steps forward, one step back

Sheesh–I just can’t win for losing.  The wind was fierce  on the weekend, especially Saturday night. Again.  I woke up and the water was frozen.  Again.  I thought it was in the porch but as my trusty blow dryer huffed and puffed, I began to have second thoughts.  I slipped on my boots and went out to the pumphouse to have a look.  Sure enough, it was frozen.  I cranked up the little heater and in a very few minutes the water was back on.  This was a puzzle as the heater cycles off and on every three hours, just enough to keep it just above freezing, as this is also my cold storage for potatoes.  It must have been just cold enough in the off cycle to freeze.  Then I discovered that  the one inch ball valve on the supply line to the pressure tank didn’t like being frozen.  Now the slow drip had become a steady drip that filled my drip tray in a couple hours instead of 8-12.  Stuff and bother.  So now I had to get it fixed.  I called the repairman and hurray, he was able to come this very morning.  So I hurried home to drain the pressure tank.  I filled the horses water and foolishly left the hydrant open.  Yup.  It froze.  In 15 minutes.  Aaaaarrrgggh!!!  So we tried to loosen the hydrant head off the pipe to thaw it but it wouldn’t budge.  Mr repairman said they weren’t too busy this week so he would go and get bigger pipe wrenches and and a bigger friend.  He thought they might be able to come back this afternoon, but when I came home it hadn’t been done.  Probably tomorrow.  But at least the drip is fixed.  But now my little space heater has given up the ghost so I must go get another one  It’s going to get cold again.  Sigh.

Snickerdoodles, Neil Diamond and Grace

I gave my Camino presentation on Wednesday night to a fairly respectable crowd of friends, family and interested strangers.  I took questions during and after.  One question which I didn’t expect was something along the lines of what did I learn about myself–I made some flip answer about not revealing my secrets…but even I found this an unsatisfying answer.  Did I know what I had learned about myself?  I know the late afternoon I arrived in Zabaldiko, to the most lovely welcoming albergue, on the banks of a burbling river with chickens crowing in the next garden, to get the LAST bed–I could have ended my camino right there and been satisfied.  I had over walked myself, trying to keep up with people I was walking with.  We finally parted ways, they to carry on to our destination of choice, a nunnery some 10-12 kilometers further on, and me to try to catch a taxi to the same place.  Of course hailing a taxi was not easy, and I really didn’t want to–I had wanted to walk my camino.  At the bar where I asked about taxi service and was told there was none, an Aussie man quipped, why don’t you just take a taxi to Santiago?  It was an asshole thing to say, and the slow burn I felt over the perceived injustice of the remark gave me enough oomph to carry on walking till I hit Zabaldiko.  The woman behind the counter must have recognized my exhaustion for she gave me the last bed in the albergue.  I was so grateful.  My Camino forum regulars have a mantra they repeat ad infinitum, “the Camino provides” and I felt this so strongly at this moment.  I had a cot, not a bunk, in a bright open room with a large window thru which I could hear the river and the roosters, a hot shower, and several Claras.  The husband of the woman on reception was a very accomplished chef and my Swedish roommate and I had a wonderful supper and a great sleep.  The whole experience for me was one of deep appreciation and acceptance for these gifts.  In the garden by the river, I had a chance to reflect on some of my recent choices and resolved to just slow down, breathe, and experience the Camino more fully.  And remarkably this experience repeated itself over and over on the way.  Gifts that came from seemingly nowhere, on the tail of  disaster.  After a stay in a bed-bug infested albergue in Astorga, at Rabanal del Camino, in a donativo albergue run by the Confraternity of St James, the hospitalieros helped us to disinfect ourselves, our packs and our clothes.  Again I was so grateful.  That evening, attending pilgrim mass in the 11th century candlelit church,  with the monks singing vespers , this feeling of gratefulness was overwhelming.  Tears ran down my cheeks as I listened to the gregorian chants and thought of the kindness of strangers.  And again near the end of my walk, when I got lost and wandered five kilometres off the track.   A simple ride offered by a lady farmer almost had me sobbing in gratitude.

After my presentation, the very kind library tech offered juice, coffee and home made cookies.  I have never in my life eaten a snickerdoodle and I thought they were the most delicious cookie.  So today, listening to Neil Diamond,  who is one of my favorites, I made a batch of cookies and reflected on the lessons of the Camino.  Walking the Camino puts you into a state of grace.  Mirriam-Webster defines grace as ” disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency”.  Random acts of kindness, kindness of stangers and the ability to receive these gifts define the Camino.  We must be open and accepting.  The Camino provides.  IMG_6058

 

Beautiful eggs

All eggs are not created equal.  For nutritional and esthetic purposes, farm eggs cannot be beat.  Factory farms have barns filled with genetically similar hens, mass producing identical snow white eggs, with the emphasis placed on sameness, not individuality.  Farm raised chickens produce eggs that are mosaics of color and shapes, especially if the chickens were chosen for looks and personality, instead of ability to produce an egg every day for a year before being slaughtered.

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I have had chickens for years and only the last several years have been producing my own chickens.  I would usually buy chicks from various hatcheries and raise them.  These factory chicks, for the most part, have lost the urge to go broody, that is, incubate their own eggs.  So, even though the egg quality is there, from eating bugs and grass and dirt, their eggs were just by products to be gathered.  Since I’ve had silkies, with their phenomenol broody and mothering abilities, I’ve been taking advantage and slip other eggs underneath them, and am now producing my own replacement hens.  Or rather, the chickens are doing what they do best naturally.  Of course, the odd little banty would disappear into the bush and just when I was convinced she had been eaten by coyotes, she would reappear with a clutch of newly hatched chicks.  But the silkies go broody in a laying box, where we can monitor her and choose which eggs she incubates.  And the size of the eggs I get from my motley crew of individuals has scewed my perception of what size a normal egg is. IMG_1554 I reuse egg cartons donated to me and have found that many of the eggs simply do  not fit into either the large or extra large size cartons.  They sometimes fit into the jumbo cartons but people do not generally purchase jumbo eggs at the store so these cartons are quite rare.  Eggs I consider normal size dwarf the normal size store bought eggs and I have trouble filling cartons with eggs that fit because they look so small.  I want to keep them back as seconds for my use or to feed the dog.  This jumbo egg is off the scale.IMG_6050 Of course, I also get the other end of the size spectrum, the bantam egg.  My little dog gets one of these every day on her kibble.

Eggs–natures’ perfect food.  Happy eggs from happy chickens.  How awesome is that?IMG_5932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My little bobble head

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When my last little dog got hit on the road and killed, I knew I wanted another companion.  Wookie was killed in the summer, I don’t remember the exact date (my daughter does).  In early spring I started looking for another little dog, something small, non shedding.  I checked Kijiji religiously for several months before I saw a puppy that really caught my eye.  I was very suspicious when the owner, who came from the Edam area wouldn’t let me come out to see the puppies–she wanted to bring them into town.  I had in fact watched this seller advertising litter after litter of puppies and thought, puppy mill.  But this litter of three puppies came up and the little female looked very promising.  The owner brought the puppy to the civic centre, where I was working that afternoon, and I fell in love.  But she was only seven weeks old, so I made some excuse about not being able to take her right away, hoping she could stay with mom for another week or two.  Two weeks later, she was mine.

Slowly I came to the realization that yes, this puppy must have come from a puppy mill.  She was terrified of everything, never having been socialized properly.  I should never have taken her, but I rationalized it as a rescue.  She slowly adapted and of course I loved her.  She still pees when someone new comes to the house and sometimes just because.  I came home the other day and found my little dog in jail and this on the board.IMG_5920IMG_5917

But she plays aggressively with my son’s pit bull (who is quite gentle for a big oaf), and with my daughter’s three legged cat.  They race up and down the house, wrestling and tumbling, till the cat has enough and climbs to the top of his castle.  Marty, as I’ve come to call my new dog, is actually quite clever, playing fetch with her dolly.  But she still only rarely comes when called. And she never goes near the road, thank goodness.  IMG_0692

This winter she developed a crack between her toes on one foot, and has been licking it.  This is natural behavior but it has now become a bit of an obsession and she licks and chews it agressively.  At first I thought it would heal but she keeps chewing it open.  So then I got some baby mitts and put one on her foot as a barrier.  But because she is in and out all the time I couldn’t keep it clean and dry.  So my daughter brought home the “Cone of Shame“.  At first Marty was terrified and wouldn’t move. IMG_5915 So I took it off.  But I’m supposed to let her get used to it, and sure enough, after numerous offs and ons, Marty is getting used to it.  She was walking around the kitchen yesterday, and her head was bobbing just like a bobble head.  We laughed till we cried.IMG_6030

Ah, our families…two legged and four…where would we be without them?

Life and death, regrets and gratitude, and hope

That’s a big title for a small subject today. Actually eight small subjects. My momma rabbit gave birth at the beginning of the month. My daughter, who is braver than I, took a few pictures. I was afraid of disturbing momma rabbit and also cautious of chilling the babies. Baby rabbits are those delicate creatures that I consider alive only after they are furred up and their eyes open. Till then they are just mostly alive.

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About a week after the birth I screwed up my courage, got down on my knees close to the cage and cracked the lid an inch. A waft of warm baby rabbit breath puffed in my face and I could see them squirming in a pile of their mothers wool at the bottom of the cage. I dropped the cage top and breathed a sigh of relief. Still mostly alive but not fully.

Then came the wind.

Rabbits do not cuddle their babies. Not like a hen or a cat. They are prey animals and don’t even go near their babies except to feed them twice a day. The rest of the time they stay as far away as possible so as not to draw predators’ attention to the kits. No matter how well insulated and sheltered, a windchill of -38 will suck the life out of a creature only mostly alive.

My daughter found one of the babies pulled from the nest last night, frozen, and then checked the rest. All dead. Eight of them, tripled in size from birth but not big enough.

Life on the farm, or anywhere for that matter, can seem cruel sometimes but it is what it is. Really, at the basest, most common denominator, there is only life and death. A good life for man or beast is to feel the sun, have shelter from the cold and have enough to eat and drink. The experts say animals only live in the now. They don’t have regrets, or feel gratitude or hope. Humans feel those things. And worst of all is the regret for the things that aren’t tried, aren’t done. Trying something and failing just doesn’t seem as bad as not trying, and forever wondering what would have happened if…

Gratitude can be found even in these failures, for having had the courage to try, the hope to try again.

Momma rabbit is, as I write, visiting Romeo. Hopefully, babies mid March.

The sun is warm today.

Sirocco

Sirocco is the name of a wind,  an east wind specifically.  I think this name is Mediteranean, refering to the hot dry dusty winds coming off the desert in Africa.  An east wind brings ill tidings with it.  Sherlock Holmes makes reference  to the east wind being cold and bitter, a premonition that Moriarty isn’t quite dead….There has been an east wind howling over the farm too these last few days.  Decidedly unsettling as our prevailing wind is from the north-west and all the sheds and barns have their backs to this prevailing wind.  This east wind is blowing right into the face of the sheds. Last night at 1:30am I sprang awake as though I had been kicked.  Oh no, I was sure the window had been blown in on the chicken coop.  Chickens can take an amazing amount of cold (even though I try not to expose them unnecessarily) but wind or draft is deadly.  I dressed, put my flashlight in my pocket and ran to the greenhouse to get my hammer.  I was going to drop the shutters on the coop to close the gaping hole I was sure was there.  But as I approached, I could see from the gate that the window was still holding, so I crept up on the barn to catch the animals in slumber.  It was so peaceful.  The big dog has an elevated platform filled with staw bales and sweet hay.  I had placed a straw bale against the back wall to insulate her from the cold.  There was a goat kid sleeping on top of this bale, the dog in her cosy elevated bed, pig in her palace and Momma goat and the rest of the littles clustered under their heat lamp, and of course the chickens peaceful on their roosts in their half of the barn.  I was sorry I hadn’t brought my camera, but I had been expecting disaster and murder, not the calm peaceful scene I interupted.  Knowing that if I didn’t drop the shutters, my sleep would be disturbed hourly with thoughts of tragedy.  I got a chair from the grainery and climbed up, unhooked the latch and dropped the shutter.  I secured it in place with a few nails, trying not to inhale or wear all the dust from the top surface.  Gah what a mess.  But it settled quickly and I talked to the chickens for a bit–they seemed just fine.  The big dog followed me out to the gate, she just wanted to play–how cool was it that Big Momma (me) was out in the middle of the night…oooh I wanna play, play with me, pet me, love me…she has become quite the attention seeker since she decided after three years that maybe I wasn’t so bad after all.  As I walked back to the trailer the wind was so fierce it almost blew me down.  I used it to blow all the chicken dust off me, beating at my coveralls, twisting and turning in the wind so it could scour all surfaces.  When I had sheep I routinely went out in the middle of the night every two hours to check for lambs.  It’s lambing season now, and I really miss it.  I never had trouble falling back asleep, unless I had a crying baby in a laundry basket in the kitchen.  I’m glad I went out–everything would probably have been fine, but I would have stressed all night.  It took all of 20 minutes, and it was such a gift to see how peaceful everyone was.  Its these small moments we remember and treasure–fill our hearts with small wonders and smiles.

Free morning

My bus was due for a service yesterday and I had a bad feeling about it.  I was given an older bus as a replacement and I just knew it wouldn’t start this morning.  Did I jinx it?  Negative thoughts and all that…I actually believe that outcomes are influenced by negative/positive energy.  So many times I have had premonitions about things that would have been really impossible to predict.  How to explain it?  Negative energy!!!

Just like the goats!!!  I really thought I had made a goat proof shelter for my pig.  I really believed it–but deep down, deep deep down I suspected it wouldn’t be that easy.  I have had too much experience with these devil’s spawn.  I am not to say “hate” anymore.  I can say loathe, detest, dislike, abhor but not hate.  So I will simply say I dislike goats.  Of course any place they are discouraged from going is automatically THE place they want to be.  They will do anything to enter the forbidden zone.  And so it was with the pig palace.  I can’t remember why my daughter went out into the back the other night after regular chores were done–we forgot something, or she needed to check something, but anyway she came back to say the goats–ALL of them were in the pig palace dancing on my pig.  even Momma goat!!  AAAARRRGGH!!  So now what?  My neighbor’s voice was echoing in my head, ” first you have to be smarter than the goats”  I put on my thinking hat and came up with this…IMG_5996Stakes from my garden, taped to their horns.  It is said that cats can squeeze their bodies into anything they can fit their head in.  I had no idea goats were part of the feline family.  So widening their “horns” would prevent them from squeezing thru the pig hole.  In theory.  At least till they learn where their new horns begin and end.  But I am now one step ahead.  As soon as I see that they have learned where their new horns begin and end I will simply re-tape them in a different position.  Hopefully this will delay the ineviable till spring when the pig palace can be dismantled.  And the obvious question has been asked, though not in the comment section…why doesn’t anyone comment?!?  Why do I have goats if I dislike them so much.  Well, I suppose it is a personal challenge–something along the lines of Scott in the Antarctic.  I am not Scott but one of his supporting cast, Oates, who suffering from the cold and frost bite, voluntarily left the tent to go to his death, telling Scott, “I am just going outside and may be some time”.  Everytime one of my sure-fire schemes to outsmart the goats fails, I feel like Oates.  There is nothing cuter than a baby goat and to watch them dance and live life is good for the soul…but don’t try to outsmart them.