Goony bird

The last few days as I’ve been sitting in my garden drinking my coffee, the Goony bird has been sitting on the top of the yard light pole, calling. I don’t know what he is saying, calling to his sweetie?  Warning other Goony birds to stay away? Enjoying the echoing sound he makes across the valley? But there he sits, calling, calling.  

 That pole is 30′ high and I can’t really get any closer but you can see him up there. And just what is a Goony bird you ask. Fair question. For the longest time I had no idea what he was. That’s why I called him the Goony bird. He hung around, down at the pond. So, a water bird. Then, when he flew, he made a curious sound. I couldn’t tell if he was using his voice, or if if was the wind thru his feathers. A sort of winnowing sound. I listen to CBC all the time and it just so happened that someone called in to BirdLine and described this very bird. It is a Wilsons Snipe.  

 Snipes come in all shapes and sizes. Apparently they are one of the few shore birds that can be legally hunted. I’m not sure why, there’s not more than a mouthful of meat on them. They are also hard to hunt, very elusive, and from this trait came the word sniper. Who knew?  And the sound they make while flying is caused by fluttering their tail feathers while diving. A very distinctive sound meant for territorial defence or courting. They seem to fly all day and night as I often hear him in the middle of the night. And I hear him now as I write this. He will always be the Goony bird to me. 

Smoke gets in my eye

There is an air quality alert out today on Environment Canada’s site. I could see the smoke at five when I got up to check if the guineas were in the garden. We either had a small shower last night or a very heavy dew. Everything is dripping wet. Now I’m out in the garden at seven with my coffee. The guineas have already rampaged thru the peas–I see rubble littering the ground along the row. This calls for drastic action. I think I’ll stop at the Mennonites today and see if they have any window sheers I can drape over the tops of the pea fence. I woke my daughter the other morning hollering at the guineas to get the hell out of my garden. Apparently this is the behaviour of a lunatic mother and was somewhat frowned upon. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me but what do I know??

The light thru the smoke this morning is quite beautiful. I can smell it too– not too strong but definitely there. I feel very sorry for the people who are displaced because of the fires but they are, I believe, a necessary evil. Fires cleanse and rejuvenate the forests, burning up nasty bugs and diseases, and clearing the forest floor. 

My son was out last night. He brought his small furnace and compressor and melted some aluminium. My front lawn is rather plaqued with anthills so we found a likely one and when the aluminium was molten he poured it into the hill. I don’t know what I was thinking not to have taken pictures of the process, I’ll blame the heat last night, it was too oppressive to think clearly, but the finished product is beautiful.  

     He will clean and mount it for me and I will have a very unique piece of art. Both my kids are so creative in such completely different ways. Creativity is such a gift, being able to DO something, anything, expands the mind and makes life so much more interesting. 

Pig pig

 Pig Pig’s real name is Dolores. She’s a Vietnamese pot belly pig. She is much too fat (aren’t we all?) but she’s a resourceful scavenger. After she eats her very reduced ration she’s off to the goat trough to slurp up any stray grains of oats the goats drop. Once they hit the ground the goats won’t eat them and they are messy eaters. I’m thinking I may just eliminate one of Pig’s meals and let her fend for herself for breakfast. 
It’s been really hot this week. A small wallow has been forming where I dump the water from the trough in the back. It’s actually a calf sled with a low profile. On hot days pig has climbed into it to cool off. But now she has made herself a wallow, cool wet sticky clay is better than plain water.  

It is sort of in the middle of the yard but so far hasn’t been a problem. It will be easy enough to fill in later if I need too. But for now Piggy loves her mud bath.  

   Sort of like me in my tub ūüėú

Who needs a lake

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the lake when I was a kid. My mother bought a cabin on Jack Fish lake 45 years ago. It was a run down cabin on a lakefront lot and the first few summers were spent making it more habitable. I have several memories that stand out. The first is my father replacing a load bearing wall with a beam of rough cut pine. The beam was made of  two inch thick planks nailed four abreast at staggered intervals the length of the cabin. All the neighbour men were called in to lift the beam while my father secured it in place. I was awestruck at how my father seemed to know how to do everything. The planks were green and dripped resin for years. Nobody cared really. The smell was wonderful and it was after all, a cabin. The beam allowed the removal of supporting wall and opened up the interior of the cabin. 

Another memory is of my mother cleaning and scrubbing a cast iron potbelly wood stove. A city neighbour who came from a small town close to NB knew someone who had this stove out in a storage shed. It was very ornate with lots of chrome accents and decorative squiggles all over it. A beautiful piece and mom bought it for $20. She worked like a fiend on it scrubbing with steel wool and stove blacking to remove the rust and restore the sheen. We left the lake at one point in the restoration and it rained. Mom hadn’t covered the stove and all her hard work was washed away. We came back the next weekend and she had to start all over again. 

My father got tractor tire tubes for my sister and I to use in the water and we had so much fun. The higher the waves the more we loved it. We stayed in the water till we were pruned and frozen, only coming out to eat or warm up in the sun. Of course the summer we saw Jaws we really didn’t go in the water that much. 

Summer holidays we lived out there and my father commuted to town. The beach had a market garden and they would sell veggies up and down the beach. The truck had a horn that mooed and when we heard it coming there was the mad rush to grab some change and go stand at the road to flag down the truck to get our veggies for the day. They had everything. One of our favorites was kohlrabi which mom would peel and we would eat raw with salt.  We had to get a honey bear and corn and peas to shell. It was great. 
But things change. Many people have now built huge year round houses. Everyone has a big noisy boat. When we were kids there were some big noisy boats but mostly fishing boats with small engines. Now there are sea dos, and REALLY big boats. I haven’t out much since my kids were small. I would have liked them to have had the lake experience I had as a kid. There’s no more market garden and a lot more traffic on the road as well as the water. 

I tend to stay on the farm now. But on hot days I have my own personal lake, a cast iron bath tub strategically placed on the from lawn overlooking the valley. I filled it the day before yesterday and let the water warm in the sun. I left room to top it off with sun heated water from a coil of hose on the lawn.  

 Every couple hours yesterday I ran the water thru the hose till it ran cold. A couple gallons of water so hot I couldn’t put my hand in it.  This was just to take the edge off the coldness of the well water. 

Today I came home from my afternoon bus run. +30C. I was melting.  

 I made myself a Clara, grabbed my book and hopped into my lake.  

 All I hear are the red winged blackbirds in the valley, my guineas going off, and all the other assorted little songbirds. The water is so warm, just a few degrees colder than body temperature. Very refreshing!!  Finished my book, my Clara, and my blog entry in the “lake”. And no SHARKS!!! 


How does my garden grow

IMG_6429Do you remember my “before” picture?¬† This is why I like to take it–to see how fast the garden actually does grow.¬† This picture was taken the long weekend in May.¬† Here it is, one month later and look at the difference.IMG_6698The biggest change is in the back–the corn and potatoes.¬† The potatoes have taken off after their bout with the frost and have jumped spectacularly after being hilled.¬† The corn is knee high now, still a week away from the first of July.¬† IMG_6642IMG_6689I’ve eaten most of the first crop of radish, am starting on the lettuce, and have had my first RIPE tomato.¬† The tomatilloes are tomatillo-ing, the strawberries are happy, and there are more tomatoes!!!¬† I love this time in the garden, everything¬†growing¬†so vigorously.¬† As I weed, I can nibble on lettuce or parsley or sorrel.¬† The bumble bees are loving the onion blossoms too and I can sit and watch them in all their fuzzy glory.IMG_6688IMG_6690IMG_6691IMG_6695IMG_6622IMG_6628I love my garden ūüôā

Nothing cuter than a baby goat

IMG_6674 IMG_6676 IMG_6677One of the quintuplets from last year is now a mom.¬† It was not planned; in fact about four hours after I discovered she was pregnant I got a call from someone lookiing for a meat goat.¬† She would have been gone in an instant except I saw that she was preggers and I’m a sucker for baby goats.¬† She is a very tiny little thing,the runt of the litter, and she kept getting bigger and bigger.¬† Just when I thought she would burst, she produced, with no fuss, a pretty little boy.¬† I sold a sister¬†of this doe to my neighbour.¬† She was also pregnant.¬† He wanted to try goat milk.¬† She produced a little female, and he has been milking mom.¬† I was over for tea the other day and was given a glass of snow white goat milk.¬† Delicious!!!

Goat milk is somewhat naturally homogenized, in as much as the fat globules are smaller and tend not to seperate out.¬† The butter fat of goats milk ranges from 3-10%.¬† Saanens, which is the type of goat I have, produce the most milk but have the lowest butterfat. This still depends on the individual goat–last milking I stored the milk in narrow necked bottles in the fridge and was quite happy with the inch or two or cream on the top.¬† Enough for my coffee!!

The Nigerian Dwarf is the queen of the butterfat, producing milk that has 8-12% butterfat.¬† Fat is what gives milk it’s flavour and Nigerian milk is purported to be very tasty.¬† I can’t say, I’ve never tried it.¬† But I do know that some goats give sweet milk and some produce a very goaty milk.¬† I had a Nubian that gave goaty milk and I got rid of her pretty fast. Toggenburgs are mountain goats and they are supposed to produce stronger flavoured milk as this what they were bred for, but my does always had sweet milk.¬† It depends on the goat.¬† This Saanen that I have now is the best producer of the best flavored milk I’ve ever had.¬† I have one more of her daughters that is bred so hopefully these genes will be passed on.¬† Neither one of the daughters have names, I guess now I’ll have to name them.¬† The baby is a male so I will not be keeping him, unless for meat.¬† We’ll see how he grows.

In the mean time, it is good for the soul to watch a baby goat.¬† Acrobats and clowns–they have such joy in life, leaping and twisting and testing the limits with every step.¬† If you doubt this, just watch the link below and try not to smile ūüôā

My dog is an egg sucker!!

The other day I found an egg shell on the path to the bus. I had a closer look and it was clean, too clean to have come from a hatching chick. Very curious. I looked closer and could just make out the pointy end and the speckly color telling me it was a guinea egg. Curiouser and curiouser.  

  When I came back that morning I headed to the back to do chores and found several more eggshells. All clean and empty. What the heck?!?  Then that evening I saw the big dog eating something. I couldn’t really make out what it was–it looked like a chick embryo. What?? Then yesterday morning I saw her mouthing something.  She had come up to the house and was laying beside my car with something in her mouth. I yelled and she ran then dropped it. An egg!!  A guinea egg. So that mystery solved…except where did she get it?? She must have found a nest somewhere which would explain the chick embryo. Nothing more so she must have eaten all the eggs.  

Look at that guilty face. Damn egg sucker!!  Dogs noses are so sensitive that she’ll find every guinea egg before we do. Two of the adult guineas are still missing. Hopefully sitting on a nest but maybe eaten. And those damn guineas have turned my Swiss chard into frizzle lettuce. I’ve been looking and have been finding the chard getting progressively more shredded. Now what?!? Then I saw them at it. I usually don’t mind the guineas in the garden but they can’t eat my chard, only the bugs. So I built a cage around it.  
  And my poor cherry tree has been nibbled on by the deer. I found their footsteps in the garden. Down to one cherry. Aaaaarrrrrgh!!!! I don’t mind sharing but this is getting ridiculous!!

The corn is as high as an elephants’ eye

Grandpa - (1)

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,
An’ it looks like its climbin’ clear up to the sky

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.

My father used to sing this song.¬† I loved to hear him sing.¬† Europeans seem to break into song at any excuse.¬† All my European relatives are the same and even¬†fifty plus years in Canada didn’t really break my father of the habit.

He was born in 1921, on the wrong side of the tracks in Simmering, Vienna.¬† His family lived in the barracks of an army hospital turned into low income housing.¬† Two rooms for a family of four, water in the court yard and communal toilets for the block.¬† His father was the ring master of a circus that traveled all over Europe and down into South America.IMG_0013But he didn’t live with his father, his mother married another man, Seitz, who was according to the children a great provider and someone who could turn his hand to anything. My father told me how he and Seitz would bicycle into the Vienna Woods to scrounge anything they could sell, pinecones, pinebows to make wreaths, mushrooms and wildflowers.¬† This was of course illegal but they needed the money and accepted the risk.¬† At eighteen my father was conscripted into the German army.¬† He told me how he somehow arrived the day after every major battle.¬† He never talked in any detail about the war.¬† But I am sure he suffered from PTSD.¬† After the war he left Austria for Sweden to study engineering, and then came to Canada.IMG_0006Wasn’t he a handsome man?¬† Everytime I go back to Vienna, his sister makes me show her my teeth, because she says I have my father’s perfect teeth.¬† He was an excellent athlete, and extremely well read.¬† He loved animals and it didn’t take him long to aquire several horses…a pony for us kids, but also a riding horse for himself.IMG_0005Whenever we did anything, every kid on the block had to come with us.¬† We were always having grand adventures, and everyone wanted to come.¬† Here he is riding his grey horse, Hansel.¬† We had a Gretel too¬†and of course, Bucky the pony.¬† He also loved to canoe and to be on the water.¬† He joined a canoe club out of Regina and would go paddleing northern rivers with the club members.¬† He said he was always in charge of building the fire as he could build a fire rain or shine and wanted a hot meal for supper.¬† Here he is showing off his gymnastic talent.IMG_0003When he retired after 30 years with the City of North Battleford, ¬†he traveled to¬†Europe with his bike.¬† He put on 7,000 kilometres over¬†four or five months.¬† He was so proud when a European cyclist would stop him to say, “You came over the Alps on that?!?”¬† refering to his bike which he built himself.¬† IMG_0005But when I made crepes the other day it took me back to all those¬†weekend mornings when he and I would go riding.¬† We’d head out early in the morning, saddle up and head cross country, usually to the river north-west of town by the railway trestle.¬† There were very few fences and many open fields.¬† We would¬†ride and he would sing, and¬†we would both be so happy.¬† IMG_0004He died this last April, just two weeks short of his 94th birthday.

Happy Father’s Day.


Mom has been having one of her moments as she has been allowed to become seriously dehydrated. Again. But she has been talking about pancake soup. Fritatensuppe is  a German/Austrian soup with a clear meaty broth, sliced crepes (thin pancakes) and a sprinkle of chives on top. I had some broth in the freezer and this morning made some crepes for the soup.  

      The crepes are quite the easiest thing to make but I haven’t made them in years. I used to make them for the kids when they were small. They would have contests to see who could eat the most, just like my sister, my father, and I used to do. I made mine in a light weight non stick pan. My mother used a heavy cast iron pan that she had seasoned properly for years. Nothing would stick in that pan. My own cast pan is well seasoned but I didn’t want to risk crepes in it. A half cup of packaged pancake mix ( the secret ingredient for both my mother and myself), a sprinkle of salt, three farm eggs (hence the yellow color of the batter), melted butter and enough milk to make a runny batter. A smoking hot pan greased with butter and some diligent attention to bubbles on the surface. A stack of yummy crepes grows in no time. My mother never had hot crepes as the cook is always the last to eat. So it was when I made them for my kids. Today I only made enough for the soup. But I will make more tonight. There are strawberries and whipped cream in the fridge. Supper!!  And maybe enough leftover to make some nilisnyke. A topic for another blog post ūüėĄ 
     The broth was a mix of rabbit and turkey broth, with a handful a fresh parsley from the garden. The soup was excellent and mom ate a cup and a half!! She cooked everything for us when we were small, now it’s my turn. 

Want some bread with that egg salad??

It’s not as hot today as it was yesterday but still too hot to even think about cooking.¬† I washed eggs today and there are always the seconds, the ones that are ugly, or too small, or too big. Sometimes the dog gets these and sometimes I do.¬† I had seven or eight set aside to boil for my new chickies but I noticed yesterday that there may actually be some radishes in the garden so I decided to make myself some egg salad for supper.IMG_6567The eggs this time of year have golden yellow yolks–a far cry from the insipid color of store bought eggs, where the yolk is barely distinguishable from the white.¬† IMG_6568Bugs, and grass, and more bugs are free for the picking and the chickens know what’s good for them.¬† They free range thru the corral and the back pasture and chase down grasshoppers, moths, ants and flies.¬† They get a good grain mix, wheat, oats, barley and peas, with lots of wild oats and weed seeds–screenings from a neighbour.¬† But the grain is only a last resort, they would much rather look for bugs.¬† This also occupies them, gives them exercise and stimulates their little chicken minds.¬† Chickens, contrary to popular belief are not stupid.¬† They are very clever and have a very good memory.¬† They know what the rustle of a plastic bag means, the every other day emtying of the chicken food pail¬†from the kitchen.¬† Scraps that would normally be thrown away are devoured with gusto, and turned into the¬†farm jewels that are eggs.

Radish, red onion, tender hearts of celery and a healthy grinding of black pepper.¬† Add a couple dollops of Hellman’s REAL mayo, and VOILA!!IMG_6571Made in my new egg salad bowl, given in exchange for an almond cherry cake, it just doesn’t get any better.¬†IMG_6572

Except it does, because I think in addition to a set of beautiful bowls, my poor neglected roses got pruned.¬† Thank you very much, I’m not sure when you did that but I just noticed today!!

So this was supper tonight, crunchy egg salad sammies, followed by the last of my carrot cake jam on cream cheese toast.  I wonder what everyone else is having for supper?