Monday, June 25, 2018

30 days back to now


I wrote this column on the last Monday evening in May. I was going to recycle it completely until I reread it and realized a few things were worth revisiting. 

The apple blossoms aren’t on the breeze anymore. Back then the scent of new blooms drifted on the wind pleasing my nose. I still hear the moan of the lawn tractor belonging to my neighbor. The growing madness grows on. We are all in the timing race to catch the next cut on just the right day, at just the right length, and before the rain. 

At the end of May my flower bed at the back door was teeming with all manner of colorful flowers, thanks to my eight year old grandson, Charlie, who chose all the red, pink, and orange ones on our trip to the local nursery—and also instructed me on how to plant, “Straight in a row, Granny.”

Today I look upon my flowerbed and see sheared off plants, nibbled to their ankles by a deer. Rosemary, petunias, strawberries, portulaca, and yes, even marigold blossoms, and the pungent herb rosemary weren’t spared.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Despite my deer-loathing disposition right now, there’s still only one creature I’d like to catapult into the lava spewing Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. I say that as I see a large black spider running at top speed towards my dangling foot. I stop typing, it stops running. I move my foot, it jousts to the left. I stomp my foot, it runs towards me like a steak dinner then drops out of sight under the area rug. 

Yet it’s not that hairy little arachnid or the wolf spider that lives in my basement, nor the pesky squirrel that continues its valiant attempts to get into my garage. Nor is it the geese and goslings who poop-ulate my backyard.

My nemesis remains the oily skinned, nocturnal, buck toothed beaver.  I thought it was kind of cute the other day when I stood watching him swim out of the creek, loaf up onto shore at my neighbor’s place and haul away branches from a downed tree. It was all fun and games until I looked around my own domain and spotted a grandiose patch of bark missing off one of my lovelies. On closer examination I realize I’ve been bark robbed, with buck toothed etchings in the meat of the tree and a trail of shavings.
Yet as much as I would like to stake out a blind at twilight with my slingshot and pop Mr. Beaver as he swims by, Father Time beckons me to choose otherwise.

At the end of May I counted 27 sunsets to come before the longest day of year. Those sunsets passed over me like a Learjet because I too busy squinting at the creek at dusk.

Let’s remember that as we tag one another in the rat race of life, time does not wait and the sunsets we miss are sunsets we miss. Slow down and enjoy the now. 

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Ode to the days of spring

I am writing while outside on a beautiful late May afternoon. Apple blossoms are sending their sweet scent across the wind breeze. In the distance I hear the faint moan of the lawn tractor belonging to my neighbour. Like me, he’s mowing grass twice a week this time of year to keep ahead of the growing madness of spring. 

My flower bed at the back door is teeming with all manner of colorful flowers, thanks to my eight year old grandson, Charlie, who chose all the plants on our trip to the local nursery and instructed me on how to plant them, “Straight in a row,” Granny.

I think spring is my favourite time of year and I feel about it the way I do of small puppies and kittens, and small grandchildren. I wish they could stay just as they are for a very long time.

Despite my love for spring, it comes with its creature features and of all those great and small that pass through my farmyard this time of year, there is only one I’d like to catapult into the lava spewing Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. 

I say that as I see a large black spider running at top speed towards my dangling foot. I stop typing, it stops running. I move my foot, it jousts to the left. I stomp my foot, it runs towards me like a steak dinner then drops out of sight between the porch deck boards.

Yet it’s not that hairy little arachnid or the wolf spider that lives in my basement, nor the pesky squirrel that continues its valiant attempts to get into my garage that I despise today. Nor is it the geese and goslings who poop-ulate my backyard, or the flock of pigeons that fly through cracks in the siding of my old barn and sit up in the rafters of the hayloft and make deposits everywhere.

My current nemesis is the oily skinned, nocturnal, buck toothed beaver.  I thought it was kind of cute the other day when I stood watching him swim out of the creek, loaf up onto shore at my neighbour’s place and haul away branches from a downed tree. In fact I admired the beaver’s determination to carry off the feat. 

It was all fun and games until while admiring my own yard I look out and spot a grandiose patch of bark missing off one of my lovelies. On closer examination I realize I’ve been bark robbed, with buck toothed etchings in the meat of the tree and a trail of shavings.

Yet as much as I would like to stake out a blind at the edge of creek at dusk with my slingshot and pop Mr. Beaver as he swims by, Father Time beckons me to choose otherwise.

The last I counted we only had 27 sunsets left before the longest day of year is upon us. Now I think we’re down to 24. 


Let’s remember that as we tag one another in the rat race of life. Slow down and enjoy the lingering evening light while you can. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

The funnies of spring

Have you packed up your winter clothes yet? I have!  

Out came the storage bag and the clinging dust bunnies from under my bed. I’d washed and folded all my summer stuff last October, jammed everything in the bag and shoved it in amongst all the other stuff I’ve got stashed under my sleeping palace. 

Have you ever opened a bag of summer clothes, pulled stuff out, cocked your head and wondered why you would ever wear that? I have. 

By the time I was done sorting things out I had five good summer pieces left and a big bag of good will. Then I spent a half hour trying to justify why I just couldn’t keep wearing that big old sweater and comfy heavy sweat shirt just a few more months, so that I wouldn’t have to go shopping for new clothes.

Have you ever gone shopping for clothes after a long winter’s hibernation of feeding on chocolate and cinnamon buns in order to keep that layer of fat in place during the bitter cold months and then spend an entire day wondering why nothing you like in the clothing stores will fit? I have.

Have you started using your treadmill again and counting calories? I have, too. 
And then there’s that spring-cleaning thing. I’m still out flying a kite and thinking on that one. 

Walking across the yard to go fly my kite, I’m sure I can hear the grass growing, pushing dandelions up into my world where eventually they will take over my lawn every day for the next four months.  

Have you ever wished you had a gardener, a weed man, and a landscaper? Oh, I have. 

I spent Saturday working outside like a fiend. I started it by pouring myself into a pair of jean shorts two sizes too small, slipped on my flip flops for the first time in nine months and believed for about five hours that I was 21 years old again. Sure, I got a lot done. I piled some wood, pruned some trees, raked leaves, made 16 trips with the wheelbarrow bursting with organic matter to the field dumping spot. My muscles pulled their weight, as I knew they would, and by quitting time I’d made some impressive headway in my neck of the woods.

Have you ever looked in the mirror after that very first long day of yard work, six seconds before you pass out from fatigue, and said in your Meghan Trainor voice—with a flat stare, “You must have confused me with someone else?” I have.  

I could not bend over for fear of never standing up straight and I couldn’t sit down because I definitely would not have got up again—and the skin between my big toe and the second one on both feet felt like I’d taken a lit match to it after squeezing those digits around the flip flop toe band.  

Have you laughed hysterically, feet on fire, fingernails dirty with Mother Earth and your whole body in need of a good hot soak in the tub, convinced that you’re getting too old for this? Me too.

But like the sign says, “I’d stop eating chocolate, but I’m no quitter.” 










Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What's in your cupboard?

I’m actually contemplating spring-cleaning—the old fashioned kind of spring-cleaning like my grandmother used to do. The walls in each room get washed down and the kitchen cupboards get emptied out and everything gets a bath before being returned and hopefully—if memory serves me correctly—to same spot so that it all fits back in there.

Oh yes, I have a lot of junk stuffed in my kitchen cupboards—cupboards that are original to this old farmhouse of the late 1940s, tall and deep enough to hold your imagination.

In fact the cupboards are so deep that I can hurl new packages of spaghetti and boxes of lasagna noodles into one of them from half way across the kitchen, and they disappear, never to be found again for six months.

I need a small stepladder to reach to the top shelf of the one corner cupboard and even then I have to stand on tippy toes to get a look inside. I can’t see or reach the back of it without a flashlight and a yardstick. I have no idea what’s stored in that cavern.

I could host a highly successful reality TV show right here, dub it “Storage Wars from the Creek” and watch as the winning bidders paid good coin for a chance to treasure hunt. Rest assured they would not leave empty handed nor unsatisfied.

Another of cupboard top shelves hasn’t been disturbed since before I moved here 12 years ago. No word of a lie. It’s a vintage mystery.

It’s full of well-loved, tattered cookbooks and small wooden boxes overstuffed with all manner of old recipes.

Tonight I pulled out an old cookbook entitled “The Home Queen Cookbook,” published in 1901 and it looks its age.

The Table of Contents for the 607 pages of ancient text includes instructions for 21 ways to fold a table napkin. Who knew?

How about a recipe for boiled calf’s head or stewed pigeon? I don’t think so.

On impulse I opened to Page 31, where I found two handwritten recipe remedies I’m also not likely to try anytime soon.

The ankle sprain mixture consisted of turpentine, vinegar, and two beaten egg whites. “Mix in bottle, shake well and apply.  Yep, the smell would make you forget how much your ankle was hurting as you threw up.

As for the vile solution touted to cure a live “turkey with a swelled head,” well, if I were the turkey I’d make a run for it. And if the live turkey’s head was swollen chances are pretty good I wouldn’t choose him for the dinner table anyway.

“1/2 teaspoon boracic acid, 4-5 drops carbolic acid, ½ cup luke warm water. Take a sprayer, open the turkey’s mouth and spray it up into the nostril.” Yep, run turkey run.

Oh yes, and there’s a stiff little chapter on keeping your kitchen organized. I guess this part was written for me—or not.

“The password to this indispensible apartment of the home is “neatness,” and it should be spoken morning, noon and night, and not simply on occasions to suit the convenience of the housekeeper.”

Really? I think I’ll go fly a kite instead.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Here's to you, Woman

We all know women who inspire us, be they the pioneers of our heritage -- those Amelia Earhart types -- courageous, living on the edge, outspoken, adventurous, challenged, spirited women folk – maybe they are our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, teachers, best friends, and/or a host of other women who have motivated us to the good. 

On April 12thI attended a “History on Tap” presentation by the Koochiching County Historical Society/Museum (International Falls, Minnesota) entitled “Women in the Wild – Stories of Pioneer Women in Border Country. 

What can I say, but WOW!  And I thought my bravery to walk alone to the barn yesterday evening at an eerie late dusk, while not wearing an overcoat or a toque, took some fortitude. 

Annie Shelland-Williams; Violet Kielczewski; Betty Berger-Lessard; Lydia Torry; Bessie McPeek; Maggie Sha Sha; Jane LaFramboise; Maude Riker Vanderwalk; Mary Earley-O’Loughlin; Mary Colwell; Dr. Mary Ghostley; The Bower Sisters – Katherine, Anna, Melissa, and Martha; Hannah Pendergast; Mable Freebury Parker; Selma Branlund-Hoglund; and Jessie Singleton – they all take the cake for fortitude. 

These fabulous women, both Canadian and American born, and many arriving in the area from more comfortable circumstance to forge out a wilderness life with their husbands – and without after their husbands died - led lives we in today’s society of luxuries would likely fail miserably at. 

I wondered as I read the story boards filled with vintage photographs and listened to the history lesson that captured but a fraction of the lives of these pioneer women who once lived around here in the early 1900’s, what they would think about all this wide-eyed fascination we have about what they carved out as the matriarchs of the many families that grew from their indomitable spirits. 
  
Would Violet tear up, Maggie bite her lip, Hannah shake her head? Would the Bower Sisters slap their right knees and kick back in laughter and wonder what all the fuss was about? 

I suspect, the range of emotion would be as infinitely tender and fragile yet resilient and proud as that of the you-and-me women of today. 

I’d like to believe that whatever the life challenges these pioneer women had, they never strayed too far from believing they could do anything, never swayed in their faith, never used life’s difficulties as an excuse for setting the bar too low.

I have a 1927 photograph of my late Grandma Florence holding a bible and surrounded by eight other young gals whose names are written on the back. They include Lucille Heward, Adeline Steele, Eva and Annie Caul (grandma’s sisters), Gladys McLeod, Astrid and Alice Herrem, and Vera Hanes. 

The photograph shouts to me “carpe diem” and how fast time flies and I am reminded again to listen a little harder to the stories of the women I admire who are alive in my life today – to my mother, to my Norma Jean, Tanice, Cheryl, Jody, Jan, and Ms. Carla M., and especially to my 3 daughters. 

Don’t miss your opportunity to do that with the women you love.