Monday, 10 November 2014

Thinking Grateful Thoughts about Gratitude.




Last week I got tagged with the Five Days of Gratitude meme. And I am grateful. Thinking about what I was going to write every day made me very much aware of how much in my life there is that is worth gratitude. I found myself selecting,sorting , forming categories, almost overwhelmed with the wealth of choices. I wrote posts in my head, edited, added, argued with myself. It was a very rewarding exercise and one that I had not done for far too long.

 So, thanks to my tagger, Jane Paul.

I had my reward in doing the exercise. And so would anyone. Most of those who read me have done it, I think, but if you have not, you are tagged. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, 7 November 2014

October Patchwork



Bits and pieces of posts that didn’t get finished. And are now sadly out of date. Too bad.

Early October

Around Canada’s Centennial year it was decided by a symbol-mad federal government that Canada should have an official tartan of its very own. This is the design that was chosen, selected because of the colours, the colours of the trees in the deciduous hardwood forests in the fall. When I was coming back from grocery shopping today I came over a hilltop and looked at a spread of colours that almost matched the tartan.

We had a wonderful week of fall weather here. Temperature in the mid-twenties, crystal blue sky, blazing trees, blood-red sumac, sumptuous purple asters. Even the blue jays (not the baseball-playing kind) that our poet promises us. We live in eastern Ontario, on the edge of the Canadian Shield, in maple syrup country. The sugar maples turn red and gold, the red maples preceding them with a deeper tone. The birch turns gold. The evergreens stay … green. On another such perfect fall day many years ago I was lucky enough to be taking a low local flight from Montreal to Ottawa and we flew over miles of tree tartan, glowing in the late afternoon sun. 

In some years, especially when there has been a dry spell in late summer, we get very little colour. The leaves turn brown and brittle and crumble off the trees. This year we have had lots (and lots) of rain and the asters, the ‘farewell summer’s of PEI lore, are big and lush and numerous. We have both a very dark purple and a light, almost lilac, shade. And a few goldenrod are hanging on to provide some contrast. The fields are gold and brown with corn, sorghum and soy beans ready for harvest. And the trees are blazing. 

When we have a bit of wind and the leaves dance. Piles of gold and red collect under the trees, drift and then swirl, drop gently and lift again. Miss G and her Grandpa went out crunching along the back trails, walking the dog and marking ‘UG’ trees for firewood. They took a knapsack full of water and snacks and dog biscuits, and obediently toted JG’s cell phone since it now works in our back bush, thanks to new towers in the neighbourhood. Miss G and the dog race through the leaves, finding salamanders and good smells, mud and adventure. 

Mid October

I wrote that in the first week of October. Shortly afterwards the halcyon weather was replaced by cold rain that brought down some of the leaves and rendered the bush trails soggy. We returned Miss G to her parents, along with her almost completed Hallowe’en dress that she has worked so hard to make. It has a gathered yoke and sleeves, a collar and yards of material and she has learned some new skills pinning it all together. This weekend we returned the dog and cat to their ‘mommy’, not before the dog wrecked her brand new haircut by rolling in something unspeakable just before we were about to load her into the car. 

I got a superb dinner out of it, though, as it is JG’s 75th birthday and the offspring decided to celebrate this event by taking him out to a sumptuous restaurant. Miss G made a spice cake with cream cheese icing (‘from scratch, Grama’) on which we all made pigs of ourselves.

And that lined us up for Thanksgiving, a festival when the family all wants to come out to the bush and hike and enjoy the autumn while I cook. So I cooked. For the Hall events, for the Thanksgiving feast. I was a bit unsure of how many people I was feeding for Thanksgiving and so I bought an 18 lb turkey. Even with sending a lot home, we ate cold turkey for quite some time afterwards. Ah, well. I made blueberry pies for the Hall dinner and one, as usual, ran over badly, causing my husband to have a pie all his own. Good thing, too, since the Hall dinner was swarmed and we ran out of meat. Should have saved half a turkey, I guess. It is a fine art to figure how much food you need for 350 people and we got fooled this year because we had two bus loads of deer hunters from the next county and they were very hungry men. But, that was November. I am getting ahead of myself.

The YD was sent on a business trip to the Antipodes and so we got the animals back in mid October for a couple of weeks. The joys of dog walking in the rain. The joys of floor cleaning after dog walking in the rain. The dog is a burr magnet and I did a lot of brushing, which she tolerates except for her nose. The cat decided that the plush blanket I keep on the living room couch was really hers and so if I wanted to take a nap with blankie I had to have the cat on my lap as well. Not much of a nuisance except when I tried to use the iPad. This she regards as a rival gray rectangular cat, making it hard to distinguish between my finger and her nose on the keyboard.

We also got the grandkid and her mother back for a day to help JG stack the winter woodpiles under cover beside what we call the ‘wood door’ in our walk-out basement. The ED stacks at the speed of forked lightning, causing her dad to huff and puff along behind her. So now we are equipped for cold weather, with both stove wood (our fall heating source) and furnace wood. We have a forced air wood furnace with electric backup for the really cold months. Stocking up the fuel for both of these is a year round job for JG. The ED took a bit of time off to photograph Miss G in all the glory of her completed costume, trying to find a rustic enough background to suit the period of the mob cap etc. We came close, but there is a set of pneumatic tires in some of the shots.

 Edited shot
 The original shot

During this section of October all of the leaves (more or less) fell down and were vacuumed up  by JG and dumped into piles to compost. I even got my last perennial bed sort of cleaned up, but I am going to have to lift the iris corms in the spring to get the bed clear of weeds. As the glorious cloud of colour transforms itself to a crunchy carpet, a wise person prepares herself for five months of grey and cold and snow and ice and ………..  Maybe some year I will be able to do that.

Coda

And now it is November and snowflakes are dancing outside my window. The forecast is for -8ÂșC overnight and I will have to dump the last geraniums that have held on and bloomed all month on the front porch, somewhat protected from overnight frosts. It is Hunting Season and the orange leaves have been replaced by orange jackets and caps and the roar of four wheelers transporting the orange people to their bush stands. The camp next to us does not have any doe tags this year, so the dainty mothers with their leggy fawns will be left in peace. The season is two weeks here, and once they are gone a wintry quiet will descend on the woods and fields although the chickadees and nuthatches have returned to the feeders, as have the greedy jays, and there are lots of woodpecker calls and drumming to be heard.

And the roar of the chainsaw as JG works on 2016’s firewood.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cat Stories.



I feel compelled to put together a post about Cats I Have Known.

I am not really a dog lover. (Not too keen on rug rats either, not until they can talk. Tsk.) My husband feels that a dog completes the family, I guess, and so when the YD was a year old, we got a mutt from the pound and kept dogs(3) from then until after both daughters left for university. We tolerated each other, the dogs and I. And yes, I have dog stories, but not now.

In spite of this sort of benign indifference, my journey through life has been littered with encounters with cats.

My grandparents’ farm had both barn cats and house cats and since I stayed quite a bit with my grandparents as a very small girl, and also since after my father returned from the Navy in 1946 we lived in a wartime house not far from their farm, the cats and I were on cordial terms. My youngest aunt was a cat fanatic and so the house cats were mostly hers. She used to wear one draped around her neck from time to time and she fed them all up to a magisterial plumpness. Another of my aunts almost packed one of these somnolent beasts into a box of Christmas gifts to be mailed. He was sleeping in the box, of course, and didn’t move until my poor aunt pushed down on the parcels to set the lid. There was a fine yowl and she unpacked.

The barn cats were a separate society and hung around my grandfather when he was milking but there was one old dame who always brought her kittens up to the back kitchen steps when they could see and left them there. My grandmother swore that she was left to babysit. I loved this, of course, and once brought a kitten into the kitchen (strictly forbidden) where it got in behind the refrigerator. My grandparents were due to take me home but could not do so until my grandfather moved the frig and hauled the cat out of there. He got hissed at, and so did I.

My mother was not so keen, but the cats liked her. One rode back from the farm to our house inside the hood of her car and she had to drive him home again. In my kindergarten year my school held a pet competition and I begged to bring in one of the cats from the farm. My mother (reluctantly) agreed and my aunt loaned me Schmoo*, who came to our place in triumph in a cardboard box. Before the pet parade, he got loose from the box and found the tin can under the sink where my mother kept used grease. This he ate and became even more dopey and relaxed than his usual self, so much so that he won the prize for best behaved pet.

A few years later we were adopted by a cat, an handsome black and white Tom who arrived on the cottage steps one day and demanded food. I named him Christopher (Columbus) for his exploring ways and when we moved back to the city when school started, we brought him along. And then one day he was gone. Sadness. My mother assured me he could take care of himself and she was right! A few weeks later we spotted him living at a butcher’s shop some blocks away.

This perfidy cured me, I thought, of cats. When my grandkid’s beautiful sort-of-Siamese jumped onto my feet in the wee hours, one night when I was baby-sitting, I was so startled I took a swipe at him and sent him flying across the room. We have not been friends since.

 
Callee
And then, a few years later a small and starveling cat turned up one day nosing around under the bird feeder. She was pitiful, all skin and bones and terror. JG and I decided on the instant to feed her and that was the beginning. I told her story here * and have been posting cat stories and cat photos ever since.

Miso





In the meantime, Miss M received a rather gorgeous part Siamese kitten for her second birthday. He was named Miso and has been a fixture at the ED’s menagerie ever since. An opinionated beast to be sure, but handsome and very photogenic. Miso and I do not agree much of the time; he regards me with suspicion since I flung him across the room by accident some years ago. 

But he does love to be photographed and is accordingly a source of much joy to me.


Callee took a great shine to my YD
  and, when we went on a trip, the YD boarded the cat. Her dog and Callee bonded and she stayed on at the YD’s, only coming back when the YD needed both of them boarded. In the city she, like Miso, is a totally indoor cat, but when she visits out here she reverts to her outdoor self and demands to be let out to play with the cat down the road, terrify (and sometimes eat) the small local rodents, and riot around the landscape.



And, of course, drive me nuts.