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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Happy Wanderer

I was on Facebook a few weeks ago, catching up with old friends, many of whom I met and are still in Taiwan. I noted that my friend Doug had come home to Canada for a prolonged stay, and would be passing through the area on his way home to Sarnia. So I invited him to stay awhile.
Doug has travelled to many exotic and remote places, and he has made himself comfortable in very modest surroundings. He is the epitome of the Happy Wanderer, an anomaly at our age. To each his own. If he wants to live among the Ethiopians for a year, he can (and has). If he wants to live in a rooftop apartment in Taipei, he will (and does). Not everyone longs to be completed with a spouse, family and permanent resident status. I think that after getting to know me in Taiwan, Doug was a bit intrigued with my Happy Farmwife existence. And after staying for a few weeks on the farm of another friend in Quebec, he had been bitten by the bug. He was looking forward to playing farmer for a few days more.
Our schedule was a bit harried, as I was planning to leave on a business trip in two days. But I thought we would at least have time to sit and talk with Doug in the evenings, so that the Farmer would get to hear some stories about Taiwan, and we would learn more about Doug’s other travelling experiences.
I was wrong. From the time we picked Doug up at the train station in Brockville on Sunday to the time he left Tuesday morning, the farm was a whirlwind of activity.
Our regular Sunday dinner, which normally hosts 10 to 15 people, ballooned to a buffet for 22. Doug wouldn’t have got a word in edgewise if he had used a crowbar.
After dinner, while we were saying goodnight to the horses and topping up the lambs, I found another newborn wandering around the barn. I had to identify the mother (thankfully, she was willing to own up to her maternity) and lure her into a pen where she could (hopefully) nurse her baby in seclusion.
Doug stepped up to help, supervising the new lamb until she was successfully suckling on her mother. Miracles do happen. Normally these yearling ewes don’t have enough milk and we have to supplement their feedings with bottles.
The next day, I had to go to work to prepare for my business trip. I had production meetings and research meetings and errands to run. When I returned home in the afternoon, I had just a few minutes before it was time to change into a dress and slap some makeup on for a wine and cheese event at the college. Oops – I forgot I had to put the horses in, and couldn’t very well do it in a sundress, could I? The Farmer had to get some practice doing it himself.
Finally, it was Tuesday morning and time to drive Doug to the Ottawa train station. We had barely had time to talk in passing!
“Honestly – life isn’t usually this busy at the farm. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. We normally have plenty of time to sit and relax, or take long walks and talk. You just picked the wrong two days!”
I wondered what Doug had done to occupy himself during the day while the Farmer and I were at work.
After he left, I found the answer. Our visitor, who is also a gifted photographer, took approximately 345 photos in and around the barnyard. He created a gallery of equipment and buildings, landscapes and animals. Betty, Ginger, Mocha, Ashley, Donkey, Cody and Misty each got their close-up. I noticed, however, that Chelsea the warped sheepdog was not among the models profiled. Probably a good idea. She had been suspicious of the newcomer since he first set foot on her side of the shed.
It was enlightening, looking at the farm through the eyes of an outsider. With the camera, Doug made a round bale look artistic. The grey barn board and red Adirondack chairs are beautiful. The dog looks elegant, the cat comical. And the frame-by-frame (or should I say blow-by-blow) photo montage of the calf sneezing is hysterical.
So, I guess in the end Doug got what he came for. He was able to play farmer for a few days. He filled up the horses’ water and pitched hay for the lambs. He connected with the animals and documented the experience on film for his collection.
He didn’t get much time to talk to me, his old friend, but that’s ok. We can talk anytime. There’s always Facebook.

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