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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Paulina (my baby), ready for Prom.

For everything there is a season


The years spent on a farm are marked by seasons rather than by specific dates. You count another year when you reach another lambing season, haying season or planting season. Sometimes we remember the year by how bad or good a particular season was—by how much rain or snow we got. How cold it was when the lambs were born.
Life, on the other hand, is measured by moments. I remember the night of my wedding rehearsal. The Farmer called me out onto the porch, away from the crowd of family and friends, so that he could tell me something privately. That is one of my treasured moments.
We are entering another season of our lives now, as our most recent graduate plans to move out of the farm. She wants to live in the city, on her own, until she figures out what she wants to study at university. She is still young—not yet eighteen—and feels she needs the extra time to figure out what her path will be. I know I shouldn’t worry about her, because she consistently makes very mature, wise decisions about her life, all on her own. But I worry anyway.
Friday was Paulina’s prom. It was the culmination of a month of prom dress, shoe and handbag shopping. She is grateful that I spent all that time and money driving her around and getting her fully kitted up for the event. I am grateful for the time we spent together, the moments she confided in me, and the laughs we shared.
On Friday, I watched as she did her makeup, stuck on false eyelashes and fingernails. All by herself. Normally she has at least one of her older sisters around to help with this ritual before a special event. They lock themselves in the bedroom with the radio blaring and all I can hear is the occasional burst of laughter. This time her sisters had to work, so Polly had to do everything herself. Well, knowing Polly, she would have done it all herself anyway. Her sisters would have just been there for company. This time she was stuck with me. I stood helpless and watched as she fussed with her hair, the nail glue, and those fringes of eyelashes. I offered advice that wasn’t taken, and encouragement that may not have been heard. I don’t think I helped much by being there, but I’m glad I was.
Teenagers may spend the bulk of their time locked in their room with the computer and the iPhone, but at least they are there. We get time together when we drive them to work and school, parties and shopping. Occasionally we share a few laughs. I’ve been lucky to have had so many of those memorable moments with my daughters. We have photos of some of these times spent together, so that they will never be forgotten.
This is the end of an era. I don’t have to nag Paulina about getting up for school or doing her homework anymore. I don’t have to remind her to do the laundry or the dishes. Our relationship will now evolve into one where we talk on the phone, she drops in for Sunday dinner and special family celebrations. She gets to make her own schedules now. It’s her life to do with what she wants. I’m very excited for her.
At the same time, there is a huge lump in my throat because I remember struggling to get her to sit down in that high chair, like it was only yesterday. I remember chasing her naked butt down the street when she escaped from me at bath time. I remember her kindergarten teacher calling home to tell me that my tiny four-year-old was a nervous little girl, and that perhaps I should send more snacks.
Somewhere along the way, that little girl became a very independent young woman. She doesn’t need any of us anymore. She will be just fine on her own.
I can’t take the credit for raising such a strong, intelligent and mature young woman. Paulina took a little bit from each person that she admired, and with the best parts of us she formed herself.
Paulina has always had a heart for the needy person in school or in the neighbourhood. I hope she never loses that. Maybe she will find a future that is more of a calling than a career.
All I want for her is health and happiness. And as our time together living under the same roof draws to an end, I wish I could travel back in time for just an afternoon, to the day when she asked me if I would play Barbies with her, and I was too busy doing something else. I have the time now, Paulina. Ask me again.

Cultivating character in the garden


“I am inspired to journey out of doors and to travel inward simultaneously, because spring is everywhere. How can a person not garden in spring? Because every garden is a place of dreams and every gardener a dreamer, we should find nothing strange and much that is symbolic in our own and other gardens. Are the paths straight, or do they curve and wander? What colours appear consistently? Does the gardener worry about ripping out every last weed? When we want to learn something important about ourselves, it’s a good idea to go into our garden. We’ll find that we’ve planted a lot of answers there.” ~ Freeman Patterson, the garden.
If our gardens are meant to be representative of ourselves, then it’s ok that mine is colourful, messy and overgrown. When I dream of the perfect garden, it is a waist-high riot of fragrant blooms. Like me, it isn’t too concerned about tidy appearances. In order to keep the perennials from being choked out, however, I do have to pull the occasional weed. As spring fades into summer once again, I am making a conscientious effort to get outside and work on the garden and flowerbeds while the getting is good.
Early morning, before the heat beckons the mosquitoes, I head to the tomato patch, hoe in hand. I lay a satisfying “whack” at the base of a dandelion plant and another at the foot of a thistle. Where the grass has begun to creep over the edging, I hoist my fearsome “claw” tool, twisting havoc where it lands. Maybe that is why I have a slightly pulled rotator cuff: over-enthusiastic garden-clawing.
At the front of the house, I survey the raised flowerbed of perennials. The daffodils didn’t like it here. Not a single one bloomed out of the several dozen that I planted. I make a mental note to plant them down on the ground in the fall. In fact, I might do what I’ve seen on other farm properties, and just plant them scattered throughout the ditch at the road. I think that’s called “naturalizing”. Theoretically, I should be able to do this all over the lawn but knowing the Farmer, he would have them mowed down before they had a chance to bloom in spring.
The bane of my gardening existence is the wild yellow chrysanthemum thing that someone once told me was called “the outhouse flower”. Good name. The Farmer loves it so it remains, but it needs to be kept under control. It grows five feet tall and spreads across the entire cultivated area if you let it, swallowing anything in its path. This year I pulled out a patch of the stuff and made room for my new plant, the Rose of Sharon. I ordered this from the Henry Fields seed catalogue and I’m very excited about watching it grow.
Along the rock fence facing the house is my shade garden. Here I have six fat, leafy hostas of different varieties, along with columbine, bleeding heart, and perfumed bee balm. I love the names of these plants. Bee balm sounds so much better than Monarda, which is its horticultural name. I once bought a plant because of its name, which was “love lies bleeding”. I ripped it out after the first season, however, because it was so ugly. My guilty addition to this garden this year is the purple lupin, which is something you might see growing across a field in the Atlantic provinces. I hope it gets enough refracted sunlight to survive in the shade of the tree.
Uncle Bill’s heritage peonies have spread to form a hedge at the end of my vegetable garden. I also plant a handful of cosmos seeds here every year, because their soft pastels and feathery stalks remind me of when I first planted them to decorate for our wedding day.
I have always wanted zinnias, so I sprinkled a row of seeds in front of the now-deserted children’s playhouse. For my mother, I planted a row of glad bulbs. In memory of my father, I planted his favourite – a deep red hollyhock. It will grow to be five feet tall and the focal point of the farmhouse flowerbed. We are going to have some beautiful flower arrangements on the Sunday dinner table this summer.

Mousers Free to a Good Home


What better way to spend a holiday Monday than at a farm auction. It went from cool to hot to a little rain, but the Farmer happily mixed and mingled with his peers, discussing the merits of bush hogs and backhoes, for a good six hours. I was there for about an hour when an idea hit me. This place is full of farmers. Don’t farmers need barn cats? I asked permission of the host, then hopped in the truck and went home to scoop up some kittens.
I also threw a few extra cat carriers in the truck, as a value-add to the adoptive owners. I made a sign: “Free Mousers” – and enlisted help to walk around the crowd with kitties in their arms. I shouldn’t have bothered. The only farmers that need kittens are the ones that have just entered the farming life. And I’m sure even then, if they look around hard enough, they will find a cat in their barn. So the kittens and I had an outing. For no reason. They got taken out of their carriers for cuddles. They even got bottled water and Temptations cat treats. But they didn’t get adopted.
When I married the Farmer, he probably had about six cats. He put a single bowl of dry food down in the barn every day and didn’t worry about them. When the girls and I moved in, we were enchanted by the friendly beasts. We lured them up onto the back porch with food and they probably had at least two good meals a day. Slowly the population grew. When they were sick, I took them to the vet and saved their lives. I give them homeopathic veterinary medicine when they have a flu virus and I put Polysporin drops in their eyes when they are infected. My cats are fat and healthy. The last two years, it has become apparent that we need to take steps to control this prolific animal family. But at $200 a pop, it won’t happen overnight.
Our most pressing issue is the bumper crop of kittens that we currently have at the farm. The Village Kitten Rescue of North Gower (http://www.vkrkittens.com/) and Big Sky Ranch of Kemptville have offered to send kitten seekers our way. They have even posted photos of our kittens so that people will see what cute cuddlers we have to offer.
Of course, as operators of animal shelters, they understand the importance of spaying and neutering our cats. If someone adopts a kitten of mine, Village Kitten Rescue is willing to arrange necessary vaccinations, deworming and spay / neutering at a big discount.
Now is your chance to get the housecat you always wanted, while doing something good. These cats may have been born in a barn, but they have manners. They are easily trained to use a litter box, to learn their boundaries and to obey the rules of the house. Take Sheila, for instance.  She was brought into the house before winter last year, to provide companionship for another kitten that was being treated indoors for an eye infection. After a few months, the infection was gone, but the kittens had not grown enough winter fur to be allowed outside. We made adoption posters, circulating them around town and on the Internet. In a short time, the newly recovered kitten was adopted. But Sheila remained.
“Since when do we have a house cat?” the Farmer asked one day, as Sheila sauntered past him on her way to her water bowl, carrying her “practice kitten” (a small frog beanie toy) in her mouth.
“Since about Halloween,” I said.
Sheila is not the biggest cuddler, but she does have her favourite place to sit next to her humans on the couch. We enjoy our conversations (she is very vocal and seems to understand our speech) and find her habits quite entertaining. Sheila knows she isn’t allowed on tables and countertops, she can play fight without using her teeth or claws, and she uses her litterbox effectively.
If you are interested in adopting one of the Fisher Farm kittens, contact me at: dianafisher1@gmail.com.