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Sunday, January 22, 2023

Recycling: a Chinese New Year Tradition

Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit! While 2022, Year of the Tiger, was about energy and getting things done, 2023 on the Chinese Zodiac calendar is meant to be one of reflection and relaxation. Well, I’m all for that. But allow me to add another “R” word: Recycling.

Every Chinese New Year, I get the urge to clean out things I no longer need. This is likely a leftover tradition from when I lived in Asia, where people were encouraged to clean out the old and bring in the new, both at work and at home.

As the inhabitants of a rather large farmhouse with many closets and empty rooms, we are the recipients of the castoff furniture and clothing of many of our family members. I am feeling the urge to get rid of some of these things, as they still have use but not for us. My plan is to ask on our family chat if anyone wants these things and then I will put them up for grabs on Marketplace or some other local Facebook page.

This year I will be saying goodbye to: books I did not enjoy (but someone else might); a baby stroller that isn’t great on my dirt road (more for town dwellers); a bassinet; several baby chairs; an assortment of baby toys; and clothes that no longer fit me. Getting unwanted clothes away from my husband is something I gave up on a while ago. He likes to keep things, even if there is little to no chance of ever fitting into them again.

I also need to say goodbye to multiple serving platters, dishes, teacups and oddly shaped plates that I will never use. They came here when my father-in-law moved out of his home and we inherited about 60 years worth of stuff. It can go, along with the Christmas-themed decorations and tchotchkes that came from who knows where. They haven’t made it out of the basement for over 5 years, so they need to vanish.

I know it will take at least a whole weekend to sort these things into a pile in my basement, take photos of each item and post online – but I will be so relieved to see them go. If no one wants them, they are headed to the Score or the Salvation Army – where they will no doubt find a good home. While I’m there I will likely find a few bags of new things to put in my basement – where they will sit for a few years until it is their turn to leave. That seems to be my version of recycling. Works for me.

 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Remembering Dad / Larry / Grandpa on the 15th anniversary of his leaving.


Dear Larry, 

Today I am thinking of the fifty years we spent together and I am so grateful for the memories and our family. 

You are an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind, man who will always be remembered by all who knew you. 

There's a saying that "a life that touches others will go on forever" ... and you touched so many. We are still hearing stories from former students of your impact on their lives, and every June we give your award to two high school graduates going on to further studies in science. 

Your family misses you and keeps your memory alive by sharing your stories and funny sayings.  You will certainly be missed this February when we celebrate your mother's 100th birthday but I know your presence will be felt as we show photos of you. 

R.I.P. Thumper!  You will always be in my heart.  Love, Maureen  XXOO

 


Dear Dad:

“It’s been 15 years now and I still dream of you. I feel your presence in significant moments in my life. I miss you and wish you were here to guide me.”

“Oh, I miss my Dad.” It doesn’t take much. The tears still come easily. Followed by that feeling of a bowling ball rolling to the centre of my gut. An empty space you once occupied. You were my assurance, my reminder, my steadiness.”

We all remember you in different ways, Dad. When we hear a snowmobile ripping by on the trail. When we eat Habitant soup. When we see someone laugh so hard that they go silent, with tears running down their beautiful smile.





Grandpa:

“I had a dream and you were in it. You were in jeans and a crisp button-down shirt, sitting at a picnic table with Grandma. There was a street party going on and you were on the sidelines, observing, blue can of beer in your hand.”

“Grandpa would LOVE this snow.” He loved winter. The chance to race across a cornfield on his Yamaha.

"She has his smile, and his sense of humour." 



We haven't forgotten. It's impossible to forget such a big presence in our lives. Fifteen years. Fifteen minutes. You are still here.



Tuesday, November 8, 2022

It's time to fill a bag - with brotherly love

There are some who say foodbanks are not the answer. We who operate the foodbanks tend to agree, for the most part. Handouts of the bare grocery essentials, every two weeks, will not lift a family out of poverty. But they might help someone to bridge the gap between pay cheques, while gas, food and housing prices soar astronomically for the first time in a generation.

Wages just aren’t keeping up. And in a small town, there are few jobs that actually pay a living wage. Everything else needs to be supplemented. That’s where the foodbank comes in. Many of our clientele pop in to pick up their box of groceries right after work. They are still in uniform or dressed for work. Some are in the trades, with unsteady paycheques. Most just don’t make enough.

I was surprised to learn that there is no regular government funding for foodbanks in Canada. There are partnerships, and our local foodbank is lucky to have formed one with our own municipality of North Grenville in the last budget cycle. Our foodbank will receive funding to cover approximately one of operating expenses ($25,000) from the town for each of the next four years. We have to depend on the community to help cover the other eleven months of the year.

We have many generous local businesses and individuals who make regular financial donations to the foodbank, through www.salvationist.ca  Others drop off cash at the Salvation Army thrift store on Rideau Street in Kemptville, where we are able to divert funds to the foodbank. If you have made a donation, let us know by emailing: kemptvillesalvationarmy@gmail.com. That way we can ensure that your donation goes where you want it to. That is also the email to use if you have free time this month to assist with the massive Fill-a-Bag campaign. We need drivers and helpers to drop off paper bags at local residences, pick up the filled bags, and sort the contents back at the foodbank.

Watch for your paper bag to arrive on Sunday, November 20th. Take a look at the list printed on the side of the bag and consider making a donation to your local foodbank. Whether it’s dried or canned goods, bathroom supplies or pet food, the 100 families that we are currently serving in North Grenville will definitely appreciate it. We can even accept food that has gone past its ‘best before’ date in the last year, in most cases. Put your bag outside on the 27th and our volunteers will swing by to pick it up.

Thank you for sharing with your neighbour, and putting a little love in the bag.

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Playing a part in Hollywood North

 On an English movie set you might hear, “lights, camera, action!” But I was recently on a totally French movie set and the direction was, “Moteur! Trois, deux, un, action!” It certainly tested my bilingual abilities (which are not great, with only highschool French), and I was very grateful for the translation skills of my co-actors.

I have been a background actor / extra on half a dozen productions in the Ottawa area. I got to be a dead body once. You can’t really see me in the finished movie as my scene is blurred and quite brief. We filmed the results of a car crash in a parking lot at Kemptville College in February 2015, when it was 30 below and windy. I had to keep my (dead) eyes open for as long as I could while the cameras rolled. I teared up and my fake blood kept melting and running into my mouth. It is not a good taste. Sort of like a mix between melted lipstick and olive oil. I did get to meet Oz Perkins, the director, however. He stuck his head in through the broken windshield and said, “they did tell you it was a horror movie, right??”

My other background roles have included churchgoer, nurse with clipboard, woman in crowd, salesclerk, and I can’t remember the last one. They have all been fun because you meet people, including the ‘big name’ stars sometimes, but they all have one thing in common: lots of waiting around.

This latest experience was a new one for me – I have been surrounded by Quebecois at a Bryan Adams concert in Montreal and know they like to have fun – but I have never worked with a bunch of strictly French-speaking people before. In between very serious scenes in a courtroom (I played a Supreme Court judge!) they were cracking jokes and goofing around. Something was lost in the translation and I am pretty sure I looked like an idiot because I was the only one who wasn’t laughing – until the laughter just became contagious and I was actually laughing at their laughing.

This time I was on camera, for several long scenes, but I had no lines (thank goodness – nothing to screw up). It was a challenge for sure – even the set notes and schedule were totally in French. I had to put one paragraph at a time into Google Translate just so I wouldn’t miss my cues.

If you are interested in getting yourself or your kids into background work, sign up with Smyth Casting or a local talent agency. They are always looking for new people!

 

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The chicks are calling

 The baby chicks in our basement are very interesting houseguests. They peep peep peep peacefully all day, an ongoing soundtrack for my workday. Sometimes my associates comment that they can hear something in the background in our Zoom meetings. Then I have to take my camera downstairs and show them what is making the noise. 

If you make a sudden move, the chickens emit a collective SQUAWK. I also find it very strange and somehow endearing, the way they all decide it’s time to go to sleep. Like immediately, all at once, without a discussion first. They just close their eyes and put their heads down where they are – in the wood shavings, in the feeding trough, under the heat lamp. 

They are going through a lot of water. We can only put small watering units in there, upturned mason jars dribbling into tiny lids that are too small for a chick to fall asleep and drown in. These water stations are up on bricks so that they don’t get the wood shavings all wet and cause the chicks to catch a chill and die. 

I see tiny feathers sprouting from their backs. They are losing their golden fluff and baby cuteness. My granddaughter holds a yellow chick in her hand and repeats, “awwwww….awwww…” over and over again. The Golden Retriever, intrigued by the sound and smell, tip toes down the basement stairs. He is normally scared out of the basement by a trio of hissing cats. It is their lair. Today he comes over and peeks his head into the circular pen of baby chickens. Then he sees the one the child is holding in her hands, and dives at it with a ‘snap’ of his jaws. She pulls the bird away from him, just in time. 

“Oh!” we say, in unison (including the bird). I collect the tiny creature, smooth its ruffled fluff and tuck it safely back under the heat lamp to gather its wits. The dog was quickly ushered back upstairs, where he will remain for the next few weeks until we move our slightly smelly houseguests out to the shed. 

I’m hoping they grow enough feathers to keep them warm for the nine weeks or so that they will be in the barn. They will be under heat lamps, and big enough to cuddle together without smothering themselves. Still, we never know what kind of weather November will bring, and December can be brutally cold. A nice blanket of snow to insulate the barn from any chilling drafts would be perfect, if I could place an order. 

For now, I have to find a way to keep the chicken coop smell from rising up out of the basement and into the rest of the house. 

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Monday, September 19, 2022

Trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome at the Plowing Match

 As I write this, the plowing match has not yet happened.

Ready, set, plow!  If you have passed by the former Kemptville College grounds lately, you will have noticed a tent city being built. It’s rather impressive how the people behind the International Plowing Match have transferred their model for a successful event to our site, setting up auxiliary power and lighting and facilities to host thousands of people in less than a month of preparation.

I heard the call for volunteers and offered my services close to nine months ago. I was asked to use my experience as MC to assist in the hosting of the Celebration of Excellence – the awards gala. I’ve hosted dozens of events for charities and different organizations so I know the drill – you have to have stories to tell if there are delays, to keep people interested – sometimes a joke or two, and I’ve been known to occasionally break into song (consider yourself warned). However, I don’t believe I have ever hosted an event this LARGE. I’m trying not to get intimidated as I drive slowly past the massive circus tents.

I’ve had imposter syndrome more than once in my time as an Accidental Farmwife (thus the name). Whenever I’m asked to speak at an AGM for a local agricultural society or a group of farmers, I feel a bit dumb. I don’t know how to drive a tractor, for example (tried once on our ancient International but my leg wasn’t strong enough to push the pedals). I’ve never successfully baked a pie or mended torn overalls. I’m allergic to hay. My vegetable gardens, although prolific, have been overtaken with weeds, and I don’t like feeding chickens because they peck my ankles.

Over the past fifteen years, however, I have learned how to raise sheep and cattle. I have rejoiced over their births and cried over their deaths. I have worked hard to keep them comfortable and happy, and felt the determination to find solutions when they were laboring or unwell. I made sure their short lives here were happy and safe. I contributed to the agricultural economy and the foodchain. I guess that makes me a farmer too.

I’ve documented my farming experiences over the past decade and a half in this column, and although we don’t raise animals anymore, I still feel strongly connected to the farm as we watch the corn and soybeans grow through all kinds of weather. Thank you to everyone who takes part in the International Plowing Match in North Grenville – the competitors, the volunteers and the spectators – and thank you for coming!

Now I just have to figure out what hat and boots to wear.

 

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Farm to table: not as easy as it looks

Ok let’s try this again. Last spring we brought some chicks home to raise for our own freezer. Well, they didn’t make it to the freezer. In fact they didn’t even make it to one pound of body weight. Some critter snuck into the shed in the middle of the night and murdered them all. I’m just glad the massacre happened the day AFTER I sent my daughter in there to feed them. I wouldn’t want her to witness that carnage.

This is not the first time we have lost all of our birds to a predator. It seems to be the norm lately, no matter where we house our chicks – in the log cabin, the barn or the shed. We can stuff the cracks, line the pen with chicken wire, and the beasts still get in. It’s probably raccoons. They are extremely dexterous.

In addition to the predators, we have to consider the cold. We are at the end of summer now, and the nights are chilly. We can put heat lamps over the chicks but we have to make sure the drafts are all covered in the shed, or disaster will happen. The chicks will start piling on top of each other to keep warm, smothering one another in the process.

The Farmer has been busy for a few days now, building a new chicken coop in the shed. He has covered the floor of the horse pen with wood shavings. Chicken wire has been pulled across the walls and it forms a ceiling overhead. As I watch, I’m thinking of the video our daughter shared of a raccoon she caught in a live trap. It had been killing her laying hens so it had to go. There, caught on her live cam, was a full sized raccoon, prying the metal cage apart with its tiny hands. After he escaped, he threw the mangled cage to the side, out of his way, and waddled out of the shed into the moonlight. I’m not sure our chicken wire will be able to withstand raccoon hands.

My solution was to bring the chicks into the house, at least until they are a good size. We can fit the chick brooder in the old dog kennel cage. That will keep the chicks safe from curious house cats. They will be sheltered from the elements, and hungry wildlife.

Will this be the year that we manage to raise our chickens successfully? It seems like it has been ages since we were able to fill our freezers with meat we raised ourselves.

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