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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Family pic at wedding of Andrew & Anastasia!

The Farmer is partially hidden, just the way he likes it for this blog. ;)

One down; four to go!

Anastasia’s wedding was magical, from beginning to end. I expected no less from a girl who always does things her way, which is a bit different from everyone else. Anastasia and Andrew don’t watch TV; they don’t read much either. They aren’t on Facebook and she just learned to text last week. They hunt, they train their hunting dogs, they work in the bush and they do a lot of canoeing and camping. He is a carpenter and she is a Montessori teacher. Annie spent much of her spare time in the past months creating picture collages, place settings, signage, tissue flowers and other decorations in preparation for her wedding day.

I hadn’t seen the wedding site before the rehearsal. I knew it was in a meadow but I had no idea you had to go through a pasture, a forest, a cornfield and another forest to get there. The couple had spent many weekends this spring cutting trees, clearing a round in the middle of the pasture and stacking wood into a wall to be used as a photo backdrop.

On the wedding day, guests were transferred by 4x4 truck, ATV, and a lovely wagon with padded seats, pulled behind an antique tractor. Lemonade and other cold drinks were served under a white tent, and tree stumps with pillows were provided for seating. The groom was nervous, and the dogs were restless, as everyone waited for the bride. Finally we heard something. We heard the bridal party before we saw them, honking their horn and screaming like banshees. Finally they entered the meadow, in a cloud of dust. The bride was at the wheel of her pickup and her maids were in the truck bed, waving their bouquets and hollerin’ “yee-haw!”

The girls climbed down out of the truck, and the bride pulled the veil down to cover her face. I turned the music on: Spanish guitar and flamenco, “Boy with a Coin”. Not your usual processional music for a wedding. Anastasia has a Latin streak in her blood. As she walked the aisle, she exchanged nervous smiles with her groom. The dogs, two Labrador Retrievers, had the rings on their collars. As soon as the officiator asked, “who has the rings?” the pups stepped forward.

It was a short and sweet ceremony, then off to the wood wall for photographs. After several groupings for family photos in the 30+ degree heat, we started ferrying people back to civilization, where they took their cars to Burritts Rapids Community Hall for the potluck reception. The bride and groom went to the water’s edge for more photographs. What a beautiful little village for a wedding. Every house on the main street looks like it belongs on a postcard.

We packed close to 100 people into that hall, and tested their air conditioning. Anastasia wanted a small venue; she doesn’t do well in crowds. In the Moment Event and Party Planning provided servers from Catered Affairs. Those women were amazing. It ain’t easy coordinating a buffet for one hundred.

After the dinner we did speeches, then my 97-year-old grandma Vicky got up and sang the new couple a wedding song in French. Then the bridal party performed for the crowd. The groom sat in a chair while the girls circled him and the bride danced in front of him. It was all choreographed and performed to the song “Down in Mexico” from one of those Tarantino movies they love. I think he liked it. I remember thinking, those dimples are going to ache by morning.

The crowd boot scooted and boogied til about midnight, then they finally agreed to call it a day.

It took us approximately 6 hours to set up and 6 hours to tear down and clean up the hall. I keep saying, “next time, we just pay someone to do this...” but like me, Anastasia prefers to do it herself. The happy couple is now on their way to P.E.I. via New Brunswick. I hope they have a fabulous time. The bride has never seen the ocean.

The “children”, Rupert and Baretta, are happily ensconced at Grandma Leeson’s house. The bride cried when she dropped them off this morning. She had wanted to take her pups along on the honeymoon, but we managed to talk her out of it, to the groom’s great relief.

One daughter down, four to go!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Upsets and natural disasters

It was August 2003 and I was en route home to Canada from Taiwan for a visit. I made it as far as Los Angeles when the entire Eastern Seaboard lost power, and they cancelled my flight home to Ontario. I hadn’t seen my family in months and I was desperate to get home. But truth be told, L.A. is not the worst place in the world to be stranded.

Some people chose to sleep in the airport, waiting for the moment when planes would be rescheduled and put back in the air. My airline put me in a Mexican hacienda-style hotel for the night. I was quite comfortable. The hotel was hosting a West Coast Swing choreographers’ convention and I got to watch professional dancers all night. And the food was fantastic. Not bad at all. No complaints from me.

The next morning at the airport, I recognized Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk and her hubby Raine Maida sitting on their suitcases, hoodie-hoods up, sipping coffee, just like everyone else. One dweeb businessman was loudly proclaiming to the check-in clerk that he was “never going to fly Air Canada again” as if the airline was all-powerful, able to snuff the power from all points along the east

coast of the continent at once.

When it was my turn at the front of the line, I gave the young clerk a big smile – because I really was enjoying myself, just people-watching and sipping my free coffee. He looked me in the eye for a moment, then said, “Lady, you’re the first one with a smile all morning. How would you like to fly to Ontario first class?” Well, that would be just lovely, I said.

I have never really suffered a true disaster of the natural – or simply inconvenient – kind. During the Ice Storm of 1998 (which deserves capitals, you know), I lived in Barrhaven. The only thing that happened at our house is that I had to put cleats on my boots for running my pre-dawn paper route. That and the cable went out. Very annoying. My parents in Kemptville, on the other hand, were without power for 21 days.

So now we have a dry spell. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority has declared a “Level 2” drought status. We are being asked to reduce our water consumption by 20%. No washing the car, no watering the lawn, no non-essential water usage. If the drought continues and the status moves up to Level 3, those water restrictions become mandatory.

As I write this on Saturday the 14th, the grass on our pasture has not replenished itself in the past few weeks. We had to open the gates to the cow pasture to give our sheep some more foraging choices. Hopefully the grass grows back before we run out of acreage.

The Farmer took a good look at the sheep this morning. They seem to be keeping their weight on, so they must have found something to eat. Their fleece doesn’t seem to be growing back after their last shearing, however. I guess they are adapting to the heat. Normally the fleece grows back after the spring shearing just in time to protect the sheep from the mosquitoes but there doesn’t seem to be many of them either. It has been too dry for them to breed.

I noticed one local farmer had his sweet corn for sale already. It seems a bit early. Hopefully that doesn’t mean they have lost their crops. I think we would need a few more weeks of dry spell before that would happen. The corn growing at the back of our property still looks good. But when you drive down the road you see some crops that are beginning to yellow from the bottom up, and their stalks look a bit wilty.

I hope by the time you are reading this, it will have rained. And I hope it isn’t 35 degrees on my daughter’s wedding day, which is the 21st.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cows Can Learn To Share

Whoever wrote that Farmer’s Almanac entry for this summer was wrong, so far. I thought we were supposed to have a wet summer? It has been so dry that in the two months the sheep have been out on the pasture, they have devoured ten acres. Nature has not replenished the food supply, so we have to move the sheep. Today the Farmer opened the half-door through the barn to the cows’ side of the property.

I went out to watch the proceedings. As it was near mid-day, the cattle were napping in the cool of the barn. The sheep were doing the same, on their side of the barn. Within a few minutes of opening the half-door in the middle, the sheep had made their discovery.

The loud ‘baas’ of the first few sheep announcing the new access to pasture woke the cattle from their slumber. Betty must have been thinking, ‘what the…?’ as she watched several dozen sheep file past her, into her pasture.

The general consensus among those who work with farm animals is that cattle are sensitive animals. They think, worry about the future, hold a grudge, learn from their experiences and exhibit distinct personalities. When something happens to interrupt their otherwise bucolic existence, such as a coming or going of other animals, I watch closely to see how they will react.

It isn’t that the cows don’t like the sheep. But they do have a hierarchy amongst them in the herd, which relates to who goes first, who eats first, and where they are positioned for sleep. Throwing forty ewes and sixty-odd lambs into the mix just complicates everything.

The cattle don’t like sheep in their sleeping area, but at twenty-five acres there should be enough for everyone to share. Territory only becomes a problem when the sheep get confused and can’t find their way back to their usual sleeping quarters, in the inner sanctum of the barn, blocked from horse, donkey or cow. If they get mixed up and attempt to sleep in the cattle area instead, there’s going to be a problem.

I hope the sheep stay out of the way of the cows, because I don’t want anyone else getting a broken leg. We already have one little lamb, happily on the mend, whose leg had to be splinted after he was stepped on by the horse. Which brings me to another consideration. The horse and donkey have not been given access to the cattle pasture - just the sheep. Donkey is at this very moment standing in the open door of the barn, looking over a cross bar that has been placed there to keep him on his own side. I know what he is thinking. With a little help from his huge friend Misty, they will be on the same side as everyone else in no time.

We made it through the Spring without a single coyote kill. This is a big deal. Every year we lose half a dozen lambs or more to the wild dogs. This year we have seen no evidence of a single kill. On the other hand, we can’t find Spot. He was one of the lambs that we left a full male, for his size and strength, in the hope that he might one day be our ram. He was named for the huge brown spot on his left hip. We haven’t seen him in a few weeks. It may be time to do another walkabout the property. I’m pretty sure he didn’t just outgrow his markings.

I hope the cows protect my sheep as well as the horse and donkey have done.

Tonight, as night is falling, I hear the sheep bawling because they can’t remember how they got over to the cows’ side of the property and they want to return to the other side. Half of them made it through, and half of them stayed on the other side. They are now consulting through the fence.

I hope it rains a bit more in July, so we can move the sheep back over to the house side of the barnyard, on new grass. I worry about them when I can’t see them throughout the day. And I don’t like them stressing out my cows.