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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Farmwife Goes to Auction: FAIL.

 The first auction the Farmer ever took me to was, as he described it, “the only culture in this town.” To be sure, the Finnerty auction on Friday nights was an evening of entertainment, for people from all walks of life.
That Friday back in 2006 we walked in and I first noticed a huge section of books. Boxes and boxes of books. I could hear Ken from his platform: “There’s only one thing that gives me the s**ts more than green apples, and that is books.” He begged us to take them off his hands. But I was distracted by another discovery. There, in the back corner, was a five foot print of a Klimt painting.
“Uh oh. Don’t tell me you like that,” my future husband said.
“I can hear it speaking to me,” I responded.
The twisting figures and vibrant colours seemed to jump off the canvas. The art looked so out of place in that old warehouse, surrounded by worn farmhouse furniture. It belonged with me.
My date said if he could, he would try to get it for me, but only if it went for less than $20.
I had to wait until the very end of the auction to get a chance at the painting. I watched as the antique dealers from Quebec who frequented the sale started to drift out of the building. Good, go, I thought. Finally I was left to compete with just a half dozen people, and none of them had taken a second look at the painting. One of the workers carried my painting up to the stage. I’ll never forget what the auctioneer said next.
“So, here’s a painting,” he said. “Look at the colours. A lot of work went into this.”
A lot of work went into this?? It’s a Klimt, for Pete’s sake! I smiled and hoped the other people in the room were equally unfamiliar with the art.
Ten minutes later it was mine. For as many dollars. The next trick was wrapping it carefully in a blanket so it wouldn’t get scuffed in the back of the Farmer’s truck. He delivered me and my painting to my townhouse, where I lived until we were married in 2007. After I became his wife, he threatened to hang my Klimt in the barn. He was never a fan.
The next auction I went to was at Leo’s Sale Barn in Greely. My new husband and I were in the market for a Black Angus or two. We toured the barns before the auction and picked out a couple of nice ones. When their number came up, we prepared ourselves to bid. The bidding started at our maximum, then skyrocketed over $1000. Yikes. We had to settle for a couple of less-than-glamorous Herefords. The Farmer was not thrilled with the outcome and to this day he takes out his disappointment on my girls, nicknaming them “Ugly Betty” and “Ugly Ginger”. I’ll admit they aren’t the prettiest bovines in the world but they do have personalities and I love them.
Last week I went to my second Ritchie Brothers farm equipment auction. I had been to one before with my husband, where we were just spectators. This time, I was sent with an agenda. How he imagines I can come home from a farm auction with a party tent when I can’t even make it back from the hardware store with the right air filter, I don’t know. I studied the item online before the auction. I agreed the 20’ x 40’ tent was exactly what we needed for our annual farm party. The Farmer couldn’t come with me, because he is also a professor and was due in class at the time the tent would be up for bids. I enlisted a friend to help me – someone who was very familiar with auctions – Jim Perry.
I had a number in my head, and made sure Jim knew it so he wouldn’t blow my budget. The Farmer figured the tent would be well worth $300 when that is the usual rental price for a weekend. Well, we might have misjudged it by a bit. Bidding started at $500, and rose to $1000 in a heartbeat. I grabbed my friend’s bidding arm and shoved it down to his side. “Ho-lee!” I said, backing away from the action. That tent sold for $2500.

The next time I hear about an auction, I think I’ll stay home. This old heart can’t handle the excitement. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Week of Firsts

I was passing by the bathroom the other night when the sound of whispering – in Chinese – caught my ear.
“Hey guys. That’s a bathroom, not a party room. Only one person allowed in there at a time.” And I continued on my way down the hall.
Five minutes later I passed by again and noticed they were still locked in the bathroom.
“Okay, John, come on out and leave Jerry alone in there, will ya?” These guys spend every waking moment in the same room, it seems, but enough is enough already.
“No! Jerry is cutting my hair!” John hollered through the closed door. I tried the doorknob, and it was unlocked.
“Jerry is not qualified to cut hair. Stop that right now,” I advised.
I had to stifle a giggle when John emerged from the bathroom, his bangs chopped on an angle over his eye and one side of his head trimmed to the scalp.
“Ok, tomorrow after school we are going to get your hair cut properly,” I declared, wondering if the poor guy owned a hat.
Twenty-four hours later we walked into First Choice. John spent the first few minutes examining hairstyling implements and letting his stylist know which ones she would be permitted to use on his head. Jerry flipped through a style book, exclaiming at the flippy, wavy haircuts. He has poker-straight hair. We all want what we cannot have.
I commend the stylists on their ability to follow the boys’ direction, because they managed to somehow communicate in their broken English exactly what they wanted – and it turned out really nice for both of them. After the finishing touches (John wanted no hair gel; Jerry wanted to blow-dry his own hair), John hears water running in the next room.
“What’s that?” he asked. I explained it was the shampoo room.
“I want that,” he announced, sauntering into the back room and settling himself at the sink. The stylist looked at me.
“Well, I guess now that you’ve styled his hair so nicely, he wants it washed,” I explained. And of course Jerry decided he needed his washed too. Those are two very patient women in that salon. I’m sure they will see us again. In about 6 weeks, or less.
With all of the Kung Fu going on in my house, I figured the boys needed an outlet for their energy. I suggested bringing them in to Douvris for some martial arts. I encouraged them to go for a run down the road. Finally they decided they needed to buy bicycles. We found a pair of mountain bikes at Canadian Tire, and despite the fact that John says his is broken (he is not yet comfortable with the braking system), they seem to be doing the trick. Every night after school the boys strap on their helmets and head out for a race down the dirt road. Sometimes they ride their bikes out the gate into the back pasture. They are mountain bikes, after all. They want the full experience. An hour later they return, huffin’ and puffin’ and sweaty. And much less likely to spend the evening kicking and whalloping each other.
The final ‘first’ of the week was the boys’ first Canadian house party. A group of new friends invited them over for movies and snacks. I decided I would drive them over myself, so I could gauge the safety of the situation and verify that no alcohol would be involved. I knew the parents, so figured things wouldn’t get too far out of hand. My mind did briefly entertain visions from an old movie, in which a Chinese exchange student is initiated to the all-American house party and ends up passed out on the front lawn the next morning. Thankfully, that did not happen to my boys. They returned home quietly as I slept and were still asleep when I left for work before the sunrise this morning.
At least I think they are in there. Perhaps I should go home and check.
Next item on the ‘firsts’ list: Hallowe’en costumes.


Walk 30k in mama's shoes

I just walked 30k in my mother’s shoes. Actually, it was more like 22k. My own shoes didn’t self-destruct until the 8k mark. I was part of Kemptville Walks for Mammography on Oct. 5 and things were going along swimmingly, I was swingin’ my arms and cruisin’ right along. The only part of me that hurt was my old lady hips. My feet felt great. Then suddenly a mouth appeared on my fave old Australian Reeboks and I almost fell over and broke my neck.
I stopped and my walking partner turned to see what was holdin’ me up. “I have a mouth,” I reported. “On my shoe.” I lifted my foot to show her the damage. My brain started racing, searching for a solution. Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mother’s van approaching. “Mom!” I looked left and right and then hop-skipped across 44 to where she had pulled over. I thought maybe I could give her my truck keys and she could run back to the starting point and get my spare shoes for me. I realized she probably had better things to do with her Saturday but that’s just the kind of mom she is. The amazing kind.
“I was just on my way to the gym,” Mom said. “You can have my shoes!” She wears the same size as me, but the shoes were the rockin’ and rollin’ style of Skechers that made me feel like I was walking in ski boots. It only took me a few strides to get used to them and soon I was strolling in what might be the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever worn.
And that is how I did the 30k. In my mama’s shoes. Thanks, Mom. I love you.
The route this year took us through a gorgeous kaleidoscope of coloured leaves in the Ferguson Forest Centre. I had forgotten those trails that we walked on elementary school field trips and summer day camp excursions. What a beautiful slice of nature we have bordering one of the fastest growing communities in Eastern Ontario. Back out in civilization, we got some honks and waves and I even picked up a donation from Steve Cater, who pulled over to cheer us on.
Why do we do these walks for cancer? Yes, it is a symbolic way to raise awareness about the struggle that each cancer patient is going through. It is also a personal challenge for many. But the thing I love about doing the Terry Fox Run or Kemptville Walks is that for those few minutes or hours, you are forced to be in the moment. You think about the people you have lost to cancer and the ones who are currently dealing with it in one form or another.
My favourite part of the walk this year was seeing an old friend, whom I haven’t spoken to much since high school (outside of Facebook). Leanne just got her breast cancer diagnosis a couple months ago. She started her therapy a couple weeks ago. Last week her family of boys shaved their heads in solidarity with her. Leanne was waiting at the side of the route with her sister and husband as we rounded the bend. I took note of her beanie hat and new hoodie, emblazoned with an embroidered pink ribbon and “My Journey to Wellness” slogan.  Well that just made it real. We had a good hug and I continued on my way. At every pit stop, Leanne was there in her van and her husband and sister were handing out water bottles. She smiled her beautiful smile and cracked her jokes and it was just gorgeous Leanne, without any hair. Thank you, Leanne, for sharing this event with us. I understand she did Run for the Cure in the rain on Sunday, as well.
I would like to give a shout out to my STAR 975fm morning show host, Drew Hosick. Drew has been doing a lot of walking this year, in his own personal fitness campaign. But I know the 30k was a challenge for him, and he was definitely feeling the pain at the halfway mark. As he approached the finish line, he felt dizzy and almost fell over at about 26k. Just then Leanne and her husband showed up, and they offered to walk the rest of the way with Drew to the finish line. It was a pretty emotional event for all of us who were watching, waiting and cheering them on. Congratulations to everyone who took part in the 10k and 30k, and many thanks to all who donated. Over $50,000 has been raised for Mammography at Kemptville District Hospital.

Giving Thanks for the Harvest

For Oct 3-13

Last year I think I put about two dozen grocery bags of garden tomatoes in the freezer for spaghetti sauce in winter. Every afternoon when I got home from work I gathered up enough tomatoes to fill a couple bags. This year I got two grocery bags and three batches of fresh salsa. Over the entire harvest. Not sure what happened. I must have planted a different type of tomato or something. The yield wasn’t anything like it was last year.
Our potatoes didn’t grow at all. They were complete duds. The Farmer even dug them up and replanted new ones and still, nothin’. It wasn’t a matter of potato bugs eating the plants, either. They just didn’t grow. How disappointing.
We did get a few huge Butternut squash (my favourite), some acorn squash and a huge crop of beets. The cucumbers weren’t bad either, although they were bigger in size than they were in number. The carrots were ok – tasty but short and fat. We only got a bushel of peas off that row and the line of pepper plants yielded about half a dozen fruit.
All in all, I’m pretty disappointed with our garden this year. And don’t even get me started on the string beans.
I mean, the package said pole beans. So I guess I was thinking about the lovely wax beans and butter beans that we grew last year, and gathered for weeks at harvest. Served steamed with hot butter and salt, they went with everything on the dinner table. Not so the pole beans. They are fun to grow, because the vine literally clings to the pole and the beans are very easy to find and pick. But then when you cook them, there’s this weird string thing running up the seam in the bean. What the heck? The first time we served them everyone at the Sunday dinner table was picking string out of their teeth. Niiiice.
And unlike the more favourable veggies, there was just no end to the pole beans! We would pick a huge tub of them and the next day there was another pile hanging on the vine. One week I steamed and cooled the beans, then hand-stripped them of their strings before covering them in cream of mushroom soup and turning them into a casserole. I did that once. It was delicious but far too labour-intensive. Eventually I gave up and just shoved a few bags of beans into bags and plopped them in the deep freeze. The Farmer is going to be absolutely thrilled to find those mid-winter, I’m sure.
The last few pole beans were pitched over the fence with their plants, for the sheep, horse and donkey. They were most appreciative. Although I’m sure they spent a few hours stressing over the strings in their teeth too.
I think next year I will go back to the Roma tomatoes for sauce, beets for Borscht, wax and butter beans, potatoes, carrots, onions and squash. Most of the veggies we plant are the ones that store or freeze really well but let’s face it – with an average 18 to 20 dinner guests every Sunday our veggies don’t last long.
The boys were pretty good at picking veggies; that is until they saw the toad. They won’t admit it but I think it really freaked them out. They haven’t offered to gather veggies again.
The one thing that I really enjoyed about the garden this year was the twelve-foot sunflowers that sprung from their own seed sowing. I forgot to plant them this year, and it’s a good thing I did because the garden would have been completely overwhelmed by them. It amazes me that they pretty much grew in a row, at the back of the garden, right where I planted them last year, even after The Farmer carefully drove his tractor in between the heritage peonies, added a layer of composted sheep manure and roto-tilled the soil before planting. The sunflowers sprang up and when I recognized their little plants I had to ask myself if I had planted them. I couldn’t recall.
Another growing season has come and gone and it’s time to carve pumpkins, bake apples, and decorate with frost-hardy Chrysanthemums until November.
Wishing all of you a very happy Thanksgiving and all the best in the coming season. Next year I’m planting the potatoes on the other side of the garden. Apparently they won’t grow in the same spot twice. Now you tell me.