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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Country mouse in the big city

When you think of the heart of the city, you might bring to mind the Byward Market. Well, that is where I drive to work now, as evening news producer/ writer at CFRA News/Talk Radio. I don’t have to deal with rush hour because it’s a smooth mid-afternoon drive in and a cruise home just before midnight. It takes less than an hour one way, and I use that time wisely. I listen to the news and when I’m all caught up with that, I car-dance.
The Market is a bustling beehive of activity at any time of day, it seems. The heat from the pavement causes the scent of warm tomatoes, donuts and flowers to waft through the air. You can hear live music coming from the street corner where a busker dressed like a geisha girl is playing an antique Japanese string instrument. Yesterday it was someone singing old French Canadian pub tunes while playing a guitar, a tambourine and a bass drum. You never know what you are going to get.
I look out the studio window onto George Street, and I am reminded of when I lived in Taipei. I was then situated one city block from town hall. My roommate, Sylvia from Singapore, placed two brass turtles on stacks of books looking out the window onto the busy intersection below. The turtles were part of a feng shuei action, to divert any negative energy that might be emanating from the people and vehicles in the intersection.
I don’t feel that George Street requires any feng shuei correction. Most of the people I see outside seem to be in an extremely good mood. They don’t appear to be in a hurry to get anywhere. I think most pedestrians and motorists passing through the market have a pretty relaxed agenda. Except, of course, for the dozens of people I see every day who are obviously playing the highly addictive “Pokemon Go” on their mobile phones. They have their noses in their phones and if they don’t watch out they may get hit by a passing vehicle.
I usually bring my dinner to work from home, to save money and calories. The Beavertails donut kiosk and the Lois and Frima homemade ice cream stand are right outside my office, however, should I need a snack. I can also get fresh sushi, Chinese bubble tea, a Three Amigos cookie, and myriad other delights. I can pick up fresh fish at the Lapointe fish market and bring it home for the next day’s lunch. I bought myself a sterling silver ring made out of an antique spoon for ten bucks. It’s like being a tourist every day.
I have to admit, though, the first two weeks of walking across the market to my parking lot after dark I was a bit spooked. Ottawa has its fair share of people on the streets who can be a bit intimidating when they approach you for spare change at night. But for the most part I feel pretty safe on the market. And I’m out of there before 11pm.
On the other end of my commute is the farm. I wake up when I wake up. No alarm clock required. I go for a jog, then fall into the pool to cool down. I weed the garden, then take a shower, dress, do some laundry and tidy up the house. The rest of the morning might be spent making some meals for the Farmer so he doesn’t starve while I’m at work. Then we enjoy a leisurely, substantial lunch together before I drive in to the city.
It isn’t your typical farmwife life but what is, really? I have my weekends off for social activities, family dinner and the Kemptville Farmers’ Market.
The other day at work I used the sayings “a man on a galloping horse would never notice” and “I’ll have it done in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” so I think they are on to me. The country mouse is in the house.
When I get back from my morning walk I like to let the turkeys out of their pens to roam around for the day. Sometimes I get a bit of turkey poop on my shoes. Let’s just hope I remember to change shoes before I head to work, or it will be more than my colloquialisms that let everyone know I live on a farm.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A man on a galloping horse would never notice

“You realize your tablecloth is a little wrinkly. Want me to run the iron over it quickly for you?”
“Nah. A man on a galloping horse…”
Perhaps it means something that my family uses that expression so often, we don’t even bother to finish it. A man on a galloping horse would be travelling past so quickly, he would not notice that my tablecloth has not been ironed. Besides, the plates and platters will soon cover the wrinkles after dinner is served.
I do not aspire to be the type of farmwife who has everything just so. I am comfortable with a bit of untidiness. I know the foundation is cleaned. I cleaned it myself. I enjoy cleaning the house – it is my stress relief. I tend to do more of a quick pass-over than a thorough scrubbing, however. I tell myself it will do for now. Eventually the Farmer waits until I’m gone away on a girls’ night or something and he cleans the floors the way his mother taught him. He moves the furniture and uses an entire bottle of floor wax. The mop is stiff like a brick when he is finished, and the floors gleam so that you can see your smile reflected back at you. Bless him.
If you happen to notice me scrubbing floors at odd hours of the day, i.e. 2am, stand back. Give me plenty of room. Chances are I am extremely ticked off about something and that is why I am scouring so fervently.
My garden is doing very well this year. That is one area where I am not slacking off. I’m staying on top of the weeds, so they don’t get a chance to choke anything out or to take over the garden altogether. Deep cleaning of the house can wait til winter – I have to keep tabs on the veggies and perennial beds.
Usually while I am outside weeding I take a moment to check on our old sheepdog, Chelsea. I make sure she has clean, dry hay in her house and her water bucket is freshly filled. This morning I stepped around the stable to her yard, out of habit. She is no longer there to greet me. At the age of fifteen, she lay down for the last time. Fifteen is a good, ripe age for a border collie. They don’t typically live past ten or twelve years of age, I am told. Like our old Gordon Setter Cody, who lived to seventeen, I think there is a lot to be said for having a dog spend most of his time outside.
When it was minus thirty or plus thirty we would make sure the dogs were comfortable, either bringing Cody into the house or Chelsea into the stable, but for the most part they preferred to be outside. Their doghouses were well insulated with hay and placed out of the wind and rain or snow. They grew thick coats in the winter and in summer they dug cool holes in the soil under a shady tree.
“We are now dogless,” the Farmer said. I know that bothers him. Especially when he sees a three-foot-long fisher slinking across the road towards our property. We have dozens of turkey chicks happily roaming around the inside of the stable. We would like them to make it all the way to Thanksgiving. A dog would notify us of an intruder. For now we are relying on the cats. Fat lot of help they are.
When we get back from the cottage the next thing I want to do (or to focus my semi-retired Farmer on) is repair our screen doors. Sammy the big male cat has discovered that if he runs full-throttle into the sliding patio door, the screen will rip from its frame, the plexiglass scratch-guard will flip up and – presto! – instant cat door.
The screen doors on our dining porch also need repair – or replacing. They have bubbled and broken in the frost, so that it appears a large clawed animal ripped a hole in them. I pointed them out to the Farmer and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s a superficial wound. And a man on a galloping horse would never notice.”