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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The urge to purge old clothing

Apparently people born under the Aries zodiac sign are more likely to be the kind who like to clear out unwanted stuff on a regular basis. I certainly live up to that ideal. Nothing makes me feel better than going through old books, clothes, even pieces of furniture that aren’t being used, and giving them away.
I honestly think you can’t have too many books but if I’ve read them and they aren’t really my thing, I pass them along. I fill a box for the biggest book sale in Eastern Ontario each year, in Kemptville. Proceeds go to benefit the youth centre. Any unsold books go by ship to underdeveloped countries where they are appreciated even more.
With five daughters we haven’t had much trouble finding homes for extra furniture. But anything that really doesn’t suit goes to the Hey Day garage sale to benefit Kemptville District Hospital. That’s where I bought most of the furniture for my first apartment too. Old electronics can also be donated to the youth centre, where they are sold to a recycling organization.
When it comes to clothing, I have a rule. If I haven’t worn it all season and it’s time to put it back into storage, it really should go. Likely it doesn’t fit properly, and that’s why it has been benched for months. Clothes like classic dresses and blazers that I may need for an office job someday get put in the back of the closet. Everything else – turtlenecks that choke, sweaters that ride up, jeans that ride a little too low…get thrown on the bed in a pile. Next, I sort through these discarded items to see if any of them might suit someone else. In particular: shoes I only wore once because the heels are too high for me; a jacket I can no longer close; or a dress that, in hindsight, is really too short for someone with a granddaughter. These get put in a bag for the consignment store. If they are accepted for sale, they can earn me points toward my next purchase there. More than once I have been able to pick out something “for free” because I had a stockpile of points from shoes and clothes on consignment.
Other items that didn’t cost much to begin with get put in a bag for the Sally Ann. I’m a big supporter of our local thrift shore, and I head in there whenever I need something specific but don’t want to spend too much. It’s amazing what you can find. Most of my gardening, camping and farming clothes are from there (which is basically half my wardrobe!).
If you are giving away clothes and they have holes, stains, or they are missing buttons, don’t give them to the Salvation Army. Places like the Sally Ann don’t need to be bothered with things they can’t resell. It just means they have to find another way to dispose of it. Save them the trouble and do it yourself – but don’t throw out your unwearable clothes.
You can also donate your unwanted clothing in a roadside collection bin. If the recycling operation requests “gently used” clothes, they need them for resale. They will sell them to Value Village or send them overseas to be worn again. Many of the wearable items that don’t sell in our local thrift shops after a set period of time also end up overseas on very grateful recipients.
Clothes that don’t get sold can be sent to textile recyclers. Old fabrics can be turned into industrial rags, fiber filling for upholstery, sound-proofing, home insulation and more. So feel good about cleaning out your closets – you’re not just making room for more clothes! Whatever you decide to do, though, don’t throw your unwanted clothing in the trash. Far too much clothing ends up in landfills, and when the fabrics break down they let off fumes that add to our air pollution.
I know I’m enjoying the space inside my closet right now, having satisfied the urge to purge my unwanted outfits. But, as I mentioned earlier, I’m an Aries. My husband, a Gemini, would keep every last bit of clothing he owns if he had it his way. More than once I’ve caught him retrieving a hole-y pair of slippers or a beloved stained t-shirt that I had thrown out.
Each to his own - I now have room to go shopping!!

In search of a Golden

“A farm without a dog is not a farm at all,” the Farmer declared one evening, as we enjoyed a movie with a dog as one of the central characters. It has been about a year since we had to put our 17-year-old dog down. Cody had a good, long life and he is missed. He was a bit untrainable in certain areas, but still a lovable dog. Over the last few years he became deaf so he wasn’t much of a watch dog anymore – he never really was. He was more apt to welcome strangers because many of them came bearing gifts – the gas man shared his sandwich with our dog when he came to fill our tank, and the UPS man always had dog cookies in his truck.
Cody was a runner so when he wasn’t in the house he couldn’t wander free. He got me out of the house every day, because he needed to run down the road, dragging me on the end of the leash. He was also an incredible stealer of food. Even when he couldn’t possibly be hungry. But despite all his faults, he has left a bit of a void in our home. Our next dog will be trained. And we will also build a high fence around our house so he can roam freely. It sounds like the Farmer is ready to start looking.
My husband has decided that his semi-retirement dog is going to be a Golden Retriever. He imagines taking this dog with him to scout properties or to finish up the log cabin he is building. The dog will accompany us on long walks around our farm and he will sleep on Cody’s old blanket, in front of the TV and beside our bed.
I started the search for a Golden, and learned a few things. First of all, it’s pretty tricky to find a Golden Retriever that needs a new home. We could put our name on a waiting list for a spring litter, but that means entering a whole new world of training – waking up in the middle of the night and listening to puppy wailing. The Farmer says he is up for it. I laughed. He doesn’t seem to remember when he brought Chelsea the Border Collie in as a pup. She chewed his shoes, his furniture and his books and created a few permanent designs on the carpet. I’m not sure I’m up for training a pup. Besides, I have always had rescue dogs. There certainly are enough dogs looking for homes. We are bound to find a Golden in the lot somewhere.
I have registered with the organization Golden Rescue. I filled out their in-depth questionnaire and listed our vet and a few people as references. I also discovered that Goldens are prone to a unique set of health problems we have to be wary of. Hopefully they will be able to find us a nice dog that doesn’t mind the occasional barn cat or small child visiting, and likes rides in the car. Sometimes Golden Rescue brings in dogs from other countries like Istanbul, where they are found wandering the streets. Other times the dogs are needing to be rehomed because their owner has passed away, or needs to go into a residence that doesn’t allow pets.
The Farmer has always wanted a Golden Retriever, so that’s what we are looking for. If you know of one that needs a home, let me know!
I will have to break the news to Sheila, Sammy and the barn cats. They thought they finally had the place to themselves. They are in for a surprise. The beanie babies and small stuffed animals that Sheila carries around in lieu of kittens might also be in jeopardy. Golden Retrievers love stuffed toys and they are very possessive about them. We might have to let him choose some out of the storage room, after our granddaughter has first pick.

I heard a dog barking the other night, but we don’t have any big dogs living near us. I was told it might be a coyote. I didn’t realize they did more than yip and howl. Maybe if I walk my new Golden Retriever around the property, he can mark the perimeter and keep the wolves away from my newborn calves. Every animal has to earn his keep on the farm. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A little change does a body good

The Farmer and I walked into the house the other night after having been away for the evening. The scent that greeted us as we walked through the door almost knocked us over. A thick, heady honeysuckle aroma hung in the air like fog. It was wafting down the stairs from the second floor office, on its own legs. It was coming from the tropical plant that I moved there about six months ago.
The dracaena is a very common tropical houseplant / tree that I picked up for about ten bucks nearly a decade ago, when I married the Farmer and decided to make some improvements to his bachelor pad. I have a bit of a green thumb, so the little houseplant now reaches the ceiling. It and my five foot hibiscus and three foot variegated palm tree were blocking all the light out of the sunroom after thriving outside all summer. That is why I separated the plants and moved the dracaena upstairs. Apparently the tropical corn plant appreciated the change of scenery, and decided to flower. For the first time ever.
It was the scent that first drew me to the den. It attracted the cats, too. Sheila was sitting under the plant, on a mini vacation, when I walked in and noticed the stalks of spiky little snowball blooms up near the ceiling. They were dripping a sticky sap, so I moved Sheila. I didn’t want it to get in her fur; it may be toxic.
The first few weeks of flowering were pleasant enough, but when the blooms started to decay, the aroma was quite pungent. I had to cut the stalks off the plant and throw them outside. I hope the tree will forgive me.
Change seems to be good for houseplants. It may be good for other creatures too. The cows, for example, could use a change in location for their feeding troughs. The winter has been so mild; their troughs are now perched precariously on hills of hay surrounded by moats of muck and manure. The two little heifer calves have chosen their favourite napping spots and, after an afternoon of chasing each other around the barnyard, they take a rest. One prefers to nap right in the muck, beside her mother. I don’t know if it’s like elephants and pigs – their hide just feels soothed and moisturized in that mudpack. In the summer the mud is cool and refreshing. I don’t imagine it’s all that comfortable in the winter, but they do have other options. The second calf likes to nap in the bed of hay that has formed between the two hay feeders. She whittles her way in there and fairly disappears from view.
Every afternoon I venture out just before dusk to count cows and see if we have any new ones to put in the barn. Every afternoon I have to move handfuls of hay to find the little one napping there. When the ground freezes and dries up a bit we will move the feeders (and by ‘we’ I mean the Farmer) to higher ground, out of the muck moat.
The coyotes seem to have returned to our property. They left for a time after we stopped raising sheep, but they have recently reappeared. The deer returned when the coyotes left, so maybe that is what is bringing them back. They are hoping to share a meal of venison. We can hear them at night, yip yipping in the back pasture. Their call reminds us to keep a close watch on our herd. We don’t want a calf to be born in the back field and set upon by a coyote before we can move it to safety. Most of our cows are smart enough to head for the barn when labour begins, but not all of them. We’ve never had a calf attacked by a coyote before, thank God, but we have had one freeze to death, because we didn’t know its mother was in labour. It’s a guessing game every year, because the big bovines are not really good at communicating.
This mild winter has been really good to us so far. You don’t realize how much you appreciate running water in the barn until the day it freezes. We will see what February has in store for us.