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Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Farmer's favourite shoes are on their way out the door


They say you can tell a lot about a person by the state of their shoes. If the shoes are brand new and spotless, it could mean that the person is trying to make a good impression and they care about their appearance. Or, it could mean that they spend too much on material things.

Alternatively, if a man’s shoes are beat up and dirty, it might imply that he doesn’t care much about his appearance or the impression he is making, along with the dirt on your floor.

If a man’s shoes are worn but clean and well-cared for, that might mean he is hardworking and reluctant to waste money. I usually keep a pair of shoes for an average 3 to 5 years. As soon as they start to look worn out, however, I toss them. I tend to buy leather boots so that they last longer. I have a pair of hiking boots that are close to 20 years old. My pink rubber boots are 15.

My husband has a problem with hanging on to shoes long after their expiration date. And I don’t mean running shoes – he doesn’t even own a pair of those. He has golf shoes that look like they belonged to Jack Nicklaus circa 1985. He has a pair of construction boots (likely with sentimental value) that are so stiff you could use them as flower planters (in fact I think I will). I caught him fishing his favourite loafers out of the garbage after I threw them out - And his favourite ‘dress shoes’ embarrassed me recently at a family wedding because I looked down at his feet to see why he had stumbled during the photo session and realized that his shoes had suddenly grown a mouth.

“You put on a nice suit, a beautiful shirt and matching tie, and then you choose these shoes??” I asked, incredulous. The black shoes had broken spines and frayed laces along with the flapping sole.

“I wanted to be comfy,” he explained, smiling sheepishly. “They feel like slippers.”

Then I looked a little closer and realized that he had also swapped out the dress shirt that I had chosen for him, at the last minute. The one he wore to the wedding had a fraying collar and cuffs.

“You look like a hobo,” I muttered. But he was still handsome and the shoe didn’t show in the pictures. The next day he showed me proudly how he had fixed his broken shoe, with bright yellow shoe glue oozing out from under the toe.

“Well that’s just perfect,” I laughed.

I might have to throw them in a bin far from home so he can’t retrieve them.



Giving a pandemic of thanks


The first thing I’m grateful for this year is the ability to gather. Last year we were all set up to host Thanksgiving dinner at the cottage – for 25 extended family members – but then Doug Ford came on the radio and told us not to host anyone outside our household. Thanksgiving was cancelled.

This year we can actually go back to our tradition of inviting about 40 people to the farm for turkey, ham, and all the usual suspects. We will set up tables end to end on the yard and pray for good weather. Our guests will come from all over Ontario and they will each bring a dish to share. We haven’t seen some of these people in two years.

This pandemic has gone on a bit longer than most of us expected, and some say we will never really be free of it. The virus will mutate again and again and we will have to get another booster every season, like the flu shot. That may be true. We may be forever on edge when we hear a cough or a sniff. That’s ok. Hopefully we will also learn to don a mask at the first sign or symptom of something contagious, and to bow out of gatherings when we are feeling unwell. That should also be part of our ‘new normal’.

Every Thanksgiving we look over the past year and think of a few things to give thanks for. This year, I am thankful that I can work from home. I don’t have to commute, pay for parking or be in an office, killing time when I’m not actively working on something.

I am grateful that I can be available for my children and grandchildren when they need me. I can drop in on my Mom and sister. I can take the dog for a walk anytime I like. I can volunteer at the food bank. What a blessing.

I am grateful that no one I know has become seriously ill with Covid. I still have one daughter who can’t smell – but she isn’t complaining. I’m grateful that I can enjoy a good meal in a restaurant with friends. I’m really looking forward to enjoying live music again soon. I’m so thankful that I was able to attend 3 weddings and dance the night away in celebration of life and love.

As we sit down to enjoy our meal together this Thanksgiving, we will each write down one thing on the whiteboard that we are thankful for. Then we will take a picture of the board, as a reminder of this moment in time. We are thankful, in the middle of a pandemic.


Dusting off my donkey whispering skills


Donkeys can open almost any gate that is enclosing them. They have all day to consider the challenge. They use their dexterous lips like fingers, sliding open bar locks and lifting hinges. They heave their solid bodies against fences and doors, busting loose.

More than once I found my donkey on the wrong side of the fence. To be fair, sometimes he was outside my kitchen window trying to tell me that something was wrong with the sheep. A coyote had been spotted or the flock was lost in the field after dark. But most times he was leading the massive Belgian horse out on an adventure. He was visiting the neighbours’ horses and cows and checking what was growing in vegetable gardens. He prided himself on not getting caught until he had surprised at least one neighbour having their morning coffee and pooped on at least one lawn.

I discovered an almost foolproof way to get my donkey back into the barnyard within minutes. I just took a handful of apples with me. He couldn’t resist the sweet scent – in fact that is often what lured him out of bounds in the first place. The Belgian would follow him willingly – more comfortable inside the barnyard than out.

So when I encountered a pair of naughty donkeys trotting up Patterson Corner’s Road one recent morning, I thought I knew what to do. I pulled over, put my 4-ways on flash, and calmly stepped over to the nearest apple tree. The donkeys, a small grey and a larger black (the ringleader) walked curiously toward me, then suddenly turned tail, kicked up his heels and bolted into the nearest soybean field.

The beasts had come up from Lindsay Road, so that is where I started knocking on doors. I would need help and a halter to bring the animals home if they weren’t going to come for my apples – and they weren’t. I decided to stand in the road to slow traffic while I thought of what to do. The donkeys watched me from the neighbours’ front lawn and snickered to themselves.

Luckily, a 4-wheeler drove up just then. Help had arrived. After a few more forays into neighbouring fields we were able to usher the animals back into the yard of the elderly woman who was boarding them. We found the fence that they had lifted clear off its hinges. I excused myself, seeing that the donkeys were back where they belonged and in good hands. I imagine they were fitted for halters later that same day, while the fence was being repaired.

Sometimes I miss having a donkey. They are a whole lot of trouble sometimes but they sure have character.