Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday no man's land

Today is Thursday, December 29, 2011. Christmas is over, New Years is still a few days away and those bargain hunters have already hit the malls for the big boxing day sales. Some people are back to work either for the whole week or a day or two between more statutory days off. For the employee without benefits or who work in a 24/7 business they have traded days and altered schedules to get some family time. For me, it is Thursday which means baking day for tomorrow's farm market.

I look back on last years Christmas which was quiet, our first alone without any extended family and not really any friends to share the day with. We had no living room and very little in the way of furniture so we crammed the dining table, Christmas tree, chairs, gifts - what we had - all into the small dining room off the kitchen. It was cozy, we dressed it up, but it did fall a bit flat for us all. Yet at the same time, it was peaceful and we were together, warm, in our own home and we were beginning our own traditions.

This year was different. I made a commitment to my family that we WOULD have a living room this year. Yes, there would be a TV (maybe not hooked up to satellite, but a TV), sofa's and a tree in the room for us to enjoy. In November I discovered that I could put furniture on lay-a-way at Home Hardware/Home Furniture. I loved this idea! I could get the sale, pick what I want, pay within 3 months for pick up AND get Aeroplan miles. It seemed like a no brainer!

Of course I then had to work my butt off to pay for them. I dragged Len in - he did not kick and scream but you could see him groaning and wishing he could be elsewhere in his mind. He is good though, he came along, but was not big on giving me much feedback. We did agree on one thing - no fabric sofa's. With the kids, the farm and the potential of discoloured furniture that would not come clean, we agreed on leather. 

Yes, I loved the giant plush leather sofa's with the recline options and drink holders. I do have good taste - just not a big budget, so I quickly walked away from anything that looked as soft as butter and had a warm creamy leather texture.

Off we went to the sale section. I was thrilled to find I could get two leather three seater pieces for an incredibly reasonable price, the pieces were attached so none of that annoying sliding off the couch, or losing coins between the cushions. My only worry was that the set was too small. It looked so lost in the furniture store with the mammoth sets surrounding it.

For the month of November and December I worked hard, had baking orders, didn't plan much for Christmas for the girls because if we had a living room that was going to hit and beyond on the normal budget. I did pick them up a few things along the way that I thought they would like - for the most part I was right and a few things got the look - "Who are you Grandma? I would never use this!" with a laugh at my senility.

I have to admit that in the midst of all this I kind of forgot my loving husband and didn't get him much. (He does have about a year's supply of licorice though!) I don't worry much about spousal gifts - every year I tell Len that I would rather just have food, alcohol, fun and get the kids some stuff. I am not a wife who gets mad about the wrong gift or no gift, that is just not me.

Well, as you may recall, Len was away for a week, we were in a deep freeze in New Brunswick and I was very busy with last minute baking orders as well as the farm, kids and travel to get him from the airport. I was also sick for about 4 days, not completely sick, but enough to slow me down and make everything an effort. 

I was very grateful when two days before Len was to return from BC he called and suggested that we book a hotel for the night he arrived home so that I did not have to deal with night weather. Considering the fact that I had to make two trips to Fredericton that day, had been up until 2am the night before and he did not arrive until after midnight - I quickly said YES! Yes! 

During my multiple trips to Fredericton on the Wednesday of pick up we had a storm. Awful weather! Everything you could think of starting with blinding bright sun, dark gray sky, freezing rain, thick snow, ice, rain and slush on the road. I was exhausted!

The next day we had to rush back from Fredericton since I had an order to get out that day and had to bake the rest of my orders for the following day. I was up again for half the night, up early in the morning to bake pies and pack and decorate to deliver to my customers. 

By the time we left home, with the truck full and me mentally counting the cash on hand, in the bank and the funds coming in from the orders of the day, I knew I had JUST enough money to buy one sofa - not two. I had realized a day before that this was the case and decided I was still achieving the dream - meeting my promise of a living room and we would have a cozy Christmas. (Of course accomplishing this left me short for the Christmas turkey and a few other things like fuel, was a bit panicky... yet I was sure it would all come together!)

We finally left home to drive to market - it was 10am and snowing hard. We were late and I hoped that my message to the market and my customers would either have them wait for me or come back... (heart fluttery and anxiety setting in). The drive was horrendous and at any other time I would have turned around to go home. I was so tired, I had bags under the bags of my red rimmed eyes. If one didn't know better they would have thought I just traveled across the country and was dealing with the time change rather than Len. 

We finally got to the market, only slid and almost hit the ditch once, love my repaired 4x4! We no sooner pulled up to the market then Glenn came out to help take stuff in and in his own words so eloquently said "Where the hell ya been? People have been here for you!" I said "Oh Glenn! Will they come back???" He figured most would since they did read the Facebook status update on our group. There were also several people waiting for me and in a matter of minutes almost all of my trays went out hand to hand to the customers and I had a pocket full of cash.

Three trays left... without those trays I would not make the payment by noon to the furniture store to make delivery that afternoon. I stood by Len and Glenn and pulled out my piece of paper and counted and calculated and figured and panicked... At this point my heart was beating faster, my breath shallow and my mind manic... I had to do it! This was all I wanted for Christmas, to give my family a living room!

I was beating myself up since the week before I bought a TV for the house. It was our first TV since the move and I had to grab the deal since a 32" Phillips flat screen LED TV was on for only $218! That however, had left me short for today. I finally asked Len if I could borrow a few dollars until later in the day when my customers came. I really wanted to do this on my own, for our family and was disappointed to have to ask him for help. 

He lives on a minimum pension and there is not much left for him after the mortgage, plus he had just been to BC. What if he said no???? I finally started to ask him, fear rising in my throat, what if...? Of course, being the kind, loving, caring man he was and seeing how hard I was working for it, he said "of course."

Sometimes, I wonder why I think it will be bad? I have nothing to worry about with him, he is a great guy, loves me tons, even thought I was beautiful standing there in front of him, harried with almost no sleep, jeans tucked into my chicken shit boots that had I had not had time to clean, red flaky eyes and shuddering breath... He is definitely a keeper!

Len asked Glenn to watch our table and I gave him the who's who on orders and we walked to the furniture store down the street. I was so grateful to him for helping me and knew that I could pay him right back. My heart was racing since we had to pay the store by 12 noon and it was 11:45 and stormy and snowy... what if they had cancelled deliveries or left early?

Fortunately we found the right clerk and he assured us that the truck had not left, deliveries were being made and they would only charge $30 (which for where we live is an amazing price!) As the sales clerk rang up the till and I gave her all of my cash, then my debit, it was now Len's turn. He asked her how much was left - only $130. ( I was so close!)

He then said "No, for the other sofa too." She told him... He said "Add it on the truck and I will pay for that too." I was stunned! I looked at him and he turned to me, smiled and said, "Merry Christmas, I love you honey." I was speechless... but not for long, I was so overwhelmed, I said, "What? You don't have to do that!" Him, "I want to , this is my gift to you, I love you." Waaahhh!

I told him I was going to cry, at which point the sales clerk said no, or she would cry too... sorry, can't help it! Tears of joy welled up in my eyes, my throat unlocked and out poured my release, my happiness, my love for him. No, it wasn't about stuff, it was about working together, my wanting to do this for our family so bad and his opening his heart (and wallet) to help me. I love you my handsome!

I didn't stop crying all day, every time I told someone or thought about it, or looked at him with all my love - CRY! Happy tears though. I have wept enough sad ones in my life and today it was pure unadulterated love for him.

Needless to say, the children were thrilled and loved it. We have a living room! We have a room that is not stored with junk or boxes, it contains a brand new TV, two beautiful black leather sofa's, a gorgeous Christmas tree and the home theatre system that Santa brought for Christmas. More than all that, the living room contains our family. The people I love most in the world. It has been a beautiful Christmas, it was white with fresh snow, warm with wood burning in the fire, loving surrounded by the people who mean most.

The final piece to this story... Len has now been the biggest user of our couches. Sadly he turned to get grain for the goat on Christmas night and put his back out just before dinner. He was in excruciating pain and spent the next two and a half days pretty much laid up on his back... on the sofa enjoy the TV and movies! Wow, so glad it all worked out! I am also happy to say that he is up and moving around again and so long as he takes it easy and keeps the Superman cape off for awhile longer, he should continue to improve! (Love you my handsome!)

I hope you all had an amazing holiday 
filled with ordinary miracles that fill our lives.
 Happy New Year for 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The most wonderful time ... of the year!

"It's the most wonderful time of the year 
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer" 
It's the most wonderful time of the year 
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings 
When friends come to call 
It's the hap- happiest season of all " 1963
This song came to mind as I was beginning this blog and I was surprised to see that it was only written in 1963. You see, to me, it has always been around and I thought it was a very old song. I was born in 1966 and this was already a classic - does that make me a classic now too?

Today is December 18, 2011. It is shortly after 9am, as I sit in my old tattered overstuffed chair next to the wood stove crackling in the kitchen. I can see the sun get higher over the horizon, the sky clear blue with a hint of yellow as the sun rises in the sky. The earth is frozen, it is -17c now, not sure how cold it got during the night but it must have dipped close to -20c. The power was out for 5 hours, fortunately we were sleeping during that time, all snuggled all warm in our beds.

Len is in BC visiting with family for an early Christmas and won't be home until the 22nd. I am farming on my own while he is gone. Therefore when the morning starts I can't crawl straight back into my big comfy bed, covered by quilts and appreciating that I don't have to drive off to work. No, I get up, stoke the stove, wake up kids, prep them for school, wave goodbye to the bus at 7:15am, then pull on my coop boots, scarf, work gloves and coat to head out and check on my livestock - then if I don't have to go anywhere I might crawl back under the covers.
Jessica's Christmas card to me!
Perfect - I LOVE IT!
The routine goes something like this: feed Luki our Great Pyrenees dog first, lead him off with the bowl outside Len's studio so that he does not get agitated when any other creatures head near his food. He runs to his bowl, sniffs, then looks up for a scratch and a cuddle. He doesn't feel the sub zero temperatures with his thick double coat of fur. While he eats - sometimes allowing the cat, Finnegan 2 to share his bowl, I head off to set up the other creatures for the day.

First, I take out the frozen water from the chicken coop and put it in Len's studio to thaw. Then I give them some fresh water to work on while the big water feeder warms up. I fill their feeder and have a look around for loose eggs. All breeds are laying now, although intermittently due to the weather and some of the Rhode Island Reds seem to like laying the eggs on the floor. Most of the birds lay later in the day, but I try to get the floor eggs asap. It is then time to check on Freya, my pregnant goat. She is bleating... "mmuuummm, muuummm" , yes even the goat calls me MUUUM! I grab a few flakes off the hay bale and put it in her manger, stuffed down so she can grab it when she wants it, but not so that it hits the floor because then she won't eat it. (I don't blame her there!) I break the ice in her water, either dump it and refill or just crack it up so she can get it... depends on the morning.

I then head back to Luki, hug and cuddle, grab his bowl and put it away for the day. Now that he is fed I can let Freya and the chickens out. Although it is beyond freezing the birds like to go out since there is not much snow left on the ground. 

All that done, it is time to head in for a hot cup of coffee. I love my Reunion Island Privateer Dark fair trade organic coffee... .mmm! If I don't have to go anywhere I just might spike it with my home made Sherman's Irish Cream. YUM! 

This morning after I am done, I have to zip up the hill to the Fosterville Baptist Church to get Jessica from Sunday School. She goes each week from 9 to 10am and gets a ride there with a neighbour/Sunday school teacher. Thanks Louise! Some weeks she stays after to attend church service, but not today. 

Last night we went to bed very late, after decorating the tree and watching the Polar Express and then Elf - fun get in the spirit - Christmas movies. They are favourites at our house. It was not easy to get her out of bed today, but she had to go since tonight is the church Christmas concert and she is in the Christmas story.

Since there are only 5 regular kids in the Sunday school and one who attends when she is in town, there are not many too choose from for parts. Jess is discouraged that she has to play Joseph, but I told her, at least you get a part and to speak. She is mostly disappointed that she has to wear an "ugly brown robe and a towel on my head". This from a girl who is ten and very girly! Oh well, it is a half hour of your life and we will video tape it to send to the grandparents! After the play and concert there are refreshments so I guess this afternoon we will make some sugar cookies to take along.

As I said, it is the "most wonderful time of the year", not because of presents, it is the spirit in the air. I feel sad for people who focus so much on gifts. Yes, I get distressed when I struggle to get some things for my kids, but they know it is usually stuff they need and a few fun things they want - it has never been nor will ever be much of a big department store Christmas. This year I think since Rachel is 17 there will be a few gifts - things to take when she moves out and some cash to get what she decides she wants. Jess is still doable at ten... but it certainly does get more difficult.

I am excited since I bought a TV on Friday and we watched movies on it last night. We have not had a TV for over a year and a half and no furniture, cable, etc. We have only had our computers. So my good friends at Bell, will head out tomorrow morning to hook up satellite for us which will be really weird after so long without.

I am 90% positive we will have our new sofa's for Christmas. I figure if I go pay most of it, MAYBE a post dated cheque for the rest and perhaps flash a little cleavage they might deliver before Christmas! (Hmmm maybe I better put the cleavage away? That works in the city but not so sure out here in the bible belt! Besides the cleavage is also aging and saggy and nothing says sexy like wrinkly boobs.)

It is a goal and that will be my happy Christmas - us sitting in our living room - I am painting the ugly fuchsia wall white today - I look forward to waking up Christmas morning, next to our beautiful tree, fire place burning, TV playing Christmas tunes, drinking our Irish cream and coffees and  being grateful to be together.

Len, I miss you my darling, but you will be home soon and I am so happy you were able to head west for a visit! We are all well here and the kids only have a few days of school left. They attend until noon on Friday, December 23rd, which seems very weird!
Retirement cake for the Farm Market cook
I have a few baking orders left for this week and have the farm market Friday morning. Wednesday night at midnight, weather permitting, I shall head to the Fredericton airport to retrieve Farmer Sherman and happily hug him in front of all the late night travelers. Well, I had better run, it is time to get Jessica from Sunday school and I think the old diesel, Buddy, will need a few minutes to thaw out! At least it is warming up - only -16c now!
Have a wonderful day everyone! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The countdown to Christmas

House warming cake
for good friends!
Christmas is apparently only days away and everyone is rushing around getting ready for it. I am plodding towards it since there is no way to keep it away. I love Christmas and all that goes with it. It isn't really about the presents, but the gatherings, food, drink and fun. Of course the kids love presents but now I realize how it was for my parents as I got older and it was harder to please me - oh it was possible, but financially a nightmare. Try to keep a teen happy on the same budget you can make a 5 year old happy with - next to impossible! Then of course we are away from family which is very noticeable this time of year.

Now is when I regret (only slightly) not having a traditional 40hr week decent paying job to make all their "dreams" come true. As excited as the girls are getting about Christmas they know it is not going to be extravagant, they know they will get things they like, some they wanted on their lists and some that is just from their "crazy mom". As for family out west, I have made everyone's gifts - so SURPRISE!

Jess's 10th birthday
Yesterday, as I was in the porch, I heard Jess tell Rachel that she "knew what mom was getting me for Christmas!" I was a little shocked since I have no clue what I am getting.... Rachel said, "What?" Jessica said, "A living room and a TV!" Well, I laughed and thought cool! That was not even too selfish! Of course then I trembled knowing I might not be able to make it happen as much as I am trying. I love the words that come out of the mouths of babes! (and the added pressure)

I looked at my blog and realized that I haven't posted anything since Rachel's birthday over 1 month ago. I then looked at my log of the blog and saw that three times I had started to write but never finished. None of the writing seemed very inspired or profound, so delete, delete, delete... In fact, I am not sure if I will even post this.

Birthday Cake
Kids Halloween Party
Maybe it is the seasons changing, the darker days, the snow on the ground and the upcoming holidays, however, I have felt very little creativity. It feels forced, uninteresting, boring and maybe my little life at writing is over? I have written an outline and premise for my potential novel, but, I am afraid to start, what if it is another thing I can't finish? Does that make me a failure? Does that mean that I am unable to complete a task and I am just another hack without any talent? Could be.

I have taken time over the past month to reach out to my friends and have long deep chats. Apparently men don't understand that concept. My husband thinks we just gab all day on the phone and men don't do that. True, men don't, but maybe they should? Maybe if men sat and talked about their lives, family, feelings and emotions more ... nah, then we would NEVER get to use the phone!

No calories!
Christmas baking tray
My latest thing is to decorate cakes and now to do baking trays for Christmas. The cake decorating has all been free so far with the exception of the wedding at Thanksgiving. The baking trays are picking up and I am hoping to sell some more for Christmas money. I have put a sofa set on lay a way and need to give Santa a hand paying for it so it can be put under my tree! So, chocolate and cookies anyone?
Ready to serve!

If I never write again due to complete writers block
 or if Christmas comes before I put my hands to the keyboard again, 
I wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

long days of winter - December 8, 2011

i can't write
i don't care
nothing comes to me
my mind is bare

thoughts are blank
empty, void, alone
brain feels dark, dank
cold and hollow

it seeps up on me
i don't know its coming
i can hardly see
i am surrounded

desolate and sad
heaviness in my heart
when did it come?
why did it start?

what is it exactly?
stress? pressure?
how can good go bad?
hollow beyond measure

it will lift
i will rise
but am i lost
in their eyes?

sarah sherman (C)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Just a piece of my heart...

November 10, 2011 - with my baby girl
17 years old and she can't wait to hit the world! I remember the day I found out I was pregnant; the joy and excitement I felt. I had waited my whole life for that moment, dreamed about it and now it had arrived. I was scared! How could I take care of another human being? How would I know how? What if instinct didn't kick in? What if I hurt her? Wasn't good enough? What if?
And yet I was mesmerized by her. Every change in my body; every kick; every new sensation. I would spend hours watching her roll around at night in my belly. TV? Didn't need it! I had supersonic mama vision on and it was more exciting than any sci fi show or episode of Law and Order. I only hoped I would be worthy of her... or him. (At the time I was convinced she would be a boy and was stunned when the doctor said she was a girl! I actually argued with him and he assured me he would NOT KID with me about such a thing!) 
2 years old

I had a great doctor. I was 27 years old when I became pregnant and was fortunate to be surrounded by an office full of women who all had the "best advice". They told me what to eat, how often, what to wear, how to care for a baby, parenting tips, medical advice, on and on and on, until I thought I would scream! (Clearly I knew NOTHING!) BUT Dr. Fike told me "Sarah, you are a smart woman. You can read. You have common sense. DON'T listen to those women. You and I will figure it out and I have complete confidence you can do this." Thank you Dr. Fike! I am afraid I have not lived up to your expectations but I have tried.

This little baby was so small, 7lbs 2 oz and so dark (turns out she had jaundice, I just thought she had more colour than me.) She had a beautiful little head of dark hair and she loved me. I knew it right away. She just looked up at me with such trust in her big brown eyes. I promised her that no matter what I would always be there; I would stand up for her; protect her and be the best mom I could be. I haven't been able to protect her as much as I wish and there are times where she stood up for and protected me. My girl, she is amazing, smart, beautiful, world wise, instinctively understands people, is so much more than I could have hoped for. 

She isn't 7lbs anymore, but at 17 and just over 100lbs, she is still my little girl. I can lift her up and hug her; swing her around;  hold her; and kick her ass when she needs it. I have learned it is not my job to be her friend, but to be her mom and help guide her. I have to make her face difficulties head on - especially when she created them. I have to help her gain the strength that I didn't have at 17 and that it took me until I was 37 to achieve. She is strong though and she is a survivor. She has learned what IS important and what is superficial. Yes, it hurts sometimes, but she will move past those hurts and make her a strong independent woman. 

This baby has become a big sister and although she fights with her little sister (often!) I know they would die for each other. This baby has turned into a woman. I think about the life she has been through and I know that I have made many mistakes; I only hope that those moments have shown her a better path. My fear is that she won't want a family and will miss all the joy in order to avoid the pain. She will do what is right for her and I will support her emotionally during her journey.

This baby, child, woman, has moved 6,000km from all she has ever known and everyone she loves except this little core family. She has tried to fit in and been pushed away repeatedly, but she keeps on trying. She won't be stopped. She will get lonely, sad, depressed but I can still make her laugh and smile. She is studying hard and plans to "get out of this place" and forge her own future.

What path that will be, time will tell. I know that it won't be easy and I am realistic with her. I tell her you will fall down, but you WILL get back up. AND there is so much more out there in the world than high scool! If anyone says high school is the best time of your life, it is only because they never did anything after that. High school is only one small piece and for most people, their real life starts after they leave home.

At 10 years old - the age her sister will be soon

I will always be by your side little girl. 
I will walk next to you and pick you up, 
then I will push you forward to start again on your own. 
You are all I wished I could have been. 
You are a fighter! 
You are in my heart, 
a piece of my soul 

One last thing! Tomorrow is Remembrance Day 11.11.11 Please take a few minutes to thank those who have fought for our freedom and our country. I spend the month of November remembering and being thankful for those in my life and what I have loved and lost. Take just a few minutes tomorrow, ok? Thanks!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And the beat goes on... And the beat goes on...

I haven't felt very motivated to write in recent weeks. Nothing overwhelming has captured my thoughts and made me feel compelled to share. Days are busy, weeks flow into months and time goes on. I don't seem to be moving ahead a great deal but I don't think I am moving backwards either. 

I don't see much of the news except when I sign on to my computer at the beginning of the day and my home page for CTV pops up. At times I am grateful for the lack of world events, at others I feel as though I am being an ostrich and need to pull my head out of the sand. I have let friendships out West slide and been poor about keeping in touch. While in the East I have insulated myself with people around me who are positive, affirming and avoided as much drama as I can. So life goes on...

We had a good dump of snow last weekend and had fair warning so I ensured that I was prepared on Saturday. Jess and I made a quick trip across (slang for over to Maine, USA) and fueled up, got milk and a few necessary items and headed home. Everyone we talked to thought we were being silly. Snow? Nah! Or hardly any! The border guard always ask's "What is the purpose of your trip?" Me "Going to Danforth, fuel, milk and getting ready for the storm!" Him, "Ha! Nah, it's all good." Well, we made our fastest trip yet, less than an hour there and back including 3 stops! (I MIGHT have been speeding... shhh!) When I got home Len and I proceeded to spend the next 3 hours winterizing the joint. Put all planters, odds and sods away - anything that could get in the snow plow's way. Tape the plastic around the base of the house and bring some wood inside. All set! HIT ME SNOW!

All night, nothing. I heard rain dripping on the plastic outside my window but no snow. Imagine my surprise when I got up to get Jess ready for Sunday School and to spend the next 4 hours prepping for the community Halloween party for the kids - there was at least 5" of snow in my dooryard! (Dooryard means front yard) Needless to say I was stunned! I guess the dripping I heard was the snow melting off the roof.

First - a call from the church - cancelled today. Second, call to the Rec Council President - let's cancel the party. The power then went off at least 6 times but we did fine. We were warm by the stove and I cooked my first meal - pot roast with veggies from start to finish on the woodstove and boiled the water for hot chocolate! Pioneer ME!

Halloween came and went. The snow melted so the kids could go out. Jess went with the neighbours and I handed out candy. Rachel stayed in Canterbury - but decided that the haul was much better in our neighbourhood - and at 17 maybe this should be her last year trick or treating - you think? 
Jessica's pumpkin - Nightmare Before Christmas
Rachel's vomiting pumpkin
My little Zombie

Len has been having mousy issues, so I spoke to Glenn about a barn cat. He has been holding one for us, sort of and it was a matter of picking it up. So on Wednesday, Jess and I picked him up - a beautiful little orange and white tabby - who I knew had proven himself to be a mouser and brought him home. Well, doesn't our little farm seem complete now? We have a cat! Dog! Goat! Chickens! I feel like an animal collector now.

Rachel with Finnegan 2
The girls are starting to love it. Even Rachel, she has moments of frustration and loneliness which as a mother breaks my heart - but she is finding out her priorities. She is learning that popularity, labels, money - are not good values. (Yes she still likes those things but knows they are not the MOST important things in her life.) She is studying SO hard! She has school Monday, then 2.5 hours of drivers education. Tues & Wed she has 2 hours of tutoring after school and Thurs always has homework. The girl is exhausted by Friday. Yes, she would like to get out more on the weekends and sometimes it happens, but she is also bonding more with the animals. 

Freya and her pumpkin
All of us think we got the BEST animals! I really believe that Freya the goat is pregnant too, so expect an update on Sarah the Vet and the birth about mid February! That will be a Kodak moment for sure! We have discovered that the goat and chickens are great at recycling pumpkins too. I don't think I throw anything out these days. If it is meat or protein - dog. Veggies - chickens and goat. Breads - all farm animals! Coffee grinds and egg shells - compost.

I really enjoy my community and I am working hard with my good friend Anita to set up a 4-H club for the kids. I really hope that we get the 6 we need to get started and believe it WILL grow after that. There are so many positive opportunities for kids in 4-H and potential experiences that we are rural parents can't give them. The kids out here need to have activities and we need to stop driving 30 miles or more every time they want to do something.

It is cold today, it is 9:30am after the clocks went back an hour and it has warmed up to 0c degrees. We have prepped for the winter as mentioned and now need to start work on birthdays and Christmas. Both of the girls have November birthdays and it is a struggle to make it all work. I know I need to help them celebrate those days but it sure doesn't fit well into the budget. Christmas is around the corner and I vow to have a living room and some furniture for us to enjoy while we gather round the tree. This means making money appear out of my butt - as I so eloquently tell the girls. (I don't say money doesn't grow on trees - because it does - but we don't cut down our forest.) 

Rachel turns 17 this Thursday and as I recall what I was doing 17 years ago, I realize how far I have come. My baby is a young woman - she is smarter and more mature every day - she makes more of an effort to help me and is exploring her future - I am very proud of her. As you can see she is gorgeous and is starting to realize that she has to create her own value system, not what the world tells her it is. This is hard, she still wants - and I believe she should get SOME of those wants. It is the needs, that she is really learning. As we sit and talk about the world revolutions, I know my baby is going to be OK. Although she has struggled through the move, she still likes our home and farm.

Have a great week everyone. I need to go make some money appear out of my butt to give my girl a birthday to remember. Her sweet 16 was very sad for her so 17 has to at least be somewhat memorable for good reasons. Brr! Time for another log on the fire!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

16 months since I left "home" for the final time

It is hard to believe we left Nanaimo a mere 16 months ago. It feels like a lifetime. We traveled 7 provinces, 21 days and a world away. We said goodbye to parents, children and grandchildren. Goodbye to extended family and dear friends. We now reside at East Grand Lake, in rural New Brunswick on the border of Maine, USA, 68 km to the nearest Canadian town and 20+ miles to the nearest American town.

I have written 89 blog postings (on this site); have had almost 6,000 hits (5,000 in Canada, 1,000 from the rest of the world); I have started to compose poetry; I have shown some improvement with my writing skills; acquired new life skills; changed my focus in life; learned to love the simple things - while knowing that I still need to afford my girls some of the not so simple things in life. I have grown closer to my husband, shared goals, dreams and realities, and I have started to learn to slow down... what an important lesson.

When I first told people I was moving, I met mixed responses. Some people got it right away, others thought I was insane, one asked if I was running away and I hope now, that everyone understands, we love it here. It hasn't been easy, it has been work and for the girls the struggle is always there to fit in. Since we are older and have experienced enough to get past the point in life where we let every word hurt us or every comment strike a nerve, we survive much better. Len and I have adapted well, made good friends and I believe have established a solid life here. As for the girls, I have told them, this is all temporary for them. It will be a home to return to, but their lives are elsewhere. A year ago I heard a lot from them both about returning to Nanaimo or Vancouver to live, now I hear Fredericton or possibly Moncton, that makes me smile. They will do OK - have their own lessons, loves, heart breaks and success - until then, we will laugh and cry together during their journey.

Summer is over, most of the canning done. I do need to get some of the last apples off of the trees to preserve for winter before they get hit by a hard frost. I have started to prepare for winter and plan indoor projects. The sewing machine will finally be pulled out this week. The coffee shop is closed with the potential of a weekend opening sometime before Christmas and the offer to the community of Christmas baking orders; farm market continues and some days are very slow but it is our trip to town and to visit; and so life continues.

When I started this blog in May 2009 it was to document our journey and life and to determine whether I should pursue my dream to write. I have grown to love writing, blogs, some stories and poetry. Of course the print world is dying, less books being published, more "E" readers becoming the norm and although it is easier to get published (self or E) it is harder to promote. I then wonder, should I take the time to try to write something? Is fiction the right route? How do I move forward? Do I have the drive? (I do know that I am a terrible procrastinator and can have difficulty applying myself to finish a project to the end.) I guess I will continue to think about this prospect and if there is a point, other than to say "I did it."

I have discovered how important family and friends are. I am able to touch base with many people via FaceBook but those are generally quick, superficial moments. They do however make me feel connected to my past life, so thank you for that. The people who are closest to me, my nearest and dearest, you know who you are, are NOT FaceBook users or very infrequently and so we connect via email and phone. Those moments touch me deeply since they are few and far between, but mean so much. Without all of you, on email, FaceBook, the blog and the phone, these past 16 months would have been much more difficult. I don't know if I could have done it. I can't imagine what pioneer women went through. They left people behind - generally for the last time, little to no communication ever again, men who were not necessarily focused on their wives emotions, working from dawn to dusk, no women for miles around and little choice on friendships, children who died in their arms, so much different than what I experience today. To them, I say, "How did you do it?" To me, I am sure they would reply, "We had no choice." I am so thankful for the choices I have in my life!

Now, it is 7:20 AM, I have been awake for a couple of hours, the house is cold, fire is out, do I go back to bed for a half hour? Or poor another cup of ginger tea? That is my dilemma! Happy Sunday!
Next week a Halloween update!
Yes kids still DO trick or treat out here!
(I plan to give out real spiders and webs, need to clean the house anyway!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Fosterville!

Some weeks fly by and some simply drag... this one flew. Of course we had our late Thanksgiving dinner, kids in school, farm market and the usual errands to be done. On top of that on Wednesday night we inherited a large double door market fridge for the coffee shop. This looks a little large at the moment in my shop, however, next summer filled with treats, eggs, baking and beverages it will be indispensable! I am also looking forward to it over the winter to hold my leftovers from the turkey dinners and other festivities.

I am currently working on a flyer to drum up some Christmas baking business. Letting people know that although the coffee shop is closed I still have made to order baked goods, cakes, jellies, preserves and of course our farm fresh free range eggs. Friday afternoon we came home from the market, a bit slow, but I do enjoy the company, put things away and settled in to chat on the phone for an hour with my best friend, while waiting for the girls to get home from school. As I was on the phone from NB to BC, I heard a quiet knock at the front door. I kept the phone line open and had my girlfriend hold while I answered to see who was here. Two women had arrived and were looking for eggs. As I quickly washed up eggs from that day for them, my friend listening, they asked about the farm and what we do. It turned out these two women were from Hawaii, see how good our eggs are? People come from Hawaii just to get them! My girlfriend was able to hear the interaction and felt like she had a glimpse into our life.

Yesterday, I was in the kitchen, when again, tap, tap, at the door. I opened and a couple were standing there. (Keep in mind my coffee shop is a bit of a shambles with the new fridge and moving things around.) They were out for a drive from St. John for the day and saw our sign for eggs. They were very excited to see they were natural free range. I took them to the barn and pasture and we threw some multigrain bread to the the animals and they were tickled at watching the birds run up to them, the goat push her face through the fence to grab bread and even good old Luki, grabbing the bigger pieces. Yes, they decided, they wanted to eat our eggs! They had changed to free range not long before and were horrified to know how chickens were kept in massive buildings, one on top of another in laying crates with no life, freedom or fresh air. It is so fun to watch the birds as they truly do have a pecking order, they run up to say hi to us (looking for food) and to watch how they and the other animals interact together. The great thing is, by the time they left they bought 2 dozen eggs, 4 squash and one of Len's book. Next time they plan to call ahead so we can bake some things they like and open the coffee shop, apparently they will bring Grammie, Grampie and the Grandkids!

After they had left, Len and I said, this is what we like. The fact that we are able to share the simple joy of what we are doing with people, encourage them to look more at the health of what they eat, support local farmers and businesses and the overall fun of watching the animals. It is a good life.

Having said that, I have spent the whole week (month) watching the Occupy Movement in the US. The past week the media hasn't said much about the mounting movements, but I have followed the plans on FaceBook organizations to add Canadian cities to the occupation. I am trying to avoid the word protest as that implies that everyone is against one thing - which is in part true, but this "protest" does not have one specific plan, rather to let the government, big business and corporate greed know that the people have had enough. 

Express an objection to what someone has said or done: "she paid, and he didn't protest".
A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.
verb.  object - remonstrate - deprecate
noun.  remonstrance - objection - outcry
The occupation is a "statement or action expressing disapproval or or objection to something" so I do agree with that definition. The problem with the word is that so many protests have before been violent and out of control and this movement is trying so hard to avoid that - at least on the part of the "protesters".  This is a peaceful occupation. 

My opinion? Oh, well thanks for asking! My opinion: In the last month, Rachel's grade 11 History homework has been studying the French Revolution of 1789 and more recently the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Is this now the GLOBAL Revolution? I think so. It is not against one person, regime or quest for power. It is against inequality, unfair taxation, the 99% getting the short end of the stick and the 1% getting the reward. Wow, sounds somewhat like the French Revolution to me! Rachel's assignment asked, "What was different between the French and Egyptian Revolutions?" Well, we now have the means to quickly and effectively get information out to the world. In Egypt, in February 2011, the government was shutting down phone lines and internet to keep the revolution quiet; some of the people managed to get the word out via FaceBook and Twitter before they were closed off to the world. Did the Western Governments know what was going on? Of course they did. Did they act? No, not until they had to. I am an optimist, however, I do see with eyes wide open and realize that although there are some good people in power who want to help, (not everyone is twisted and jaded) they are limited by those who restrain and hold power over them. Let's hope the masses and the support they get, the lack of violence - the message will come through and change will happen.

I mean really, it worked in France, Egypt and oh so many other places too! 
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right (Beatles)

So chickens and revolutions... life in the slow lane... have to go OCCUPY Fosterville now!

My poem - on the Occupy Movement... if you are still so inclined to read onward!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A VERY Un-traditional Thanksgiving

4 cakes and 100 cupcakes
Every year we have a Thanksgiving celebration; family, food, fun. Not this year. For the past week I was run off my feet. A trip to Fredericton on Wednesday; baking all day Thursday for the farm market and orders until 12:30AM ; Friday, farm market, trip across the border and baking the cakes in this picture until 1:30 AM; Saturday- Monday, coffee shop open; Saturday decorating the cakes and set up for the wedding; Sunday - orders for pumpkin pie, coconut pie, breads and sticky buns; Monday - grocery shop, coffee shop (sort of open) and dinner at the neighbours - fabulous food, just NOT the traditional meal. You can imagine I was exhausted and just grateful not too cook and to eat a harvest meal almost completely from their garden. The kids enjoyed it too, but missed celebrating our traditions. To quote Rachel, "We have no family, no furniture and not even the Thanksgiving TURKEY? MOOOOM!" Well, my darling, for you, today, we shall feast on roast beast!

Carrot Cake with
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Saturday morning Len and I were up early, we had to clean all of my canning equipment OUT of the coffee shop and straighten up to have a shop to be proud of. Jessica was amazing! She was up at 7:30AM and was my barista for the day! To quote Jess, "Mom, I know you are busy and have to focus on the wedding, so I will grind the coffee, make it and serve the customers, ok?" Bless her little heart! YES! OK! 

French Vanilla with
Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting
Devils Food Cake with
Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
Things were going smoothly and I was sort of relieved that we had few Saturday morning customers because part of the "charm" of the shop, is having Jess and I visit with people, share our story and invite them to come again. This is normally fine, but with the clock ticking and beating down my throat, I was slightly overwhelmed! Len helped clean the shop and then stayed out of my way, he even made us supper.

However, by 3pm, I had about 50 cupcakes left to ice and decorate and called in all the troops. I mixed and beat the icing; Rachel iced the cupcakes; Jess put on the final touches as per my instructions; Len and the rest of us got it all up the hill to the reception.  Of course as we prepared to get in the truck with 8 trays of cupcakes and a box with 2 wedding cakes and the basket of adornments, I wasn't sure how we were going to do it. Last minute, idea: tarp on pickup bed, kids sit in back to ensure that all the cupcakes stayed still and safe, Len in the front with the cakes and the basket in the back seat. I am sure the caterer thought we were nuts as we backed in and unloaded! We did it, set up and looking pretty with an EASY 5 minutes to spare! Whew! 

Of course, my day was not yet done! I had a birthday cake - SuperMan for Nathaniel's 10th birthday the next day, 4 pumpkin pies, 2 coconut cream pies, 3 loaves of bread and 6 sticky buns to prepare for the next morning! Yes, it all came together. Everyone said they liked their orders and were happy with the result. My feet ached, my ankles swollen from about 4 days of 8-12 hours a day standing, (by Saturday night when no one was in the kitchen with me and while I worked, I flexed and flipped my legs from the kitchen sink!)

The bride caught him by a hair!
Well, the weekend went by, it was good but insanely busy and today is Tuesday. I have a small turkey in the oven, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and squash on the way and our little family will celebrate Thanksgiving. As we are at this time of year, I am thankful for: the harvest, our home, our land, my family, my opportunity to be more self-sustaining each year and for the friends and family in my life. As I watch the world in turmoil, countries in revolution and know that things have to change, I am grateful even on those days where I am exhausted and want to scream, "HELP!" I know we have life good. AND so, Happy Thanksgiving, whatever it means to you, from the "Sher-Bethell" house!

It is not perfect, but not too shabby either!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I am groovin' with the man in black

And so it is Friday…

Friday in Fosterville with no internet or telephone. Rachel’s life has been ruined and she thinks she’s going to die. So sad! Apparently the pioneers never had it this tough. I mean, how could they know how hard it was when it didn’t exist. If you never HAD FaceBook you would never miss it right? So really, she has it MUCH tougher! Oh well, apparently there has been a malfunction in New Brunswick with Bell Aliant and so for the past few days phone and internet connectivity has been sporadic – today non existent.
Earlier this week, although the coffee shop was closed a man walked in and asked for my help. I told him I wasn’t serving coffee that day and I had no baking or eggs available. He handed me a CD and asked me to record him some Johnny Cash music, specifically, “Bud on Bud” or “Brother on Brother”… because Johnny had a brother you know. I told him, yes, I had heard that, but did not think there was a song called that although I was not all that familiar with much Johnny Cash music.
As he sat there, holding his CD and offering to pay me to download some music and record it for him, we went through the library of Cash music. He said he would wait while I did the work for him, however, after having waited for about ten minutes, he started to get antsy. (Did I mention he was drunk and smelled like an old brewery, had left his car running with “mother” and the dog in the car?) He then mentioned he was going up the hill to see a neighbour who also liked to drink and I realized he was going to go into withdrawal or pass out if he didn’t get a beer or some thing soon. (I did hear that he went to a few other neighbour's houses as well, but I am the only one who got cash for Cash!)
The upside is, I now have a Johnny Cash CD filled with music as well as the $5 he paid me and he never, ever, showed up again! So, now as we sit here on a Friday night without phone or internet, I am writing on a Word doc (yes Rachel, the computer can be used without internet!) and listening to Johnny “Walk the Line” in a “Ring of Fire”. This allowed for a lovely chat about how poor people used to have their kids work and drop out of school to help support the family…. AND my kids should be grateful for what they have even WITHOUT Bell Aliant working properly.
I have to give Rachel credit she spent the day helping Anita paint her house so they can get their move in process and Len and I went over and helped out tonight. While we were gone Rachel cleaned the kitchen and did the dishes. Hmmm, maybe she is getting the pioneer thing! If we still have no Bell tomorrow maybe she will weed the garden and make some jam!
Earlier tonight in the midst of frustration I blurted out “Oh, WHY did I EVER have children???” and Jessica, the object of my frustration at the moment replied, “Well, because YOU and daddy, ‘did it’.” That pretty much ended that conversation!
So now, I am listening to John and June Carter Cash sing “Jackson” and changing the words to “Houlton” our local US town. The girls have done the dishes, Len has come in for the night and I think I will read a book until I fall asleep, because as John and June say “Time’s a wastin’!”
And looky here! My man just walked up to me all dressed in black to attend the Harvest Dinner at the community centre, so I better go on out with my black dude!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Auction House - cows, coins and crap

Carleton County Co-Op Auction!
We were up top in the back behind the cows butt.

The thought of taking our billy goat Jack to auction was a little upsetting to me. I tried to sell him online and although there was some interest, when I was completely honest, the deals never went through. I could not in good conscience neglect to tell a potential buyer who lived an hour and a half away that he stank worse than my toilet and was getting violent  with all my livestock. It just didn't feel right to withhold those details. Alas, my honesty created a situation where I had no other choice BUT to take Jack to the Florenceville-Bristol Carleton County Co-op Auction house an hour and a half away. Taking him for sale was a risk since I was certain to spend the $5 to the auction house, $10-20 for lunch and coffee and at least $45 in diesel to get 'er done. That meant Jack had to get me at least $60 to barely break even. Definitely a dicey deal!

My sweet boy Luki!
So early Monday morning, after the kids left for school, Len and I came up with a plan to entice Jack into the back of old Buddy, our trusty truck. We decided to make a ramp into the truck, I would hold a bucket of feed (which we were pretty confident our little piggy would go for) and Len would put a rope around his neck in case he fled. First however, I had to lead Freya into the barn with some feed so she would stay out of the way and then work on getting Jack. Surprisingly with the exception of Luki making a break for it, all went well. Jack was indeed a predictable horny goat and Luki adores me so I was able to get him back into the pasture without too much trouble. 

We made the drive to Florenceville, checking every so often to ensure that Jack was safely riding in the canopy enclosed truck bed. He never fought it, brayed, kicked or bothered us at all, which was very surprising. He did stay standing and close to our window, periodically looking at us longingly like he knew this may be his last ride. I felt bad for him. Who knows, he could become a pet (not likely), he could be bought to breed (marginally possible) or he could become a welcome entree at the local Greek restaurant (most likely.) I didn't want to see him become a shish kebab but what choice did we have? He was attacking everyone and everything... 

My Sunflowers FINALLY bloomed!
Comes with bees!
Without getting very lost we arrived at the auction house. Not knowing the process I saw a bunch of farmers (regulars out for their Monday fun) hanging about to see what animals were coming in and possibly buying them before they ever hit the auction block. I pulled up and sweetly said, "HI! Can you please tell me where I register my goat for today's auction?" The 300 lb bearded pot bellied farmer   with his dirty old ball cap said, "Ya, it had to be here las' Wednesday for today's auction." My face fell! I had driven an hour and a half, spent my last $40 on fuel and had to take Jack home again! Seeing my distress, the other fella's laughed and said, "Don't listen to Dan, he's just messin' with ya! Go see Margie over at that thar door and she'll take him in for ya." My relieved sigh and laugh made them all grin and Len and I took Jack on over. 

A nice young boy of about 17 with his overalls and t-shirt and a mouth full of metal helped us get Jack out. He said, "h'yuk, we can hep ya's out. This har goat should sell jes' fan! He's nace." And off Jack went to join the other animals in wait for the big event. As we waved goodbye for the last time, we walked on through to check out the auction house. This was definitely going to be an interesting day! (Check out the first picture of the auction barn to get an idea of the layout.) There were items for auction from the Co-op, likely last year's old stock and another little pygmy billy goat in a cage. 

Cabbage ready to harvest.
The bug holes are free!
We had about an hour and half until the auctioneer came out to go through the days items so off we went to Timmy's for some coffee and breakfast and then wandered around to check out the Co-op grocery store, gas station and feed store. Then we headed back to the barn. By this time many more farmer's had been in to drop off livestock and the place was beginning to get crowded. We walked in and Len offered to buy me a hot dog or piece of pie. As enticing as it was to eat piece of pie that was sitting open, uncovered on a shelf in a barn, I decided to pass on that culinary delight and simply drink the water in my purse.

My purple broccoli.
All my plants have bug bites.
We started out sitting in the bleachers about half way up one side and then decided to sit right up top in the back since we weren't buying anyway, just hoping for enough to cover our day from the sale of our goat. We sat and people watched for awhile and enjoyed the true rural country feeling that I don't think has probably changed much over the last 50 years since the place opened. Sure, more people were driving in new trucks, not horse and wagons, but beyond that, not much different. We thought there were a lot of kids there for a Monday and realized we were in potato country, namely the world head quarters for the McCain's factories and this was the last ever, potato break for schools. Yes, in rural New Brunswick, farmers still counted on seasonal hired hands to come and work for those few weeks of harvest in September and in this way lots of kids could earn their own money for school clothes and needs. This was the last year for this though, due to poor harvests and increased technology and other financial factors, schools would no longer have a potato break after Sept. 2011. 

I was thoroughly enjoying myself and feeling quite farmy! I smiled at Len and told him, that even though it smelled like a barn, it was fun! He reminded me it WAS a barn. One old guy, maybe somewhere between 65-85, kind of hard to tell, had to get up the bleachers to sit with his friend. The old guy couldn't have been any taller than Jessica, was grizzled and gnarled up and literally had to crawl up the bleachers on his hands and knees and then sat down and was ready to take on the day! As we waited we listened to stories of who bagged a moose over the weekend - the moose hunt is 3 days in the last weeks of September and had just ended. We watched old men compare the harvest, size up the livestock and generally felt like this was where REAL farming was at. 

As the auction started and things quieted down, we were able to distinguish who the big time buyers and sellers were. Who was there just to observe and who wasn't sure what they would do today. Clearly for some people, living out in the country, this was their weekly entertainment. There were about 25 items to sell off before we got to livestock and I carefully struggled to sit absolutely still, my hands under my bum, my eyes motionless and in no way making a move that might be interpreted as a bid. I had NO money today and needed to sell my goat just to get home again. 

Real chocolate chip cookies
My husband however, had other motives which I discovered as he sat and started to join in on a bid that was on the floor. Len was good at it, subtle, experienced looking and clearly knew what he was doing. Of course, I couldn't figure out why he was bothering to bid on a case of gallon jugs of Fleecy that we couldn't even use since it was not organic or biodegradable. I tried to quietly ask him without throwing off his bid, but when he won the bid and turned to smile at me on his success, his smile turned to a frown, when I asked, "Why'd you buy a case of Fleecy? We don't need non-organic fabric softener." He said, "What? I thought I bought that white garden hose?" Nope! ha ha, well, I am still laughing at him over that one! He was subsequently successful on his bid for the hose!

My New Brunswick Biscuits
Finally, Jack came up on the block. I was REALLY nervous now because the pygmy goat only went for $20 while his cage went for $30... this did not leave me much hope on money for Jack. The auctioneer, in his sing song voice started Jack at $30 and all hope fell at that moment as I pictured him going for $10 ... Much to my amazement his price immediately shot up to $70 and he was sold! $70! To BillyBob in the corner! Wow! YAY! I broke even on my day! 

We remained for the rest of the auction because it was fun and kind of exciting at times. I watched a farmer in his dandy clothes - fresh new shirt and white straw boater - bid on almost every cow and bull that came through. My guess is he owns a butcher shop. The auctioneer would announce the bid number, the weight of the animal and then start the bidding at a per pound rate. The lowest we saw that day went for about .45 cents a pound and the highest for about $1.25 lb. The smallest animal in the beef category was about 330 lbs and the largest was over 1500 lbs. Let me tell you, a 1500 lb bull that does not want to be in a small area, is not a happy animal. The last few animals had had enough. They had been waiting all day and were the last on the auction block. Truly, the crap began to fly. A few cows let their bowels loose and then, when a bull came out and sprayed diarrhea, I understood why most people sat high up. One fellow was definitely going to have to rinse his boots and change his trousers from the spray when he got home. Love the kids though, they just all laughed and knew they had something to tell at school next week when the potato break ended!

Cows, coins and crap, yup, that 'bout covers the auction! Y'all come back now, y'hear? 
Apple Pie from our Bear's tree
Blueberry Pie
Below, just a few pictures of things I have been doing out here on the farm!

Wild Cranberry Jelly
Mint Jelly from My Mint

Green Tomato Salsa