Saturday, April 23, 2011

Home for the Holidays!

It`s beginning to feel a lot like Easter,
Every where I go,
There are chocolates and bunnies, 
Eggs to get and spend more money,
And people getting stuck in the snow!
The snow!

At moments like this I miss my family and friends. The excitement of gathering together, fixing large meals, last minute grocery shopping, making sure we have 7-Up for Dad, a couple of brands of beer, red and white wine and fresh baking for the guests. Having a few glasses of wine while I prepare the meal and not feeding my family all day as we await the big meal. Telling the girls, enough chocolate! You won`t eat any dinner! Getting the regular OH MOM! And Len saying ``Well, if you don`t need anything I will come back in awhile to help.`` Then him getting so absorbed in what he is doing he arrives to change just as the guests arrive.

Those moments of anticipation and anxiety as I wait for our grandson Charlie to arrive. His mom and dad happily bringing him up the walk. Wondering if he just woke up and will make strange or if it has been too long and he doesn`t remember Nana and Grandpa?

The friends we have invited because they are alone and have no one to spend the day with, joining us apprehensively but still happy to spend a holiday with someone and enjoy the crazy family dynamics that for once are not their problem. The friend can simply laugh as I stress about pleasing Len`s family, or worry that my Mom will enjoy things or my concern that my Dad might not be comfortable, my frustration that my kids might misbehave, the tension as someone says the completely wrong thing that we all promised we wouldn`t talk about. Yes, as insane as a family gathering can be, I miss it!

The angst of squeezing everyone in at the dining room table, finding enough chairs to make it all the way round, pushing to get that last plate on. Hoping that everything will be ready on time, turkey cooked right, potatoes soft enough, gravy not too salty, enough food and variety to please my family and guests. Then finding a space to put the food once it`s been passed round, quickly washing up the forks again for dessert, putting the coffee and tea on as our distended yet happy bellies relax from a big meal. As well as the discreet burping and farting that people are trying to act like they didn`t hear.

The Easter Egg hunt for the kids - carefully hiding the eggs age appropriately and dividing them up into bags so that everyone gets the same amount in the end. Making sure Dad and Len are comfy on their selected ends of the sofa as they slowly drift off into a light nap in the warm and busy room. The women (of course!) cleaning up, shushing the children away while we try to get things done and finally sitting down to relax with nothing left to do. Mom telling me the meal was wonderful, but have I ever thought about doing the turkey her way instead ? Or perhaps my stuffing wouldn`t be so dry if I put it in the bird .... ? Yes Mom, I love you, but that is how I do it and I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

Watching and moving things around the house so whoever happened to be the toddler this year wouldn`t hurt themselves or break anything. Moving things up and up and ``Down from the sofa, name here, you don`t want to fall out the window!`` Introducing opposite personalities together, my family, Len`s family, our friends and some young children. Watching the interactions, listening in case I have to intervene if things get too political or environmental or directed to a particular religion. Yes the joys of the big family gatherings and the need to be the moderator and help things flow so that everyone has a good time. Wanting to enjoy the situation amidst the worry that someone might offend someone else and trying to keep calm since my nerves are a tad frazzled from the preparation and not wanting to blow up if someone close to me says the wrong thing.

Keeping my eyes on the guest who perhaps likes to have a few too many drinks, make sure they don`t get to ``lushy`` and don`t drive home drunk. Moving back and forth through the group to let the crowd visit. This blog is not satirical or facetious, it happens, every holiday, with almost every family. We can`t wait to get them there and then can`t wait for them to leave. YES I MISS IT!

Christmas in Fosterville was nice, this Easter is fine, it just all seems a bit too laid back. Stress to some extent is necessary in our lives. There is good stress and bad stress. I see this holiday group interactive relationships are actually good stress. Why? Well... they remind us of why we don`t live together all the time; they remind us that we maybe take some things way too seriously; our mother is really only trying to offer her thoughts and not criticize even though it feels like it; some days soon I will be the mother that my kids roll their eyes about and think I am interfering; and the woman still usually does all the work! 

We moved here on our own volition over 6,000 km from our families. We placed ourselves in this self-imposed exile. Some day soon it will only be Len, Jessica and I when Rachel moves out and is having too much with her friends to return to New Brunswick. Then even Jessica will be gone and Len and I will look across the table. Maybe we will have a lobster for dinner then instead of the big meal? I hear people do that. Or perhaps I will make a special goat cheese salad? I suppose the upside of that is I won`t have to buy Easter chocolate, which I always want to eat and no one will complain because I bought the Cadbury`s Easter Creme Egg instead of the Cadbury`s Caramel Creme Egg...                               
Geez! Mom! Can`t you get it right?

Have a great Easter Sunday, whether you be at church, at dinner or just out in the sun!
 (Or snow if you are here in Fosterville!)

By the way, I am still trying to decide what to make for Easter dinner...
Ham with the fixings or perhaps a nice cheese omelet!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

YEE HA! We'se gunna have us a good ol' fashion' barn raisin'!

Well, if I haven't said it before, I'm a sayin' it agin... WE HAVE THE BEST NEIGHBOURS! We don't broadcast it, but we don't keep it quiet either... we had a rough trip. Cash flew out the window and we did our part to help the economic growth in the small towns across Canada. We are now in New Brunswick and trying to figure out how to make money grow on trees so we can build fencing, pasture lands, a barn, garden and so much more. Well, we have GREAT neighbours.

All of you who told us the nicest people you will ever meet live in the Maritimes... you were right! We have not had any really negative experiences; we have met people who are willing to help, lend, give, build, tear down and put their ears to the ground to find what we need. Just a few weeks back Len bought an old used table saw, big mother, cast iron, takes 4 or 5 men to move it. He got the deal because he mentioned he needed one and someone told someone who told someone who had one. That's just how things work around here. I have learned not to put it out there if I don't want to get it.

That fellow then met Len and talked about our plans. He heard we need a barn and fencing and thought we were nuts to rip down an old barn instead of simply buying supplies. (When I say "we" I mean "Len" will rip the barn down.) Len explained our dilemma in the gold bullion department and this fellow took it upon himself to start calling around to find us cedar fence posts and fencing wire. He also volunteered to pick it up in Bangor, Maine if we wanted to get it from there. (Incidentally, Stephen King the world famous author, is from BANGOR!!!)  

Today I was home, baking for the market, when I heard a truck pull up. Out walks the neighbour who is looking for Len. I explained Len and his ailing back (4 compressed arthritic discs and a bad hip) was gone for the day to pull down the old barn with another neighbours help. Again, this fellow mentioned our craziness, I concurred. Having said that, I reiterated we were without funds to help the economic growth of the local lumber company and had to satisfy ourselves with assisting in beautifying the property where the barn was via removal. I asked if there was a message and there was. "Tell Len not to worry about buying fence posts. I brought these cedar trees and we can get them in the ground to make posts for your pasture." I was bowled over and very appreciative. I also mentioned we had found a pretty good deal on some that I was saving up to buy so we would have more soon. He clarified, "Nope, I am bringing more and you aren't buying any. They should all be in by the weekend so he can put the posts in next week." WOW! Not much else to say on that is there???

So, this takes me back to the barn raising. We have mentioned this to several people and they are for it. They say this is how it used to be done so why not? We will get the supplies together, lay out the plan, set a date and cook up a storm and then ... We is gunna raise a barn! So papa's going to make a plan and mama's going to bake up some beans and buns, girls will babysit and the neighbourhood builders are coming over! Date To Be Announced and invitations to be sent!

Moral of the story: There are still very good people in the world. People who are willing to help others, be good neighbours and keep the good old country life alive. We are here to help our neighbours, although there doesn't seem to be much we can do for them at this point, but I am sure we will in the future. We will try to give back and not just take. We have learned not to mention you need something because you just might get it!

Now, Easter is coming, it is the Wednesday before Good Friday. We have been invited to the Easter breakfast and then apparently Jessica is going to sing with her friend in church so we will attend the service. Yes a true country Baptist service. Jessica does assure me that not only does the aging pastor speak, but others as well. I shall make sure Len does NOT eat beans at the breakfast so that his flatulence is flat and he stays awake. We will then have an Easter egg hunt at home and our big dinner. On Monday the Rec Council is putting on an Easter party which Jessica will enjoy and Rachel will help run the party. I plan to enjoy this weekend and relax, finish up a paid job and eat chocolate!

So, on that note, have a great weekend! 
Enjoy your family, friends and your times together!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thank you cousin Norma for sharing this with me! ENJOY!

I would never trade my amazing friends, my  wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly.  As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own  friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not  making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avante garde on my   patio.  I am entitled to a treat, to be   messy, to be extravagant. I  have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon;  before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.    Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and  sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to  those wonderful tunes of the 60  and 70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ..... I will. 

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that  is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with  abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.  They, too, will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important  things.   

 Sure, over the years my heart has been broken; How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car?  But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion.  A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect. 

I  am so blessed to have lived long enough  to have my hair turning gray, and to   have my youthful laughs be forever  etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn   silver. 

 As you get older, it is easier to be positive.  You care less about what other people think..  I don't question myself  anymore.    I've even earned the right to be wrong.   So, to answer your question, I like being old.  It has set me free.   I like the person I have become.  I am not going to live forever, but while  I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been,  or worrying about what will be.  And I shall  eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).       

Author Unknown for this shared email

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weddings and Funerals...

It seems it is true everywhere, people get together for weddings and funerals. I guess when there are such large and extended families that is the only way to do it unless there is a family reunion. Living our rural life we have seen over the last 9 months how the community pulls together when someone dies. The ladies at the community hall set up the tables, get food donations and prepare the reception so that on the day of the funeral the family has nothing else to worry about. Everyone pulls together - it reminds me of how I grew up;  the church ladies would put on a spread and the chapel was prepared for the service. It is the same thing here but it is the community and the church is an old Baptist church across the street.

Of course we don't know many people out here so we have not attended any services, until last week. Our neighbour and new friends had the grandfather and father of their family pass away on Monday; Tuesday the hall was set up and the funeral was held on Wednesday. This all seems so fast to me since I am used the delays that occur in the city. It can be a week or more before there is a service and internment. Not here, it all happens fast. I am guessing this goes back to the old days when you couldn't keep a body long and needed to get it into the ground.

Our road, Forest City runs up to Route 122 which if you turn right, leads you to the Lower Fosterville cemetery and if you turn left you see the old church, the community hall and the Upper Fosterville cemetery. Yes, there are two cemeteries and I am not sure how you decide which one to go into but I guess there are likely family plots. We didn't attend the internment but we did go to the service and to the reception for a few minutes to pay our respects. 

I have to admit I do not enter churches often, but I did last week. I love old churches. I have always wanted to photograph them and make a coffee table book of country churches across Canada. The history seems so alive in them. These are not the giant churches where you feel small when you enter or are overwhelmed by the money that has been sunk into them; no these are down home, country praying, community gathering, school house churches. You know when you enter the country church that families have spent their whole lives there, marrying, baptizing and burying their loved ones. I can almost see pioneers like the Ingalls family gathering together, discussing the week and finding out how their neighbours are. This is true Canadiana.

One of our local volunteer fire captains had explained there would be a fireman's honour guard for the man who passed since he had spent part of his life as a volunteer. The current firemen from our hall and some from the Canterbury fire hall members arrive dressed in their finest and they offered one last thank you for the  man's service in this life to his community. I had no idea that this was done. I do know that volunteer firemen are undervalued - maybe because people know them in their everyday lives, but when those fire calls come - and they do, they put down everything they are doing and race to help their neighbours. These men and some women, do deserve a big thank you - everyday - SO THANK YOU to my local Volunteer Fire Department - I want you there should I ever need you!

Unfortunately we arrived too late to view the honour guard but we arrived in time to see a little church that was jam packed with people. We waited in the foyer for a seat and let others sit before us since we were very peripheral guests. The family (about 30 or more of them) waited downstairs and after they came in and took their seats we were able to get a seat in a pew by the window. I was glad to have the window seat as we were in tight next to others. Len made do, but I am sure he was fine with it since he had the lovely me on one side and a pretty younger woman on the other. The poor man, what he suffers for me!

As I sat in the pew, looking out the window toward my home and glancing around at the old church, I felt a sense of peace, community and calmness. I don't think most of us take time to appreciate the simple things in life, take in the moment we are in and enjoy the feelings that overcome us. I sat their and felt compassion and empathy for the grieving family, pleasure at the fact that so many people came out to honour the man who had passed and happiness that people still took the time to offer their support to others in their time of need.

The church was simple but beautiful. The old wooden pews, dark wainscoting on the walls, a few pictures of biblical moments on the walls, nothing whatsoever ostentatious, just a pretty country church. I fell in love with the large stained glass window that adorned the church and was placed directly behind the pulpit and although it was a bit of a gray day, the moments the sun shone through were magnificent.

The service began and I enjoyed watching the elderly pastor as he welcomed us, paid his respects to the family and the grandfather who had passed away; thoroughly enjoyed the old country church song sung by an elderly couple as the husband played guitar - kind of an old time country from the 40's and 50's sound; and the wonderful eulogy offered by the man's daughter in law. Then the sermon began.

Please don't take this with any disrespect, the pastor is a sweet old man and I did enjoy listening to him for awhile. (I say old which I am guessing is true since it is 2011 and he also served here as pastor from 1948-52... You guess, I am thinking 90 years old or so?) I think he was fine, although perhaps a little repetitive and his voice wandered a tad... About the third time he mentioned Jesus feeding the masses with bread and fish, I did let my mind wander and start to think about how he cooked the fish. Did he bread it and spice it? Was it just ok to eat raw since Jesus prepared it? Was I thinking too much about the details? I also had to nudge Len every so often to wake him since if he started to snore or fart, I felt that might be considered rude. About a half hour or so later, the sermon was done and the service was nearing an end. There was a final song - an interesting old time version of Amazing Grace to guitar that I hadn't ever heard, but it seemed apropro. It was a funeral, all was well, I just think the pastor might be near the end of his sermoning days... No disrespect intended!

Len and I chose not to go to the internment, that is something to me that seems really for those directly involved and I didn't want to feel we were invading their space. I know in my life, even when I can hold my grief together at a service, when I go to the cemetery, my emotions are hard to contain. I do think that is a time for family and dearest friends only. We wandered over to the community hall and tried to help a little with the last minute preparations, coffee out, uncover food, etc. I took a few minutes to introduce myself again to some people I had seen but not met and Len and I grabbed a hot cup of joe to take off the chill.

Overall, I can see myself ending in this way. Where my family doesn't have to worry about little details, the community supports each other and everyone does what they can to help out. This little piece of Canadiana touched me deeply and I am so grateful that I could be a part of it. Thank you for asking me to make fresh buns, I was glad to do something. I do express my condolences to the family and loved ones and my admiration to the community for helping each other out when in need. Thank you Fosterville for sharing yet another memorable moment with me!

I know my nonreligious friends may not enjoy this blog and my believing friends and family may find me sacrilegious. Please remember these are my thoughts, feelings and experiences and we may not always agree but I hope that the emotion and human content comes through and overrides your potential assumptions about my belief system. I love you all!

ONE LAST THING! Today is Sunday, April 17, 2011 and it is my Daddy's birthday!
Happy Birthday Dad! Love you lots, Toot!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Golden Unicorn and Websites

We invite you to check out our new websites!
Golden Unicorn Farm     Everything you wanted to know about our farm!
Golden Unicorn Art Gallery   Live any day - Len's art and writing
Golden Unicorn Web Design     Need a website? Call Sarah

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Big Fat Farm Life


If ever there was a time that I felt like I belonged somewhere it was last Friday at the Farmer’s Market in Woodstock, New Brunswick. We were running late (as seems to happen to us) and when we arrived about an hour later than usual we had already missed some customers who had come to buy our product. It is unfortunate that we missed them, yet at the same time I felt good they had come early to see us! My bread specifically! We were welcomed warmly upon arrival, a few jibes about being late, as well as some concern that we were ok and going to be there.
Of course Glenn was sure to tell me he knew I was coming, he could count on me, he just also knew I work on my own time clock. I laughed and told him “Hey, I did not move all the way across the country, from a busy urban life, to a quiet rural life, to rush for ANYONE! My new life involved being more laidback.” He replied with something to the effect of “with my time clock, I couldn’t be much more laid back.” I told him, that is why I always liked to be the boss at work, no one to question me! It was all in good fun and I know that he was glad to have us there.
Since I started to work with Glenn he has helped me and Len in more ways than I can say. He has given us farming tips and advice; he has given us materials and supplies to get started; he has given me some bake ware to run my little baking operation; he has even given us an old barn! Len has to tear it down and rebuild it, but it is a huge god send and we are incredibly grateful for it. There is an amazing 50 year plus steel roof with little rust, which with that alone we are ahead, yet there is also plenty of useable recyclable lumber to build our own barn. Just today I was telling a neighbour I don’t know how we will get it all done when she suggested a good old fashioned barn raising! How cool is that? And us not even Amish!
Glenn was also instrumental in getting us involved in the farm market. Without his nagging and pestering us we wouldn’t have followed through. Here we are, signed up for our second month, asked to join the farm market board (which we politely declined – still in volunteer rehab!) and we are having great success at the weekly market. PLUS it is lots of fun!
              As if that was not enough, we had a lovely newspaper article written about us that brought in new customers. We were filmed by a journalist student as part of his story on the market – it may or may not be played on TV and we have gained a steady customer base week by week. I plan to do it as long as it is fun and successful, so expect to see us for a long time to come! I have met some sweet people at the market, customers and vendors as well as the remarkable Ramona the market manager. What more could I ask for?
              Well, I didn’t ask, but I guess I had mentally “put it out there” and it came to me. Since working with Glenn and Edna I have had the pleasure of using a large floor model bakery size professional Hobart mixer. I know it is a sin to covet something, but I did. I coveted that mix master that holds about 20 quarts and was so heavy duty it requires oil changes and two people to move it. I knew it was not something I could ever afford but thought I would start to keep my eye out for a used one. Just Friday morning I had told Len and Glenn how much I liked it and thought I had to get one some day. Glenn told me how much they liked theirs and how much use Edna had got out of it over the years. Up to this point I have been making everything completely by hand. Mixing, shaping, kneading, etc. I really like the kneading part too!
              Well on Friday my coveting was rewarded! Mmm maybe it isn’t a sin? Or maybe it depends on what you covet? (I can assure you I did NOT covet my neighbours wife! Just his mixing machine!) I received an enormous gift from a couple that I have grown fond of very quickly. They come say hello to us every week; they always buy some of my baking and apparently they helped to found the market 30 years ago. They have since retired, no more baking of their own to sell and all of the animals gone. They have downsized and moved into town and no longer have need of… Have you guessed? YES! They are GIVING me a Hobart bakery quality heavy duty professional mixer!!! No, it is not brand new, but that is ok – saves me $3,000+ to buy one! Keith wrote a tremendous story about us a few weeks ago and Ellen comes and gives me support and positive feedback – now this! A gift from heaven or at least heavenly people!
              I was so excited, at first I thought she was offering to sell it to me and I said YES!!!! I will buy it! Ellen proceeded to explain the history of the machine, how it started in a bakery, then a family member had it, then it was hers and she baked with it for the market, they tried to return it but the family member could no longer use it. (They even drove it all the way to Philadelphia to give it back, took up a huge section of their minivan – and the owner didn’t pick it up, so they came home again with it.) Now she said, she would like to see it used by someone who would care for and appreciate it – she is even throwing in some tried, tested and true recipes! My day went from running behind, to feeling good to absolutely marvellous! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Keith and Ellen! I can’t wait to pick it up and clean it up for use. The Hobart machine shall remain in my kitchen until I can no longer bake and pass it on to some other baker who will use it well.
              Back to reality, we left Woodstock about 1:30pm Friday, April 1 and drove to the border crossing. We were driving home via Houlton and had to fuel up. As we left Woodstock there were a few snowflakes tumbling down. We approached the border crossing and the snow was heavier but it was a bit windy and it wasn’t sticking to the ground. We went to Houlton, got fuel and picked up a few things. In less than a half hour the snow went from not sticking to sticking hard and fast. Before we even left to hit the highway home (normally about a 40 minute drive) the roads were slick and covered. About 10 minutes out of town we were following a vehicle that travelled about 50kmh and we were glad to have him in front of us. 10 more minutes and he pulled over, he no longer wanted to lead and I was stuck out front, with little visual, unable to see more than about 30 feet ahead of me, no snow plow or tracks to follow and I concentrated on staying in the centre of the road.
              It was scary. Len and I watched ahead as I reduced speed to about 40kmh and plowed the road ahead of me with my tires. The snow was about 8 inches deep or more on the road. We had to make the turn left from Hwy 1 to Boundary Rd. to head to the border crossing. It was close, we almost made it, but we slipped and slid and managed to hang over to the edge of the road/ditch. Fortunately we were far enough over, even though we crossed the road sideways to allow the SUV that was following us to get by. They couldn’t stop to help us, even if they wanted to, or they might not get any further.
              We were discouraged and tried to manoeuvre the truck out, to no avail. Luckily a pick up came by about 5 minutes later and the kind Samaritan hooked the chain to the front of the truck and gave us a pull. Neither we nor he were confident it would work, but happily it did. I drove the next 3 miles very slowly and carefully and again had (now about 10 inches of snow) to plow a track to move on. I was so thankful to see the border crossing ahead.
              We pulled up to the border crossing with the expectation that with the awful weather, blizzard in fact, snow covered roads and time of day that we would be waved through fairly perfunctorily. No. THIS was the day that our friendly Fosterville border crossing guard decided to search our truck. We have been going through 1-4x a month for 8 months and today, amidst the storm, we were searched. They went through our grocery receipt, searched between the seats, in the console, the glove compartment, opened my purse and looked through, opened the canopy and searched the driver’s area. Yay. It was one of the moments that you were indebted to the universe for telling me NOT to smuggle, not to give inaccurate or incomplete answers and for helping me be an honest person. Whew!
              As if this was not enough, the private contractor was busy plowing the parking area for the border personnel and we could not drive forward. The contractor was not looking around, simply plowing the area. The guard asked us to please pull out and drive away. We politely refused since there was no way we needed to get hit by that machine. They thought we would be ok, no thank you we replied. They had to finally ask him to stop so we could leave. Duh?! Of course this left us with a slow moving truck headed up an unplowed, slippery hill… again, we were stuck.
              Yes this was a fun day! I had to keep reminding myself how happy I was about the gift I was being given… my Hobart machine! Take a breath, keep the wheels slow, put it into first gear and , yes, have my 69 year old husband with his bad back, stand on the road, in the snow… pushing the truck! Oh! Why did our 4x4 NOT work??? We made it home, barely, as we inched up our hill and literally slid off the road into our yard, I said “this looks like a good spot to park!”  By now our 40 minute drive had taken an hour and a half, we had gone off the road twice, been searched and got out of the truck to about a foot of snow around our legs…
              The girls arrived home about 40 minutes later than usual and told us how the bus driver had yet again kept them safe… Thank you MaryEllen! Glenn called later that night to make sure we were ok, he is well versed in our truck troubles. Thank you Glenn. Anita messaged me later to make sure we got home ok, Thank you Anita! I love my neighbourhood and neighbours! Yes, my friends and family back home would have done the same thing and checked on us, but we are the new family (probably for the next 100 years) and to have been so wonderfully accepted so quickly – that is the biggest gift of all!

Well at least we didn't get two feet of snow! I guess it will be another month before my crocus’, daffodils and tulips push up out of the ground! Happy Spring New Brunswick!