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!