Monthly Archives: May 2011

One of ‘Those’ Days

I know that two posts in one day is sort of overdoing it, but this was too good not to share.

I have complained in the past about the fact that people have started calling me Ma’am.  I don’t feel old enough to deserve Ma’am, I still feel like a Miss or a Honey, but not a Ma’am.  Ma’am for me is a lady wearing a house dress and carrying a very large purse with curlers in her hair. 

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But this afternoon I was called ‘Sir’.

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I held the door for a man, and he said ‘Thankyou Sir…..oops, I mean Ma’am’.

Well, I don’t think I deserve Sir either.  Obviously a Sir would be a guy.  Probably with more facial hair than me, but some might dispute this.  If I didn’t have a sense of humor I would be having a very bad day right now.

It was bad enough to say ‘Thankyou Sir’.  But to follow with … ‘Oops, I mean Ma’am’ … just made it so much worse.

If you find yourself referring to a Miss as a Sir, just leave it go.  Don’t draw attention to the fact that you just called her a man.  Let her assume that she must have heard you wrong because she is clearly very feminine and no one would actually refer to her as Sir.

This person who called me Sir is also a doctor.  A very very old doctor whose vision is obviously failing.  Or maybe he just slept through that one anatomy class.

It has been a fantastic and hilarious day.  I am so glad that I get to share it with you.  Hope you laughed.

“Keep smiling – it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to.”     – Unknown

<Terra>

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Training Chickens

Who says chickens are dumb? ….well, that might have been me…..but a funny thing happened this morning that makes me wonder if maybe chickens are just pretending to be dumb so that we don’t expect too much of them.

Why did the chickens cross the road?

We have always had chickens around on our farm.  We occasionally raise broilers for ourselves and a few neighbors so that we can have big fat turkey sized chickens to eat in the fall.  We always have a few hens around.  We call them laying hens, which would lead you to believe that they lay eggs.  However,  most of them are now so geriatric that it’s cause for celebration when we do find the occasional egg in our barn.  I think senility may also be a problem for some of these old ladies, because occasionally we will find an egg that was layed beside the road, or near the watering bowl.  It’s as if they couldn’t remember why they came to this spot in the yard, so decided that it must have been to lay an egg.  We even found one right outside our kitchen door a few weeks ago.  That was great, I thought that the hens had decided to start delivering their produce to our house.  Turns out I was wrong, it only happened once.  She probably forgot why she was there.

In the past, we have just fed our chickens regular chicken food that we buy at the Co-Op farm supply store.  We would occasionally throw them some garden scraps when we thought of it, but they have mostly just had full access to bagged chicken feed.  Not too exciting.

For the past two weeks I have made a conscious effort to put all the breakfast scraps and watermelon rinds into an old bucket and throw them to the chickens in the morning after the kids leave for school.  In the beginning I noticed that they really seemed to like this.  There was a lot of crowing and clucking whenever I came with my yellow bucket.

As the days progressed, I noticed that the chickens would start getting excited when I was in the yard.  They are in a fenced in area, but if they want to they can apparently fly right over the gate if they think you might have a treat for them. 

Well, now it’s gotten out of control.  If the chickens hear a human voice in our yard they come over the fence and follow you around just waiting for you to give them a treat.  I had no idea that chickens were this easy to train!

This morning, two of our kids had just walked out the door to leave for school when the phone rang.   “Mom, can you come do something about your chickens?  They have surrounded my truck and two of them are underneath it, I don’t want to run them over.”

I went to the window to see our 11-year-old daughter trying with very little success to chase senile old hens away from her brother’s truck.  It was the funniest thing I have seen so far today.  Our border collie was trying his best to help her, but he has very little effect on these old girls.  I have seen them chase him away from his own food dish.

I picked up my scrap bucket and walked out to the yard.  Sure enough, they all came running … except one, who had forgotten why she was there.

<Terra>

Raised Beds

After two years without a garden, we are having one this year. At our new place we have decided to try raised beds. I am quite excited to discover how they work as they are supposed to be easier to maintain. Hopefully this means I can keep the weeds under control. Always a challenge. It so happens that we have a large supply of old planks and that is what we used to make the beds. We planted lettuce, carrots, beets, swiss chard, onions. We are also going to plant tomatoes, corn and peas.  Along with fencing and landscaping there is a long list of projects.

-Kelly

Raised garden beds

Strike Action

Go to fullsize imageThe teachers at our schools are negotiating for a new contract.  The new contract that they are proposing includes asking for a wage increase.  So far the parties involved have not been able to come to a mutually acceptable agreement, and as a result there will be strike action again this week.

Let me start by saying that we do not have a child who is worried about graduation this year, and both of our kids feel relatively secure with the marks they have, so this strike action is met with a great big ‘YES!’ from both parents and the kids in our house.  From the kids because they are dreaming about sleeping in followed by movies and get togethers with friends on the days when they get to miss school.  From the parents because it’s spring and we know that there will be no sleeping in for them, but rather they will be building fences, moving cattle and mowing grass.  Yay!!  Take all the days you need teachers because we can use those kids here.

While it’s true that I feel relatively at ease with the thought of strike action by the teachers, I do of course have some opinions on strike action and unions in general…..here I go, wading in where I don’t belong….

There are teachers out there, and they are the majority, who are fantastic.  These are the teachers who inspire their students to think and to learn.  They instill a sense of value in these kids and they make them feel great about themselves, their accomplishments, and what they are about to achieve. 

We have been fortunate to have had many great teachers involved in our kids’ lives.  They are the ones who have encouraged our kids to call on them when they need help, rather than suggesting we hire a tutor at the first sign of trouble.  They are the ones who have instilled a keen interest in politics in our daughter…who now thinks that being the Prime Minister would be a great job for her when she grows up.  Look out Mr. Harper.  They are the ones who are enthusiastic about the subjects they teach, like the science teacher who went through the middle school lockers in search of the source of a fruit fly infestation, and upon finding the mummified banana underneath the moldy sandwiches and lost papers, showed the class the different stages of fruit fly development in the banana.  They are the ones who ask if our kids are happy.  They are the ones who ask about their previous students who have moved on to other schools.  They help their students understand that they are capable of great things.  They celebrate their successes with us.  They put in that bit of extra effort, and they deserve all the money we can throw at them.  I would not only support raises for these teachers, but I would organize fundraisers to ensure they got all the money and extras that they could possibly want, because my kids’ future is that important.  I think that most parents feel this way about these teachers, and it is my opinion that without unions, these teachers would be paid more.           

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But then…..there are other teachers.  These are the ones who tear up a 9-year-old kid’s homework in front of his class because he did the wrong page.  These are the ones who throw a kid’s shoes at him from across the full classroom because he didn’t have them on his feet.  These are the teachers who encourage other members of the students’ class to kick him if his laces aren’t tied.  These are the teachers who say it’s OK that a student didn’t get an answer correct because she’s blonde.  These are the teachers who I can’t get a meeting with at any time because they always have appointments at 3:45.  The same teacher that I still run into years later already a block south of the school at 3:32.  These are the teachers who will sit in the staff room and brag about being paid to sit in there while I volunteer for a track meet on a rainy windy day….and yes, he said that to me.  This is the teacher who gave a 0% for the more than required volunteer hours a student completed for phys ed class because she didn’t think that volunteering at a riding arena was sports related.  Not 60%, not 40%, but 0%.  These are the teachers who do not build up our childrens’ self-esteem.  These are the teachers who spend more time focussing their classrooms on the negative than the positive outcomes of students.  These are the teachers who are not only undeserving of a raise, but they don’t deserve the money they are currently getting, and should be fired.  I think that most parents feel this way about these teachers, and it is my opinion that without unions, these teachers would be fired.

But what would happen to our overcrowded classrooms if we fire these few abhorrent teachers?  It is my opinion that with the union out of the way, some teachers would be fired and others would flee like rats from a sinking ship, but these numbers would be very few.  The majority of the teachers would stay and because they are doing a fabulous job, would be paid much more than they are being paid now.   This increase in pay would attract more people to the teaching profession.  As a result of the positive influence on their students, we would have more successful students.  These now more successful students would add teaching to their future career plans because they would have had positive experiences in school, and of course, now teachers would be getting adequate pay. 

Rose colored glasses?  Perhaps.   I know that teaching is a very difficult job.  After one hour of volunteering in an elementary school, I usually have a headache and need a little nap.   If you are a positive teacher who doesn’t feel support from the parents of the students in your class, just know that we aren’t objecting to your raise.  We simply cannot get the image of that homework ripping teacher out of our minds.  We know that they get the raise too.   They will continue to leave at 3:30 every day and never be discounted for the damage that he or she hands down to the students.    This is a very small percentage of teachers, but they are there and that small percentage ‘holds back the rest of the class’.

I look forward to the resolution that will come for the teachers in our schools.  I will celebrate and be totally in favor of compensating the teachers for all of the positive things that they do for our kids.   For the teachers whose influence on our children is negative, I look forward to the day when you become more accountable for your actions….and in the meantime, enjoy your raise.

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn”           – John Lubbock

<Terra>

Pondering

I am reading the book I bought at the recent Women’s Conference by one of the keynote speakers, Linda Edgecombe. It is called Shift, or Get Off the Pot. You  can tell she has a terrific sense of humor. She talks about the importance of this in the book. Humor and laughter help keep us healthy and happy. On a slightly different note, I have been pondering the importance of setting goals and developing a plan. We talk about the importance of having a vision and knowing where you want to go, then figuring out how to get there. But as with many things, I am beginning to think for me it is about balance. It is important to know what you are working towards and know ways that will help you get there. At the same time, some of us (read me) can lose sight of enjoying and being in the moment. We keep looking down the road, not stoppping to enjoy the walk, ride, run or drive.  One example of this is in our yard development.  I am struggling with visualizing the completed project, way down the road. But I can definitely envision the next step. In this way the yard grows and develops in ways that perhaps you wouldn’t thought of originally. And a yard is mulitdimensional. On paper, a fence may look to be in a perfect spot. But when you actually get out there and start pounding posts, things may change and evolve. In other words have something that you are working towards but don’t forget about enjoying the journey. Certainly not something new but a thought I seem to be pondering.

-Kelly

“Remember your attitude affects how you experience your life,” Linda Edgecombe.

Learning the Ropes

We had the privilege of travelling north this weekend to watch a group of young people show off their newly developed roping skills.

Grandparents in lawn chairs watching 4-H

It was our 4-H club’s first achievement day of the year.  It was beautiful and sunny out, a perfect day to sit on the hillside and watch what the kids have learned through the winter.                                                                                                   

Our youngest son is in roping 4-H.  He is a great help at brandings as part of the ground crew – which means that he is strong enough to restrain calves on the ground and be subject to all the head butting and face kicking that a calf can dish out.  I think he has been watching the ropers sitting calmly on their horses and has decided that he would rather be up there.

He had the trailer hooked up, the horse saddled and ready to go and we were on the road in plenty of time to arrive at the arena by 1:00.  Except that I had the time wrong, and roping didn’t start until 2:00.  So, he had plenty of time to warm up his horse…

…and have a little nap in the back of his truck until the others arrived.

'Friday' is wondering if he's done for the day too.

One of the reasons that 4-H is so great is because all different ages of young people learn a skill together. 

Even the moms got to have a try. 

I got third place…..out of 4…..and I may have cheated a little.

Thanks to the adults who have volunteered their time and their skills to teach our kids.  We are so fortunate to have these role models in our kids’ lives who are willing to take them on and show an interest in their development.  

“Learn to do by doing”   –   4-H motto

<Terra>

Busy

I am happy to say that the sun has come out, the grass is starting to grow and the leaves are slowly bursting out of the tiny shells that had kept them protected all winter long.

Lambing is finished, (6 lambs from 3 ewes…..a bumper crop!) and calving has begun.  We custom graze cattle in the summer, so a few hundred yearling heifers arrived yesterday.  The grass is growing in the pastures which is great, but also on our lawn, and slowly creeping onto the driveways and flower beds, which is less great.  The weeds are growing too. 

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You might be sensing it already, but with spring comes a certain amount of pressure for many of us.  As I look out my office window this morning, I first can see a lawn that will very soon need mowing.  Looking just a little further there is a garden that needs to have the remnants of last years’ veggies cleaned up so I can begin planting enough to feed a small army again this year.  

I see the wheel barrow that I have propped up against the chicken barn door.  This is to remind me that I need to get in there and scoop, scrape and shovel a winter’s worth of chicken poop.  Great job.  One of my favorites………..to pass off to someone else.  However, over the years everyone has caught on to the fact that I am probably the only one here who wants chickens, and therefore it’s only reasonable that I should clean the barn.  Fantastic. 

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Maybe I can start selling to Walgreens?

Leaving the yard, I will drive past a few miles of barbed wire fencing in need of repair.  We had lots of beautiful snow last winter, beautiful snow that was apparently really heavy and strong enough to pull down fences in certain areas.  Better add that to my list.

In a few weeks our kids will be involved in 4-H expo.  Expo is where all the 4-H clubs in our area get together for the weekend to display what they have learned through the winter.  This means there are horses to deworm, vaccinate, trim, bathe and of course ride to make sure they are well-trained in the fine art of not bucking off their riders or kicking out at other horses who may crowd them a bit in the show ring. 

Ooh, thinking about 4-H expo reminds me that I better get our old motor home ready to spend the weekend in town.  We have a 1985 Frontier motor home that gets pulled out of the shop and spruced up every spring so that it’s ready for camping at 4-H, as well as for impromptu drives to B.C. and Yellowstone Park.  We lovingly call our motor home ‘the big rolling turd’.  It’s a bit small for our family, and it lacks air conditioning or any amount of class, but we love it. 

So far today the list goes like this –

  • check the cows for any new calves
  • check the heifers and make sure the electric fence is hot
  • clean the chicken barn
  • repair the barbed wire that has been pulled down by snow
  • pull out the old garden and rototill the soil
  • catch horses for riding tonight
  • charge the battery on the motor home
  • make sure the motor home is ‘town worthy’    ie: screen door not falling off, tires not flat
  • laundry, supper, and all other house things that just magically happen

Don’t be fooled.  This won’t all be accomplished today.  It’s possible that some of it won’t be accomplished this summer. 

We all have these kinds of lists, everyone keeps busy.  We sometimes complain, but when you think about it we make time to do the things that we love.  It might not seem like some of these chores are things we love, but they are.  We might not love doing the laundry but we do love having clean clothes, so it gets done.  I might not love cleaning the chicken barn, but I do love fresh eggs, so it gets done. 

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I will just tackle one job at a time, and with practice will remain mindful of the reasons I have chosen to do them.  Sometimes my husband and I are a team working on these jobs together.  It’s like a date.  Or, maybe less like a date and more like a comedic event but in any case it will be enjoyable…..hopefully.

Go to fullsize image                                                    Ha ha….ya….that’s not us.

So, with that I guess I better get out of my electric pajamas (see ‘sparks’ post), and go outside.  I wish you luck with your lists today.

“You owe it to everyone you love (including yourself) to find pockets of tranquility in your busy world.”  – Unknown

<Terra>

Prairie Feast

For local food enthusiasts,  Prairie Feast,  by Amy Jo Ehman is an entertaining read. Long before, the 100 mile diet was popular, Ehman, a Saskatchewan born writer decided to eat local for a year. There were a few exceptions to the rule, coffee being one and leeway when dining at restaurants or friends. For the most part, however, Ehman and her husband ate food from Saskatchewan for 365 days. The book is filled with adventures of gathering the food, as well as, memories of her growing up on the farm.  It is well written and also includes recipes.

– Kelly

“My favorite animal is a steak,” Fran Lebowitz.

Great day in Vermilion

We had a great day yesterday in Vermilion at the 4th Annual Womens’ Conference, put on by the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce. The day was set up with two speakers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with lunch in between. The morning speaker was Barbara Madduck from Saskatoon. She focussed on health, wellness and self care. She had loads of great tips and stressed that our health changes should be practical. “Set realistic goals!” she emphasized. “And get moving. Anything is better than nothing.” Madduck recommended following the 80/20 rule. If you are making positive change 80% of the time you will see real progress.

Linda Edgecombe

 

 The afternoon speaker was Linda Edgecombe, a life perspective specialist with a great sense of humour, lindaedgecombe.com. She asked many questions: “When was the last time you did something for the first time? How old are your stories? What does happiness mean to you? Are you on the deferred life plan? What is your energy like? How are you doing? When was the last time all your stars aligned? ” She suggests the key to our success is self-awareness. “Those who live according to their values are the most likely to be in balance, “she said. Linda also has a project rescuing young girls from child slavery in Nepal and getting them into school. She shared many funny stories but also provided some reflection exercises. It was a fabulous conference with lots of pearls of wisdom.

-Kelly

“Do not let what you can’t do, hold you back from doing what you can,” Linda Edgecombe

Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Spaghettini

This is the most awesome dish ever!

One time, Kelly and I went to a restaurant somewhere in Edmonton and I ordered a pasta dish that was the best thing I had ever eaten.  I can remember what the restaurant looked like, I can remember what kind of day it was outside, I can even remember that it was not an exclusive place but rather a nice kind of franchise restaurant like Earl’s or something like that.  However, for the life of me I can’t remember what the restaurant was called!

So the search began over the next one or two years, hitting various Joey Tomatoes, Earls, Montana’s but the pasta dish was never to be found.

However, I have found a recipe that is exactly as good.  It’s so close to the dish I ate at the forgotten restaurant that it may even be the recipe they used. 

The recipe originally came out of a Canadian Living magazine, and I have just made a few changes to it.  It’s really easy:

  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
  • 4 tsp olive oil (or canola oil…it’s more locally grown here)
  • 1 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced and drained oil packed sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine           (and 1 full cup for yourself)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 12 oz (a big fistful or two) of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 5 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Brown and cook the chicken in the oven until no pink remains.  Sprinkle with a bit of the salt and pepper.  Cut into pieces.  Add the oil to the pan and cook the onion over medium heat until brown, about 5 min.  Stir in the tomatoes and the garlic; cook for 1 minute.  Stir in chicken broth and wine, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.  Stir in butter.  Return chicken and any juices to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until el dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain and return to the pot, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  • Toss in spinach, chicken mixture and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to coat.  Sprinkle with feta.  Enjoy!!

 <Terra>