Monday, November 5, 2012

Hunting Season Again

I know it's hunting season because bottles of wine are starting to arrive at our front door. That, and I have to go walking with a fluorescent orange jacket, so that the hunters have to aim to hit me.

I'm not a hunter; neither is the Farmer. However, we have several hundred acres of woods giving lots of hiding space to crop-eating deer. There are no natural predators. The deer eat a LOT of corn.

Coming from the city, I was in the "Don't Shoot Bambi" camp. Barbaric, old-fashioned... whatever. I just saw a facebook post in response to a hunter who enjoys it. "Barbaric" was the response. I wondered, almost publicly, if she eats meat. And how she gets it. Wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam plate?

Moving to the Gravel Road, I've had to think about hunting, if for no other reason than it's a common practice and hunters ask permission to hunt on our land. We say yes. Here's why. For the Record.

  1. The hunters ask permission.
  2. They say thank you afterwards. They truly appreciate the privilege. They used to offer us some of the meat, but I'm vegetarian and The Farmer doesn't like venison. They bring wine now, instead!
  3. They take out what they take in and look out for the property.
  4. They follow the rules: wear orange, get the tags, share the space.
  5. The equipment is not hi-tech. Let me rephrase. They don't use high-power rifles. They use bows and black powder guns. These pieces ARE high tech, but they can't simply aim and fire. And that's intentional. Hunters do have to work for their prey.
  6. They use all of the animal.
  7. Unlike meat eaters in the city, who buy meat that someone else has killed, butchered and packaged, the hunters have caught their own meat. It's free range, organic and, frankly, natural.
  8. The hunters help keep the deer population in check.

I'm still not a fan of hunting and will never hunt unless I have to in order to eat; however, the hunters are welcome here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Customizing Your Outdoor Office

My large covered porch has a winter west wind protective wall. The Farmer put it up to keep the drifts and mounds of snow off. The drifts and mounds of snow never materialised, but my Cubby Corner, as I call it, is a bit of a greenhouse and I've been sitting outside for about a month and I've positioned a patio table so that I can hook up to hydro, have a view out to the yard and work with the sounds of nature surrounding me.

And I'm protected from the drifts and mounds of sand and dirt that inevitably blow around. Rain is kept at bay. I'm not bothered by the sounds of the house—the fan, the fridge, the corn stove— and I know my brain is in good shape because of the cacophony of birds that live around us. I have fresh air that's always in movement.

My Cubby Corner also lets me easily get out for a walk when I need it. (read more about that here, on my creativity and full-life living blog)

How to make it work:

  1. Grab the table you never put away last fall. Give it a good clean (pretty much each day: there's still dirt, no matter what) and put a tablecloth on it. It'll give you a little space to spread out.
  2. Roll out your good desk chair. Yeah, go ahead. It makes a difference.
  3. Make use of a basket or two. I have one for pens, pencils, post-its, erasers, paper clips, a cordless phone, scissors and the little notebook that holds all my passwords, because darned if I can remember them all. The other contains the files of work. Or the pile of paper you've been moving from one corner of your desk to the other.
  4. An extension cord and hydro outlet for your electronics.
  5. I've got a clock. I could use the one on the laptop, but... what do you do when you've closed it down? It lets me know in no uncertain times that I've spent way too much time trying to make a 40 point word with three consonants in Scrabble.
  6. A blanket is nice for those coolish mornings, although I wait at least until it's 5 degrees before setting up.
  7. It's a perfect place for a pot of tea. If you keep a separate little chair (mine's a purple beach chair) you can do your serious reading and cat cuddling there. Within a few weeks I will also be sleeping on the porch, so an afternoon nap is just steps away.
  8. At the end of the day... grab your baskets, yank the chair back up over the door ledge.
  9. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bowling for a Husband

On this day, in 1994, I met my husband. Bowling. At a singles club.

I'd seen an ad for The Single Gourmet in the paper. A singles club? Ugh! Knowing that thinking about it would stop me, I shut that part of my brain off and called.  I paid $60 for the first three months' trial membership and $19.95 for the bowling evening. I didn't have a car, so the club owner picked me up.

Rick looked like a tweedy history professor. Long hair, jeans, tweed jacket, cotton shirt, beard, glasses. He was on my bowling team. He and one of the other guys spent much of the evening showing off. I wasn't impressed. After bowling they were all heading off to a singles bar. Really? I shut my brain off. "Just go," I told myself. I knew I had to get a ride quick. He was the first person I saw.

His Bonneville had all kinds of bells and lights and whistles. Still not impressed. The bar was a few miles away, to the west. He turned east out of the parking lot towards the outskirts of the city.... I kept an eye on the doors and mentally figured out the best way out of the car should a problem arise. We got talking about cycling and things turned out, well, fine.

When I asked him to marry me, four and a half weeks later, he said, "Sure. Why not?"

I started moving boxes in at the end of March.

Between then and July of 1995 life went a little like this:

I was teaching full-time in the city and at the end of June, I was heading into a full year's leave. I had already booked my summer holidays in British Columbia and had rented a friend's house on Cortes Island for two months starting in September. Plus, there was Music Camp in August. Neither of us suggested that I give this up.

The Farmer (Farmer Rick)... well, he had to plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. Neither of us suggest he give that up either.

Between the end of June and the beginning of November, I was on the Gravel Road for about three weeks. My boxes remained strewn about the house; however, as the house was in such a state of elegant unfinishedness there wasn't anywhere to put much.

We took our honeymoon in February in Jamaica. (no, you haven't missed anything: we did the honeymoon first when flights were cheap)

Through the winter, Farmer Rick became Builder Rick and he toiled away on the house. We had no kitchen to speak of. All the pots, pans and dishes languished on my old steel storage shelves in the vestibule.  We ate every conceivably remotely healthy microwaveable dinner. I remember the excitement the day my 500 sq ft studio/office was officially ready! The renos? A whole other story.
Spring came, I planted a garden and Farmer Rick planted the farm and kept on with the house.
The wedding was set for July 22. The water in the kitchen taps came on on July 19.

We went all out for the wedding, which wasn't a 'real' wedding. We're not 'really' married. We wanted to have great food and great photography. We ditched all the pricey doodads and party favours, the showers and a host of other traditional stuff, because we thought they were a colossal waste.

Farmer Rick wore shorts and a brand new short sleeved white shirt from Mark's. I re-dyed my favourite white sandals, had my hair up and a summer dress, sewn by a friend. Guests brought their own lawn chair and sat in a circle on the front lawn. We were in the middle of a major heat wave, but we'd planned things so the sun would be behind some tall trees.

We had pastas and salads catered, guests boiled their own corn on the cob in a black pot over a fire, and a couple of friends offered to barbeque the chicken.  I knew the Chocolate Mousse wedding cake with butter cream icing and raspberries  (thanks Canadian Living) would be excellent because Doreen and I had baked a trial cake a few weeks earlier. Dad went out that morning to collect the fresh raspberries.

Friends tell us it was the most unique wedding they'd been to.

Eighteen years later, this is still pretty much how we roll. Things are pretty casual and easy going. A little atypical in many ways.

The renos on the house continue. We haven't been bowling.

Friday, November 18, 2011

One Week, Dollars Richer

No shopping for a week? What's a brain to do without its dopamine rush?

Last night, after a chiro appointment, I went to White Oaks Mall in South London. Haven't been there for ages— I'm not much of a mall rat. But the place is decorated to the hilt with Christmas, which means abundance of colour, texture, scents, sounds.... and STUFF. Piles and Piles of stuff. Beautiful things, rich textures, heavenly scents, beautifully laid out. Stuff that BEGS to be bought.

Which, of course, is the point. And which, being on a 30 day spending fast, I didn't. I meandered, wandered, walked slowly around the whole darn mall. I went in to shops, looked, touched, admired, scowled at the cheapy crappy stuff. My wallet stayed in my hoodie pouch. I enjoyed my happy wandering.

If you haven't heard, shopping is healthy. 'Tis! Dopamine, the brain's 'make me happy' neurotransmitter, is released when we experience something new, whether it be a walk along a new route or seeing new things in a shop window. And our brains thrive on novelty. If shopping is a pleasurable activity, your brain gets flooded with endorphins.

It could also be argued that shopping:

  1. keeps you active—you have to walk around from store to store. You're not on the couch or playing Scrabble.
  2. keeps your mind alert— you have to make decisions about pricing, about need/want, about how something will fit into what you have, etc. You have to remember if you saw the same thing for less somewhere else (unless your iPhone is doing the price comparison for you)

But before you pick up your bus pass and rush to the mall.... window shopping also achieves the same dopamine surge as actually spending money.

I love window shopping. I love seeing the new colours and designs, seeing what fabrics or materials are being used; I enjoy seeing how the displays are made to be beautiful and appealing. This simple act inspires me, lifts me up, makes me smile.

It's now been just over a week without any spending other than on essentials.

I'd like to say it's been tough, a hard slog and that I'm reeling from spending withdrawal.
I'd like to say that I've drooled and salivated as I passed Starbucks, that my car 'intuitively' just drove into the parking lot and I fought the impulse to cave.

If I could whinge and whine about how hard it's been and oh, poor me, I haven't been able to buy a magazine that was calling my name. If I could grumble about missing my Tall 5 pump lactose-free light water extra hot chai  or my tall half-sweet, lactose-free hazelnut hot chocolate on my 65 km drive home... maybe  this whole project would have more colour and buzz and edginess to it.

But, sadly, there's been just about nothing. No tremors, no shakes, no urges. I have emerged from Week One unscathed.

I did return $14.70 of bottles and cans to the Beer Store. I've also put about $30 into the pot to represent what I might have spent. When I return from London, I automatically pop $5 into the savings box ( an empty Rheo Thompson's chocolate box- representing luxury!) in place of the Starbucks I probably would have bought. I've been making thermoses of tea to take with me wherever I go.

And I continue to think about the money energy... more coming later on this. But first, I'm heading to Stratford on Saturday for a concert. I'm making it an exploring trip. I'll be seeing friends there. And yes, I will be buying stuff... for presents. I'll be closely watching, though, my responses to the dopamine rushes I expect to experience.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A New Take on Hunting Bambi

I'm not a hunter. I'm 97.386% vegetarian. I don't think I knew any hunters before I moved to the Gravel Road from the city and I'm one of those who think that animals, with the exception of possums, are cute. There are currently 6 cats calling our place home, and one is currently sleeping on my lap, but that's another story. 
In short, I was not a big fan of the concept of hunting and I subscribed to the liberal, 'humane' view that hunting is yucky. And hunters are mean people who kill Bambi.
Hunting is part of the fabric of life on the Gravel Road. November and December may mean Christmas and concerts and shopping to people in the city. But out here...people hunt. And go to concerts and parties and shop!
I've had to come to terms with it. I've thought about it a lot over the years, because it's right at my front door. Literally. Hunters come to ask permission to hunt on our farms. We give it. It took some time, but I have come to the point where I (nearly) celebrate it. In spite of my prejudices.
Here's why:
"Thanks" from the hunters. 
  • the hunters ask permission
  • they follow the rules- wearing orange, hunting where we tell them (away from houses and me walking), have their licenses and tags, etc.
  • they truly appreciate the opportunity- if it weren't for the farmers, they wouldn't be able to hunt (ie, there's no 'free, open, unowned land' around)
  • they keep an eye on our woods and will let us know if there's anything amiss
  • they don't leave a trace- they take out what they take in
  • they say thank you (for us... wine, chocolate, and all the ketchup or canned beans you can throw a stick at)
  • they use the entire animal
  • the hunt helps keep the deer population in check, since there are no longer any other natural predators in the area. We're happy to give some of our harvest to Bambi (and Rocky the Raccoon and Sammi the Squirrel) to live on, but they do a lot of damage, so some kind of balance is needed.
The guys (and it's all men who hunt here, though there are women and there has been one girl hunting with her dad) have the meat butchered and put it in their freezers.They eat what they kill.
It's organic, local, heritage, hormone and antibiotic-free, non-GMO. There's a direct connection between the food and the consumer. There's little energy used in transport (usually 2-4 guys in the truck, and they carry it home) and within the proverbial 100-miles.
I'd say, in fact, that it makes a more authentic, local  meal than going to the grocery store. 
This week, it's black powder. The guns look like automatic rifles, but they have to re-load after every shot. It's not easy. When it's not black powder, it's cross-bow. It's not like being at a shooting gallery. These guys have to work at it.

Let the hunt begin. Let my wine cellar grow! There will be chocolate for dessert.

I Made Money on My Walk Today

Yes, I did. I made $.70 on today's walk.

My Collection Today.
Every day's walk along the Gravel Road nets me several beer cans, and sometimes, bottles. It's odd. I walk the same couple of kilometers nearly every day, and, there's ALWAYS at least one beer can. Even on Monday mornings.

I pick the cans up on my way, smash them flat and toss them over to the other side, and collect them on the way back. Sometimes, in the summer, I have to shake out dead snails. In the winter, there's often some ice inside. Right now, they're just plain wet and dirty.

Who ARE these guys, these beer can tossers? Is it the same bunch of guys every night?  Or are there several groups? Is there a group that drinks, say, all the Coors light and another that favours Busch or Bud Light? Are they local or are they using the gravel roads as a short cut between distant points where they won't be caught by the O.P.P.?

I'm an equal opportunity beer can picker upper. To me, they're money. Not much per can—a dime a piece—, but it adds up. And cleans up the Gravel Road. I take them back to The Beer Store for refunds. It's the only reason I've been in a Beer Store, ever. I don't drink the stuff, but I'm happy to bring back the empties. (It's even better now that they take care of wine, cooler and liquor bottles!)

Free Money. More or less. Usually I take my money and run— straight to the Starbucks next door.

But this month, I'm going to put all my dimes and nickels and loonies into a separate container. It'll be part of my Intelligent Advanced Savings Plan. Let's see how much it DOES add up to!

Monday, November 7, 2011

30-Day No Spending Money Experiment

Today is Day 1 of not spending any money, other than food and the absolute absolute essentials- like gas if needed- for a month.

Yes, November, 30 days of Shop Now for Great Gifts and You NEED this NOW and shop shelves filled with colour and texture and novelty! Not the best time? Perhaps. I could've done it, say, in February, but the pressure to buy and the impulse to pick things up are constant. Now is as good a time as any. Maybe even a great time.

What this means.
No Starbucks, no magazines or books, no clothes (and I don't need any underwear), no snacks, no nothing.

Today, it will be easy. I start teaching at 10:30 and go til 9 pm. Tomorrow will be easy, too, because I'm here all day, teaching and cleaning. Things start getting challenging by the end of the week, when I go to the city... for whatever it is I go to the city for.

I'm doing this to get more conscious of my dealings with this energy force we call money.
I'm doing it to watch more carefully just where the money goes.
I'm doing it to save money.
I'm doing it to keep the clutter down.
I'm doing it to make sure I think before I buy.

I'm wondering a few things...

  • will I also pay attention to other things as well, like food?
  • what about having tea with friends?
  • what about Christmas presents? Can I rationalize that it's not for me? Will that open up a whole Pandora's box of what else?
  • will this feed the picky persnickety part of me and make me unbearable?
We'll see. I'm staying tuned.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

At the End of the Day

The sun has just about set. The birds are almost quiet. I'm sure the cats are stalking something with four legs.
I'm heading out for a walk. The breeze is settled. It's one of my favourite times of day.

At the end of the day

I've now lived on the gravel road for 16 years. Seems like a long time.

The farm and the gravel road are home. The city-any city- would be,too- if I lived there. But I live here. I take much of this as given, now, though. I'm about to go for a walk as the sun sets and it gets dark. Alone. On a gravel road. (Cue scary music! ha) When I walk I hear the evening song of the birds, the frogs' song and, soon, will be able to smell and listen to the corn grow. If a car drives by, it will be A car, not a constant stream. If I hear voices, it will be because the sound is carrying across a field. If I hear traffic, it will be the white noise that drifts north from the 401. But it's pretty still tonight, so maybe no traffic.

I can't go to the corner Starbucks with a book and watch the people walk along Richmond Row. Have to make my own. I can't pass a group of friends I haven't seen for awhile and stop and get caught up. Have to call. I can't take a different route, because there's only left and right out of the driveway and there are only so may ways I can walk before I have to pass a dog whose personality I am not sure of, and so, avoid. Have to notice the small changes in the fields or the sky or the road underfoot.

I suppose this is what city people think when they pine for the country. They can't live a car free life, or walk to work or school, but they can walk a gravel road, at night, alone.