Friday, March 28, 2008


My friend kindly pointed out to me that my blog was still on west coast time, even though we left BC in 2006! Oooopsie! I have corrected that and am now on proper Eastern time. :)

Gobble gobble gobble!

Gobble gobble gobble!

I apologize for the lack of bird and other wildlife photos this year. Back in Quebec, I didn't have screens on the windows, so I could take lots of great shots from the comfort of my home. This year, we have screens on all the windows which don't make for good pictures. I did want to get the screens taken off my office windows for winter (there is a birdfeeder right outside one of the two windows in here) but we never did manage it.

So here's a photo of wild turkeys on our front lawn that my father-in-law took last fall. And as a special bonus, the sign in front of our farm. Of course the farm is out of the McDonald family now, but we're keeping it anyway. Even if we changed the name of this place, the locals would continue to call it "Big Angus McDonald" farm. And it's a nice bit of history.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My little stupidents

I am accident-prone, I admit it. I rush around too much, I don't think before I leap, I'm the one whose foot always finds the banana peel. Fortunately, as I've aged the accidents (I don't mean car accidents! I do drive very carefully.) have become less common, and rarely lead to the ER visits of my youth. Really I think you could call a lot of my accidents "stupidents", because mostly they have been entirely preventable.

Take last night. I foolishly decided to carry my cat Julius up the stairs to our bedroom, which was completely dark. Why bother turning on a light? Well, because if you don't turn on the light, you run the risk of kicking a wooden box filled with books, foolishly left on the floor (by guess who) near the top of the stairs. And then you think, "That wasn't so painful!" until you get to the bathroom and start brushing your teeth and realize that your toe hurts... because half the nail has been apparently lifted off the nail bed, and is bleeding.

I had another cat-related stupident in 2004, when I thought it would be fun to carry my darling Zoë downstairs in the laundry basket in which she'd been sleeping. We had only lived in that house a few months, and so I was not entirely familiar with that staircase. In addition, I was singing to my cat (don't ask) and distracted. I missed the bottom two steps, and flexed my foot so far back that when I hit the floor, I was almost walking on the top of my foot. One very painful torn ankle ligament later, and with a few months enforced rest from the gym, I vowed not to carry cats in laundry baskets downstairs. Yet still I have apparently not learned that cats, me and stairs don't mix! Be a fool once, shame on me. Be a fool twice... shame on... ME! Same goes for thrice.

My accident career started fairly early in life, although the first time I visited an ER, it wasn't my fault! I was seven, and my Dad was mowing the back lawn of our new house. I went to the back gate and just as I opened it, Dad hit something with the mower. It flew through the air, broke my glasses and hit my eyebrow. I started screaming and my Dad thought I was just being a brat until he looked up from his mowing to see blood streaming down my face. I can still remember the orange facecloth I held to my bleeding brow as we raced off to the hospital. They cleaned out my eye to make sure there was no broken glass in there (these were the days before plastic glass lenses) and I got to wear an eye-patch for about a week. I was exceedingly lucky not to lose an eye, nor do I have any apparent scar. As it turned out, the object that hit me was a piece of metal left by the people who installed our neighbours' new chain-link fence. Ouch! I still hate lawnmowers.

There are other stupidents. How about March Break 1974? My single mother was at work, so I, aged 10, decided to make myself some cuppa soup (Lipton beef noodle, as I recall) and watch TV. I sat on the floor with my drink and thought I could safely balance the mug on my knee (my legs being bent with feet on the floor.) Oh, it balanced all right, for about five seconds. Then the boiling hot soup tipped over my leotard-clad right thigh. Ah, a new definition for pain! I hopped around screaming, ripped off my tights (and some skin), then called my mother in tears as I looked at my hideously blistered thigh. Off to the ER! Bandages and creams for quite some time, and again I was lucky: no lasting scar from my huge second-degree burn.

And how about the time I was old enough to know better (13) but thought it would be fun to run barefoot on the old wooden dock by our boat? Yep, I slipped, and got so many splinters embedded in my foot that we had to stop at a hospital on the way home. The ER doc was totally unsympathetic to my crying as he numbed my foot by sticking two needles into the sole and heel. Try that sometime. On second thought, don't. I think I should have kept the splinters instead! With some effort, they managed to dig them all out, and home we went. Tell me THAT one wasn't completely preventable.

There have been other ER visits, including one for food poisoning in Montreal when I was 28. I became so weak from sudden constant vomiting and diarrhea that I passed out. My blood pressure dropped. It was the middle of winter and we lived in a third-floor walk-up. They needed two ambulance crews to get my stretcher down the icy, metal, OUTDOOR stairs. Heroes, I tell you! As soon as I got to the hospital, I vomited yet again and the triage folks decided to put me ahead of the poor guy in the waiting room with the bleeding head wound. Gordon loved that one.

The lesson I learned from this episode? Don't put salsa and sour cream out at a party, then put them back in the fridge, then take them out and eat them a week later because you're on a tight grocery budget, unless of course you're into IV therapy, exploratory gastric tubes, and surprise rectal exams.

I also learned that if I passed out, my loyal dog Chelsea would not lick my face to bring me back to consciousness, and dial 911 with her paw? Nope, she just ran and hid. Fortunately Gordon showed up before too long.

I again went to the ER in Montreal when I sliced through my thumb with an Exacto knife at work one day. Luckily graphic designers switched to computers around that time, and we no longer had to work with knives on a daily basis! This has been a blessing for my digits.

Ah, the memories. So many stupidents, so little time. These days I just do little things, like burning my arm on a hot rack while putting cakes in the oven (I have a scar from one of Gordon's birthdays, and another from one Christmas I forget!), or carrying a cat on my shoulder to keep him up above the new dogs, only to get scratched on my face and scalp when said cat freaks out at the dogs and uses my head as a launching pad to "safety." I still have a scar from THAT on my forehead, but of course it only happened a few months ago. Surely it will improve. Some idiots never learn.

It's a miracle that people didn't think I was an abused child... or maybe they did! But fortunately the abuse was all my own doing. I have more-or-less safely made it to middle age, and I am trying to be more careful. Honest! Last night's toenail-ripping must have been the box's fault. What idiot left it there at the top of the stairs anyway?

There's a reason I don't own a chainsaw.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cat therapy

The therapy being for us, that is! :)

Hubster had yesterday off, so we ran a few errands in Cornwall, then dropped into the Cornwall SPCA to spend some time brushing the cats awaiting homes. We spent an hour there and it was so relaxing. You do these things thinking you're going to be helping the animals, but then the animals help you! I'm sure my blood pressure went down several points while I was there.

I can't remember exactly, but I think there were sixteen cats in residence, and between the two of us we brushed and cuddled them all. Every single cat was lovely and enjoyed being held and brushed, but of course I lost my heart to Hope, a sweet, fluffy long-haired girl who has lost the tips of both ears, no doubt to frostbite. If we weren't already at capacity here, I would have brought her home, but we did adopt Alex the tripod-kitty from this shelter last October. (He is doing spectacularly well, by the way, and thinks he rules both dogs and Julius, our orange tabby.)

Gordon was extremely partial to Taffy, a lovely tortoise-shell girl who went completely limp in G's arms as he stroked her. I think she would have stayed there for hours if she could have. Several of the cats also took a strong interest in Gordon's beard! I figured out that this must been because we went there right after lunch, so there must have been some yummy food smells in there.

I have a lot of admiration for the people who work at animals shelters, because I know I couldn't handle it. The staff at the Cornwall SPCA are great!

We are looking forward to going back soon, and maybe walking some dogs next time. If you have some time to spare, I highly recommend volunteering at your local shelter. It needn't take a lot of time, and you will be rewarded for your efforts a thousand times over. And if you don't have time, send in a donation of whatever size. Or find out if you shelter has a wish list; they have very modest needs that you can easily fulfill: paper towels, laser paper... you'd be surprised. The Cornwall shelter needs a new roof, and for five dollars, you can buy a shingle! They are also collecting used pop cans to raise funds.

Every year I design and do the pre-press work for the Bide Awhile Animal Shelter calendar. The shelter is today moving to its brand-new, beautiful premises in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. A lot of volunteers put a lot of hard work into bringing this calendar out every year, and in my humble opinion it is well worth buying even if you're not from Nova Scotia! They run a contest every year for the monthly pet photos, and the results are adorable. This year they have instituted "Buy a Day for Your Pet": your pet can have his or her own square in the month of your choice, with the fee going to the shelter! And I designed the form you use to apply for this, so of course it's must to fill it out and send in your money and photo. HAHAHA!

I am hoping that Taffy and Hope's links disappear soon, due to their adoption into loving homes. Spare a thought for them and all the animals in this world that need the love of a good human.

Alex, our three-legged boy who came to us from the Cornwall SPCA on October 20, 2007.

Gordon and our "rescue" dogs, Sophie and Tristan.

Julius, who wandered up to our door in Nova Scotia in 2000, and never left.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Let the (redecorating) games begin!

We plan to paint every single room in this 100+ year-old house, but before that, we need to repair/replaster the walls in at least five rooms, so we're taking it a room at time. We decided to start with the most offensive (to my designer eyes) room, our bedroom.

It has a blue painted floor (I hate blue. There is nothing WRONG with blue, I just happen to hate it. Personal preference!), and had pink and blue floral wallpaper (I am not a big pink fan, either, especially pale pink.) Our furniture is maple/green, our duvet cover is shades of brown. We also have a creamy yellow bench in there. Every time I walked in, I felt like a drunken colour wheel had vomited all over the place. It was burning out my retinas: blue, pink, green, yellow, brown... YYYYYUCK!

So I have now stripped all the wallpaper (to paraphrase Buffy the Vampire slayer, "Wallpaper stripping is MY gift!"), and I swear the room looks better already, even with holes and cracks in the plaster walls, and various shades of puke-green paint (why? I don't know!) Our plaster professional is coming next week to start work!

I don't have handy a photo of the room completely stripped, but I do have these shots from the day I madly started peeling stuff off the walls, pre-steamer. Luckily, a lot of it came off really easily, and I steamed the rest. And also good was the fact that there were only at most two layers of wallpaper, and even that was only in a couple of spots. Somebody obviously did some stripping in here before me.

I also discovered that cats LOVE wallpaper. Here are Alex (front) and Julius, reclining on the floral mess. The cats haven't been getting enough airtime on my blog lately, so I will rectify that today.

This heinous floral border went around the whole room, in the middle of the wall, separating the top blue/pink floral paper from the bottom pink/white stuff. I was thrilled to rip it off:

My apologies to all who love borders and floral wallpaper. It's just not our bag, is all!

Here is Julius being his usual photogenic self:

Now this is the (original?) wallpaper I found in a few spots under the newer stuff. Can anyone hazard a guess as to its vintage? I don't think it's 100 years old. I was wondering if it was perhaps from the 30s or 40s?

This wall is at the head of our bed. Half of the wall has an 8-foot sheet of plywood over it, which had been wallpapered. We will leave it to the plaster professional to find out what nightmare is going on under here:

Something WILL be happening to the floor. We're not sure yet if we can stomach stripping it, but it will either be that or painting. We'll see; it absolutely cannot remain blue! All the floors downstairs (all origianl to the houseu) have been stripped and we love them.

As well, we've got furniture issues. We replaced our queen mattress with a king when we moved here (bliss!) but now of course our headboard and footboard, which match the maple/green furniture, no longer fit, and as far as I can tell, Shermag has stopped making this set. Wah! So I don't kow what we're going to do, but I hate not having a proper bedframe. We shall see what the budget has in store for us!

The puke-green showing under the wallpaper is the original painted plaster wall. And of course there's a cuppa tea on my nighttable.

This is where the narrow staircase from the kitchen comes up:

Old wallpaper meets new, and all of it is now in a landfill somewhere:

Wish us luck. I'm not looking forward to plaster dust, but I can't WAIT to paint the bedroom!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Uh hello? Spring?

Well, this whole area got HAMMERED by the storm of the winter March 8 - 9. It lasted about 36 hours and was unreal. In total, my area got 45 cm of snow and 15 cm of ice pellets. For you non-metric types, that equals TWO FEET on top of all the stuff we already had!

The Saturday morning, it was just beautiful. The snow was all stuck to the trees... so pretty. Gordon and I snowshoed with the dogs.

Here is Tristan enjoying a good roll in the snow. He and Sophie both love to do this:

In the woodlot, the trees were absolutely laden with snow, their boughs touching the ground. It was gorgeous. Sophie liked it too:

It was a real winter wonderland...

By Sunday night, things had deteriorated. High winds blew all the snow off the trees, and the real precipitation started. It was all over by Sunday afternoon. None of these photos adequately show just how much snow there really was. Here's a view of the front of the farm. The drifts on the septic field are pushing up towards the top of the hedges, which are taller than me!

Our plough-guy did a great job clearing our driveway. You can see here that the snow is taller than Sophie in places. Because it was so windy, snow blew all over and there were huge drifts as well as almost-bare patches.

Sophie and Tristan play ball on the driveway.

Okay, the barn last April:

The barn last week:

The granary last April:

The granary last week:

Much as I have enjoyed snowshoeing and skiing and all that stuff this winter, I'd say I am ready for spring now. Bring on the tulips! I do believe this is going to be the snowiest Easter weekend I can ever remember.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Make it stop

I am sitting here listening to the wind on the metal roof, and ice pellets hitting the window (started as snow, soon to return to snow) and thinking that I have officially had enough of winter! I know a lot of people are very winter-weary now. Ottawa, an hour west of us, is at the moment having its fifth snowiest winter ever but I understand the the storm we are experiencing today is going to knock it up to second snowiest winter ever.

I woke up repeatedly last night because it sounded like the wind was going to rip off the metal roof.

I've really enjoyed snowshoeing and skiing and all that, but I've had enough now and am ready for spring. Unfortunately the Environment Canada forecast shows flurries or snow for every one of the next four days.

Send me daffodils!

But it IS pretty!

Taking a little break.

Tristan in the woods.

Sophie in the drainage ditch.

Snowshoeing is one of the good things in winter!