Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So long ago...

I have been going through tons of photos and slides and old letters lately. Here's a pic from my parents' wedding day:

They were SO young! It was 1953, and Mum was just barely 20, Dad 22. Mum sewed her wedding dress, which had a calf-length skirt. (She sewed MY wedding dress too! She was a skilled and gifted dressmaker.) They were married in Surrey, England and moved to Canada five years later, hoping to get ahead (which they did.)

After 19 years of marriage, things went splat and they split up. But it's nice to think of them being so happy on this day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Relaxing foot massage!

Here's a refreshing change from respirators and heads in jars...

No, Gordon is not stepping on Tristan, nor practicing a new yoga pose. He is massaging him with his foot, and Tristan is very, VERY happy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

High ho, high ho, it's off to pour we go!

First of all, I'd like to thank the makers of the McCordick Workhorse NIOSH OV G01 respirator mask, for making today's post possible, and for ensuring that my breakfast stayed firmly in my stomach. I bet NIOSH never guessed that someone would be using a mask approved by them to facilitate the pouring off of the rank contents of a jar filled with rotting animal head, covered in water.

This sucker is AMAZING. The first time I tried it on, I was pissed off because I could hardly breathe and couldn't understand why a respirator mask would cause suffocation. After all, we paid almost forty bucks for this thing.

Then, after nearly passing out, I realized the protective plastic insert was still inside the part that covers your nose and mouth. Ahem.

Well, I am middle-aged, after all! I removed the plastic and lo and behold, I could breathe again. No worries, it was probably oxygen deprivation in early life that gave me the supernatural powers that enable me to soak severed heads in jars.*

This respirator is so good I may don it when I have to clean litterboxes during Gordon's occasional work-related travels. I have no problems viewing gross things, but smelling them is a whole other kettle of rotting dead animal parts. It's difficult for me to clean up pet vomit without vomiting myself. I would have made a horrible mother.

And for those requesting them, and you know who you are, I refuse to post photos of the contents of the jar. Even Knatolee has standards! But when the skull is all clean, I will take a shot of that. Cool your jets, because you'll have to wait a few more weeks.

But back to the task at hand. The pouring off went fine. First I dug a hole in the dirt pile near the barn. Then, clad in surgical gloves, old clothes and my mask, I held the head in the jar with a stick as I poured the rancid liquid into the ground. All I could smell was the scent of the Escents Aromatherapy Headache Relief Roll-on I had smeared under my nostrils, just a little insurance in case the mask failed me in its filtering capabilities. Instead of inhaling death, I was soothed by fragrant notes of peppermint and lavender.

(I got totally hooked on Escents products while living in BC. Check them out!)

I have to say, it's a good thing we live on a farm and the neighbours can't see us. There I was, behind the barn, wearing a mask and gloves, burying something mysterious in the ground. Very suspicious if you're in suburbia. Not so much in a rural area!

I was proud of myself for completing my task and forced Gordon to take photos of me. I went a little heavy on the "thumbs-up" though...

"Why yes, Tristan, I am a FREAKING AWESOME vile liquid pourer-offer. I am woman. Hear me stink!"

"Yes, yes, I know I look like an alien in this thing, but Daddy is trying to take photos, so sit and stay!"

"Okay Mummy, if we have to. But why are your thumbs up?"

"Because I am FREAKING AWESOME, dude and dudette!"

And then they broke their sit-stay...

"Ooooh! MUMMY! You smell good! You smell like peppermint and lavender and just a hint of dead thing. Can we lick your mask? Why are you wearing a mask? Take off the mask so we can lick your face! Oh, this is so exciting! Can we go find you another severed head?!"

"Okay, Mummy. I don't care about the mask. Just so long as I can still lean on you and get some cuddles."

The saga of the severed -head-in-a-jar will continue at a future date...


*What's your excuse, Nature Boy?


PS: Don't ask me what that plastic cupola thing behind me is. It came with the house. I think it's just ornamental but we like it, so we keep it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Kitty cards

Art trading card day tomorrow. I originally did this design for a rug (which I hooked and sold). I had planned other, more elaborate cards for tomorrow's meet, but I realized that my time was running out and I would have to switch to a simpler plan for this week. So I reworked "Kitten in Knittin'":


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Chicken Palace is coming along!

Work on the Chicken Palace continues. While Gordon was out there the other evening, Tristan discovered one of his favourite treats:

"OOOOH! Treasure!"

"MMmmmmmmm! Paper towel!"

"Nnahr nnahr munch munch nyum nyum!"
(Note how he is holding the paper towel under his paws and tearing off tasty morsels.)

"So delicious, but gets stuck in the teeth!"

"But really, I'm an angel. Make sure you get my best side!"

Meanwhile, back in the barn, a dust mask that will not protect against the stench of severed-head-soaking-in-jar-for-a-week swings from the newly-erected coop door:

Yep, that Cornwall Police Department door is now installed, the new gateway to the Chicken Palace:

And here is Super-Gordon, having just installed a lovely old window out of which the future feathered girls will gaze. He is putting another huge window in the space he's standing in, as we have an old one in the barn that we can use:

A boy and his power tool = happiness.

Here's another old window installed in the side of the downstairs barn. We'll replace that pane sometime:

The old stone foundation:

And away from the Chicken Palace, the lovely Naomi sunbathes on the front porch kitty-shelf. She's about ten months old now, and while still tiny, is definitely turning from kitten to cat.

And last, the only flowers currently blooming in my garden, and I'm darned if I can remember what they are called. Anyone?

H A P P Y S P R I N G !

PS: GUINNESS: Nectar of the gods!

PPS: Hi Happy Wombat Boy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Future farmer

I promise to stop with the baby pics soon, but...

Here are a couple of indications that I was destined to be a farmer:

...or perhaps a rodeo star. YEEEE HA!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My life-long affair with hairy beasts

In case you haven't gathered from my blog, I love animals. We got my first dog when I was three years old. Her name was Tina and she was a lovely German Shepherd, but Tina bit my cousin (lightly, thank goodness) on the nose, so Mum returned her to the breeder, then got the first of the five English Setters she had in her lifetime.

Here I am at age three with my Mum and Tina. Clearly I had no fear of her, and I was told she was very protective of me, which is why she taste-tested Timmy's nose...

My mother loved lace curtains and knicknacks, btw. I think I still have that flamenco lady packed away somewhere.

Let's go back a bit more. I believe this is 1966, and I was feeding the pigeons in England. I loooooved feeding the pigeons. Even more amusing: check out the snoozing dude in the background!

Even more amusing is the fact that my mother clearly framed this photo to include him!

And here is English Setter #1, the delightful Gina:

My mother used to make almost all of my clothes. I wore a LOT of dresses.

And here I am with the lovely Gina, when I was age seven:

Gina had no prey drive, and thus had not interest in eating my guinea pig Heidi, seen in front of my knees.

And let us move on to more exotic animals. Here I am with my Dad, investigating alpacas at the Bowmanville Zoo in 1968:

Perhaps this is at the root of my current llama fixation!

And at the same zoo, we have my encounter with a donkey. I look less than impressed...

...but I think it went better than this encounter in 2005!

There now. Wasn't that all a lot cuter than a post about a severed head in a jar?

Friday, April 17, 2009

You'll find the oddest things in our barn!

I have a confession to make...

In my barn, I have a severed head floating in a jar of water. No, not a HUMAN head! I get ticked at Gordon sometimes, but it's never gotten THAT dire. No, it's the head of that animal Tristan brought me about a month ago. To be exact, he dropped it at my feet. I could post a photo, but I'm thinking most blog viewers reeeeally wouldn't want to see it. That deceased star-nosed mole shot was bad enough. At least IT was fresh.

Now why, you may ask, do I have this head in a jar? Well, since moving here I have been collecting the various animal skulls and bones I find around the farm. That's the amateur naturalist in me! But besides that, my friend's 10-year-old-son is an even bigger nature-lover than I am (if such a thing is possible.) And when he and his family visited last summer, I showed him the bone collection. He was enthralled! I now have to email him a complete report of everything interesting thing I find on the farm, which he follows up with 101 questions.

So even though Tristan's gift of an animal head was vile and disgusting, I knew that under all that gore lay a very neat and complete skull.

However, I would not have known how to uncover this bony treasure were it not for the fact that I now know a very nice palaentologist (you rock, Nature Boy!) who has kindly given me instructions on how to macerate a skull. Not only that, Nature Boy thinks the head might belong to something as interesting as a pine marten! Neither of us knows for sure right now, but if I have a clean skull, Nature Boy can do the I.D.

Wellllll, first I had to cut off the excess fur and, ahem, skin (more like rawhide after spending so much time outside) from the noggin. I should point out that I have an extremely weak stomach when it comes to bad smells. It doesn't take much to get me heaving! So I put on a truly lame dusk mask. Let's just say it was not adequate for the task, and it's a good thing I didn't ingest one of Gordon's big breakfast fry-ups beforehand. Between heaves, I cut off as much gunk as possible, then ran from the barn gasping for air. There's a reason I'm an artist and not a scientist. Or, God forbid, a coroner. I have no problems viewing gore when necessary (not that I seek it out!) but smell is a whole other issue. I think it's a blessing I never became a mother, because my poor child would have had its Mum changing diapers while clad in a Hazmat suit. Which no doubt would have led to a large and lifelong set of neuroses for the baby.

Anyway, the trim job was enough amateur-naturalism for one day. My noble husband kindly found me a jar and I managed to drop the head inside, but I didn't have enough stomach left to fill it with water, which would initiate the maceration process. So the jar sat in the barn for a week, sealed with a tight lid. Let's just say it's a good thing we don't live in Bangkok, instead of pleasantly chilly Canada.

Yesterday, I finally plucked up my courage to finish what I'd started. Or rather, to finish the start of the process. I found a brand-new dust mask, stuffed it with sage leaves from my herb garden (hoping they'd mask the smell), went down to the barn and poured in the water. I got the lid back on and ran, but this time the mask did its job and I didn't smell a thing.

The problem is, I realized today that instead of filling the jar 7/8ths full of water as instructed, it's more like 4/8ths. So I fear I will have to go out there today and add water.

And is the end of the process? Why no, dear readers. Once a week, for however long it takes, I have to take the jar out to the field and pour off whatever vile liquid it contains (liquid brains, probably!) then refill it with clean water. For this, I have decided I need a real respirator-type mask, because from what Nature Boy told me, I understand the stink will be pretty potent.

If you were wondering about my sanity after those sock-monkey videos, you can stop wondering now because I think you have your answer. Nevertheless, this summer a certain ten-year-old boy is going to be HUGELY impressed with me when he visits. And that's all that really matters, right? That I'm a hero to a kid? :)

PS Anyone got a used Hazmat suit?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Preparing the chicken palace

Gordon spent most of the weekend working on the chicken coop he's building. We're putting it in the lower part of the barn, where the previous owner used to keep meat chickens. Because we're getting laying hens, we need to build a better coop that will keep them going through the harsh winters.

I walked down Friday to see that Gordon had knocked out a wall! Not that the wall was much more than some nice barnboard and some ugly plywood-type stuff...

Here you can see the old nesting boxes (or whatever they are called... I guess I should know, eh?) for hens of days gone by.

The former owners put a lot of work into fixing up this barn, which is about 150 years old. The floor of the coop is concrete, as is part of one wall.

Tristan, Gordon's able and slightly-damp helper!

And Sophie guards the rubble from Gordon's destruction!

Gordon went to the Habitat for Humanity store and got himself a very sturdy door for the coop entry (inside the barn):

Yes, apparently it's a relic from a nearby police station...

And it's always good to have a no-smoking sign in your barn! We wondered if the door was from some holding cell, given the big number two over the window.

On another note, here's a not-particularly-well Photoshopped-together picture of my veggie garden, awaiting clean-up and planting.

And on a happy note, I saw the proofs this weekend for the kids' book I have spent (on and off) the past 3-1/2 years illustrating! (It didn't take me that long to do the work, but there was a lot of down time that did not involve me.) The book designer is fantastic and it is very exciting to think that this thing will soon be in print. Katie of the Sonoran is a children's book about a western diamondback rattlesnake named Katie, written by my friend Kate Jackson. It's bilingual (English-Spanish) and is being published by the Sonoran Desert Museum Press. I assure you that the instant it's on Amazon, there will be a big fat blog posting all about it!!! I need lots of sales to finance my coming honeybee empire (the bees arrive at the end of May.)

Check out Kate's book for adults, Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science and Survival in the Congo. It's all about her first Congo expedition, which is QUITE the story!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

You've got a job to do...

"Excuse me, HUMAN MINION. Email is not important. Cats are. YOU have a job to do! Must I incinerate you with my special flesh-burning laser-beam glare, or will you bend to my will immediately?"

"Ah, much better."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Things I do NOT need to see...

Uh, okay. We saw a couple of cyclists at the end of our laneway as we were driving out for lunch today. They had stopped for some reason, but got back on their bikes and peddled down the road a bit more when they noticed us coming. As we drove up to the end of the laneway, we saw one cyclist dismount and go down into the not-particularly-deep ditch, where there ain't no tree cover, baby. As we drove by, I got a CHARMING full frontal view of his, um, MAN-BITS as he urinated into the ditch, FACING the road.

I suspect he thought somehow he couldn't be seen (he obviously didn't think too hard!), because he was somewhat below the level of the road. Unfortunately that just put his man-bits at car-passenger eye level. He's lucky I didn't have a camera on me, or there'd be more than words in this blog post!!!! He's also lucky I wasn't a cop.

Had he been planning on peeing on my mailbox, then changed his mind when we appeared on the driveway? And what IS it about men not using public bathrooms for their needs anyway? It is not so remote here that he couldn't have peddled to the gas station down the road and used the frigging toilet, instead of peeing on my next-door neighbour's land in full view of ME. Or for the love of all that is holy, could he at least not have waited until he hit the forest down the road, and hidden himself in some trees?

Too bad I didn't have my wits about me. I could have shouted something like "Hey dude, you need some lead in that pencil!" or "Is that IT?!" Or the classic and topical, "Buddy, your barn door is open and the steer has escaped!"

It's not every day you see exposed man-bits on a country road. I'm hoping this is the ONLY day. EVER.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Billy Bob Brain-dead

Regarding Billy Bob Thornton's rude and ridiculous interview with Jian Ghomeshi on the CBC radio show Q yesterday, I can only say to Mr. Brain-dead, "Gee, STONED MUCH?!" least I hope he was stoned. Otherwise he's just a gigantic *sshole. Heck, maybe he's both.

And for the record, while Billy Bob Brain-dead mumbled something about a "6 am" interview being too early for him to cart his drums around, (as his excuse for not playing with the rest of his band on air), the show was actually recorded live at 9 am, as clarified by Mr. Ghomeshi himself today on CBC radio. Not that three hours likely would have made much difference.

And oh, Mr. Billy Bob? Perhaps the reason Canadians respond to you like "mashed potatoes without gravy" is because musically, you're not particularly exciting. At least, not exciting enough for us to get out the gravy and start pouring.

Too bad you gave up acting and directing, eh?

Monday, April 06, 2009

The fight for Farm Boy bag supremacy!!!!

Well. Who knew a 99-cent bag could provide such amusement?

We do most of our grocery shopping at the Farm Boy store in Cornwall. This is our favourite grocery store chain EVER, and we have lived in four provinces, so I've had experience with groceries. The produce is really nice and varied (the organic section needs help, but I have yet to find a decent organic produce section in any of the grocery stores I've frequented) and the meat/fish department, cheese counter and everything else are great. But what makes it our favourite is the staff. The staff, and the fact that there are practically never any line-ups, because they always have the check-outs adequately staffed. I don't know what Farm Boy is paying their staff at the Cornwall store, but whatever it is, they should double it. The cashiers are courteous, fast, helpful and most important of all, tolerant of my slightly warped sense of humour (Gordon is generally my straight man.)

No doubt most of the cashiers, some of whom have gotten to know us, think we are slightly bent, but they always laugh at our jokes and keep on smiling. So Farm Boy managers, give those hard workers BIG FAT RAISES! And that includes that nice fellow who helps with bagging, collects buggies and so on. And the meat counter staff. And the food-to-go staff. Hell, just give raises to everybody. They are all good!

But back to cats. So, the 99-cent bag. I left one on the floor yesterday as I was putting away groceries. Here's what happened.

"Is this a paw I see before me?"

Well, looketh at that. An Alex-kitty be attacheth-ed to the paw.

ALEXIO: "Foul human, leavest thou me to mine slumber!"

ALEXIO: "But hark! What kitten through yonder doorway bursts?"

NAOMI: "Be thou not pissed, sweet Alex. It is I, thine one and only love Naomi. I pray thee, giveth me not a hassle. Submit thee to the whirlwind of thy passion and giveth me that BAG! For sweet and young am I, and 'tis well to hand over the bag shouldest thou wish to receive ever again the gentlest and softest of mine kisses."

ALEXIO: "I will speak daggers to her, but use none!"

ALEXIO: "Thou dost my bag STEALETH? I thinketh not. Fair is foul, and foul is fair! Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it. By my sacred catnip, sweet Naomi fast turns sour, is now the witch and NOT the flower! Begone, begone!"

NAOMI:(as an aside)"Stars, hide your fires. Let not light see my black and deep desires." (to Alexio) "I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself and falls on the other. Handeth over the bloody bag!"

ALEXIO: "What trickery hast thou perpetrateth on me? Howeth on EARTH did thou scramblest into mine bag so nimbly, liketh a dog on a bone, or a fly on poo? Out, damned spot! OUT, I say! Vile Naomi, I curseth the queen-cat that brought about thy existence!"

ALEXIO: "The wench is stark mad or wonderful forward!"

NAOMI: "Of all things living, a tomcat's the worst!"

NAOMI: "Faceth facts, Alexio. What's done is done. Thine bag is mine."

ALEXIO: "There is no evil angel but Love. All is lost. I shall consoleth mineself with a large bowl of mine crunchiest kibble."

And thereby hangs a tail. Or two.

(Apologies to the Bard! And look for my Clanger and others here.)