Monday, November 30, 2009

A boy and his saw...

Gordon and his forester friend Jim headed off into the woodlot this morning to fell a huge dead tree and play with their chainsaws...

Gordon is making a rather unfortunate fashion statement with his chainsaw pants pulled up over the bottom of his winter jacket ("The Stay Puft TM Lumberjack Man") In real life, he most assuredly does NOT have the figure of Homer Simpson!

As I report (2:24 pm), he and Jim have brought down the deceased tree without amputating any human limbs (Jim is a professional!) Jim then built a campfire with the two tiny pieces of newspaper Gordon brought along and they are grilling burgers over the flames. If the fire-making were left up to Gordon, they'd be eating e. coli burgers.

The joy of walkie-talkies... I can keep tabs on my man at all times.

Meanwhile, the chickens have been out frolicking in the snow for hours...

This morning's haul from the henhouse!

It's heeeeee-ere!

Look what we woke up to this morning!

Yep, winter is finally here.

"My feet are cold. Why won't she let me in? Why is she just standing there, taking my picture? Hello? I am a DELICATE FLOWER!! Open the door!!"
(Note Hallowe'en pumpkin at upper left)

Yeah, that gas grill is lookin' REAL appetizing today.

Perhaps I should have put my car in the garage last night. Oh well, at least the ugly snow tires are on it!

"Ya gonna open that door?"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hen Haiku

Today is my art trading cards meet. I decided to use photos of my chickens as a backdrop for some original "hen haiku." I'm going to add a little colour by hand on the actual cards.
Here ya go. Click to enlarge.

I just about peed myself writing these. Good thing I appreciate my own sense of humour, eh?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Scenes from a farm

Cattle grazing peacefully in the fields.
(Okay, okay, they're dogs eating wild turkey poop. Close enough.)

Disgusting engorged tick that fell off Tristan as I was hunting for a pair of tweezers to remove it. Fortunately I found it lumbering across my office floor. After a quick photo shoot, it was euthanized in the toilet. Right after I did that, I read that ticks can survive flushing. #@%^(*#**%@!!!

Outlet signage on our municipal drain. Every 25 years or so, they use an excavator to dig out the drain, allegedly so that everyone's land drains better. That's what has been going on around here this week. It's a big muddy mess! It also destroys habitat for various creatures, but we'll do our best to get it back into a natural state as soon as possible.

Chickens coming home to roost. No, wait, it's those poop-eating dogs again...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Step away from the toe-socks...

Me and Dad on my sixteenth birthday

I was tagged by Angel for this, so here I go! A letter to myself at 16...

Hey! Natalie! I know you're all excited after that great surprise birthday party your friend Audrey threw for you, but we need to talk about a few things.

First of all, step away from the toe-socks. I know these brightly-striped creations are fashionable, but do you really need anything that makes your size-ten feet look bulkier? I think not.

Skinny ribbons tied in bows under your collar are a fashion trend that should have died at birth. Don't go there, especially for school photos, which never die unless you put a match to them! Speaking of school photos, throw away that curling iron. For God's sake, your hair is naturally wavy and curly. Why the hell are you frying it every morning? By the way, thank you for getting rid of those glasses with the brownish-orange tinted lens. The 70s, shudder!

And stop freaking worrying so much about what other people think. It just does not matter. DOES. NOT. MATTER!!!

I know studying is important to you and you're determined to keep a 90%+ average while simultaneously taking clarinet and piano lessons and music theory classes, and running the household, and taking care of your mother, and being a premature adult, but you need to relax more and worry less. Smile more. This stuff will not matter when you are 45. Like your Dad said, try to have a bit more fun. Study a little less! Btw, your Dad does love you and he did want you; ignore what your Mum tells you. I know all of this is even harder because you are an only child, but one day you'll meet another only child who always will be there for you while you figure all this stuff out.

Speaking of clarinet, "classical musician" is not the career for you. Before you spend four years getting a music degree, think about what you were really put on this earth to do. Playing Mozart for a living isn't it. Music has its place in your life, but I think we both know you're avoiding what you're really supposed to be doing, which is writing and creating art. And there are chickens in your future! Chickens, girl! How great is that? You can sing Mozart to your hens. They will be quite fond of his Ave Verum Corpus.

Me and Ian Turnbull of the Toronto Maple Leafs -- #2 on the team, #1 in my heart!

Don't gamble in your friend Audrey's hockey pools. You'll never win!

You won't want to hear this, but your mother does not have your best interests at heart and she never will. It's sad and it's painful, but she was the product of parents who didn't have her best interests at heart, and she never learned how to have empathy. It's not you; it's her. You'll still be undoing the damage 29 years from now. Enough said. By the way, it's okay to outshine your mother. Don't hold back. You need and deserve to find your own voice.

I know you feel really awkward and ugly inside and out, not to mention stupid, but you're not. Adolescence sucks!

Next year you're going to fall hard for a tall blonde boy who you think will make you happy forever. Instead he is setting you up for eight-and-a-half years of hell. He knows what he is doing and he's going to manipulate you. When he asks you for a date, run screaming in the other direction! He is incapable of empathy, does not truly care for you, and never will. He may be a psychopath, and he's definitely a narcissist. (I know, I know, labels are bad but it's just so satisfying to put a clinical name to his behaviour!) You are too young for boys anyway. Wait until you're in university to start dating! Heck, wait until you're 25, because that's when you'll have yourself sorted out enough to fall for the truly exceptional man you're still with now. You deserve to be treated well; don't we all?

Pets are the only children you're ever going to have, so don't waste time agonizing about whether or not you'll make a good mother. It's irrelevant, and you know what? You'll do just fine without kids. You'll have lots of beautiful children in your life; they just won't be your own. You'll illustrate a kids' book that will make you (and some kids) very happy! Things like that can be your legacy, but hopefully not until you die in your sleep at age 95 with your husband beside you. And you know, there is a lot to be said for chickens. They may not be human babies, but they are funny, spontaneous, fierce, brave, soft, cuddly and beautiful, and their unborn babies are a good source of protein, not to mention tasty!

As soon as you can leave home, do. When you're 21, you'll think that the only way to escape is to marry the aforementioned psychopathic narcissist. But you're wrong! You are a very capable and resourceful person and you need only have confidence in yourself. Do not go to university in your hometown; take those scholarships and go away to school! And when you finish school, travel abroad for a year, maybe do some volunteer work in a far-off country. Whatever you do, refuse to put on that white dress and walk down the aisle with that crazy man. You'll know it's a mistake the moment you wake up on the morning of the wedding. Listen to what your body is telling you and call it off. Wait for the real love of your life. He's coming!

Let me say one word to you: yoga! Don't wait until your 30s to take it up. Do it now. Your body and your mind will thank you.

About that shiny-new driver's licence: if you lose an expensive contact lens and refuse to wear your glasses because you think they make you look hideous, do not drive a car! Yes, you will have to wait a couple of weeks for a replacement lens in the pre-disposable-lens era, but suck it up. Don't get behind the wheel with one contact lens and do a shoulder-check with your blind eye, because you won't see the car you are about drive into as you change lanes. Fortunately the damage will be minimal, there will be no injuries, and the cops are going to be really, really nice to you as you sit crying and dribbling snot all over the backseat of their shiny cruiser.

On second thought, that accident did drive home to you just how important it is to be an alert and responsible driver, and how dangerous driving can be. So if it's going to keep you going for the next 29 years with a clean driving record, maybe we should keep that little fender bender on the record!

There is so much I know now that I wish I knew at 16, but life is a learning experience and sometimes the knowledge comes later. Here's what's important for a 16-year-old to know:

Never look to another person to find your worth. That has to come from within!

There's nothing wrong with not being the same as everyone else! There's a lot to be said for being creative, different, and even "weird." You just be who you are, and the hell with what anyone else says.

Love is a two-way street. You both have to give and take. Don't let yourself be sucked dry by emotional vampires. And don't forget to love yourself, in a healthy, non-narcissistic way!

Never stop laughing and never stop having fun. If people think you're crazy, tough noogies. Life can be hard at times, so celebrate the good bits.

Always listen to your gut. Your body is wise, even when your brain isn't it, and it will tell you all you need to know if only you'll listen.

And finally, throw away the toe socks, curling iron and ribbons, and start planning for chickens. Chickens will be your spirit guides when you're middle-aged and wiser! Now go have a cuppa tea. I know you want one.

The middle-aged you

PS: It is not all your fault. It never was. Stop blaming yourself.

Me at 16, wearing a Toronto Blizzard soccer team shirt and holding a stuffed Curious George toy close to my heart! The Blizzard went belly-up soon after, but I think they've since been resurrected.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Today some brave hen popped out the biggest egg yet, at 79 grams. Compare it to the first egg, laid November 11th, at a mere 41 grams:

I can't my wee, dainty hens imagine passing that thing!! Okay, so they aren't so wee now, topping out at something like five pounds. But still! Then again, some poor woman in Indonesia popped out a 19-lb baby. Like, OUCH!

Julius investigates: "Hmmm. Smells like chicken!"

And this photo is just ... odd. The eggs, Julius and Naomi. Or is it the Eggs and I (with assorted cats)?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The torrid affair of Alex and Naomi...

...continues! The upstairs bathroom is Alex's favourite hang-out. He particularly adores the bathmat. Yesterday he was all stretched out, having a catly nap, when Tristan (big dorky boy dog) decided he wanted to lie on the bathmat too. So as Tristan is wont to do, he started poking Alex firmly with his snout. Alex assumed a look of disdain that only a cat can give and refused to budge, so I pulled out another bathmat for my incredibly spoiled dog!

Anyway, we often flick on the bathroom light at night to discover scenes like this:

Yin-yang kitties!

"Please, can't you see we want our privacy? Turn off the damn light!"

Monday, November 23, 2009

The things you can do with a giant yellow zucchini!

My friend Brian was, I think, asking about these garden-produce creations from 1999. Hmmm, this photo was taken before I ripped down that godforsaken hearts-and-flowers wallpaper in the kitchen. We are always buying houses with cutesy wallpaper!

Note the celery leaf "fig leaf!"

I can't believe ten years have passed. But I'm still making creatures out of vegetables!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Every rural mailbox needs one...

Click to enlarge!

A gem from our local newspaper last winter. I really wanted to go photograph it myself. Perhaps it's still there!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Um, that's actually a DOG bed...

...but Alex the tripod-kitty doesn't care. He was happily snoozing on the DOG bed when Tristan the DOG came along and plonked himself down alongside. They snoozed together for quite some time.

"You know, I don't mind sharing the bed, but do you really have to lie ON me?"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Covered in chickens

I went down to the coop to collect eggs this morning but refused to let the girls out (they finally were let out at noon!) They retaliated by sitting on me.

Doesn't everyone need a shoulder chicken?

"Darling, it's the chicken toreador hat. It's all over the catwalks in Milan for 2010. Very agri-chic!"

"You are a cruel woman, lining our coop with insulating foil so that it looks like we're in a rotisserie when you turn the heat lamps on at night! I may need to peck out your eyeball."

"Hand over the yogurt and no one gets hurt!"

I got pecked in the eye the other day, which knocked out a contact lens. Now I keep my eyes closed when I'm near the beaks. According to my friend Amy, who landed in the ER after an eye-pecking incident, the hens love shiny things. Like eyeballs. One of them even had a go at my front tooth the other day!

Time to invest in a nice pair of safety glasses for the coop, I think.

"Make sure you get my best side. Hey, what are those shiny things on either side of your nose? Mmmm, can I peck them?"

Chickens iz so cuddlee!!!

"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. And would you please stop eating my unborn children? What's a chicken got to do to get some damn respect around here? Whaddaya mean I've got to earn my keep?!!"

This is Buffy, one of the few chickens I can actually recognize, sizing up my eyeballs as she perches on my arm. "Ooh! What big, round, blue, shiny, TASTY-looking eyes you have!!"

I love my chickens, love my chickens, looooove my chickens!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sorry girls, but I'm snacking on your little ones!

Lookit! Here's the closest thing I will ever have to a grandbaby (being as I'm an child-free only child married to another only child!)...

Since Wednesday, our lovely hens have produced ten small but perfect eggs. Today was taste-test day. You have to crack a few eggs to get a Southwest Breakfast Wrap! (And purée a few chipotles, and grate some seven-year-old Quebec cheddar.)

Six, to be exact.

The wreckage.

Chef Gordon with his fresh-brewed, organic, fair-trade, monkey-friendly, antelope-approved, "no Guatemalan chinchillas were harmed in the roasting of these beans" coffee.

Voilà: Southwest Breakfast Wraps from Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking. And here's the recipe. As my bloggy friend Jim says, click to "embiggen":
(I believe he has the international trademark on that word. I may have to pay him royalties for using it. I wonder if I can buy him off with farm-fresh, organic eggs?)

Our hens hatched July 8th. Here's a lovely little Red Shaver Sex-Link, then and now:

Ah, children. They grow up so fast these days!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Much excitement on the farm!

It's been an exciting week, and it's only Wednesday.

The farmer next door harvested his corn crop:

...leaving Sophie the corn-thief heartbroken:

I love these big combine-harvester-type-thingamabobs. "Thingamabobs"... I'm so very technical. Not! Farm machinery fascinates me but I don't know what the hell 90% of it is for! I was born in downtown Toronto, fer cryin' out loud.

And yesterday, a mouse perched motionless on the floor lamp for over three hours...

...while the useless cats did NOTHING:

Sunbathing next to a mouse!! Julius has totally lost his killer instinct. This is the cat who survived outside as a stray during a bitter seaside winter in Nova Scotia before we took him in. He used to murder squirrels, for heaven's sake. Heck, he could probably take out Canada geese if he so chose. And yet at the age of nine, he has instead gone totally soft! The Mighty Orange Hunter of days gone by would never have allowed a rodent to taunt him like this, mere inches away from the razor-sharp kitty claws of death.

Julius used to assassinate mice with one swat of the paw. Now we're lucky if he can muster the energy to kill a bowl of kibble. Alas, how the Mighty have fallen. I finally gave up waiting for the cats to act and nudged the mouse into a bucket, setting it free outside.

But the best part of the week so far was today, Remembrance Day, when one of our hens laid the FIRST EGG of the flock! The girls are now 18 weeks old and someone popped out this small but perfect specimen right on schedule:

When I saw it on the floor of the coop (Gordon put the nest boxes in last night, but they were apparently spurned), I thought, "Who put an egg in the hen house?!" My next thought was "Duh! That's right, hens lay eggs." The laying has begun! Hurrah!

Here Gordon proudly displays the prize, as Julius watches from the enclosed front porch (he was cold and wanted in!):

I can't wait to eat that sucker.