Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's a Spooky Halloween Gordon Guest-Post

I really, really like cemeteries. Actually, I don't find them spooky at all - except perhaps when visited at night, with mist wafting around the chill air, and owls calling out through the blackness.

I've gone out of my way to see a lot of them. I like the local such as the very modest grave of famous explorer Simon Fraser who gets a great river and university named after him out west but back east rests just down the road from me in a tiny pioneer plot, long neglected but recently fixed up.

I'm also fascinated by the exotic, like the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries I've visited in Stanley, Hong Kong, Kanchanaburi and Chungkai, Thailand, Kranji, Singapore, and even Gander, Newfoundland (a tiny plot beside the edge of the airfield, largely for crashed fliers). I have searched for Evita's grave in La Ricoleta Cemetery of Buenos Aires (unsuccessfully, but it does have some of the fanciest crypts anywhere on or under the earth), and Marx's grave in London's Highgate Cemetery (successfully, but somehow I expected more than a medium-sized rectangular granite block with a likeness of his head on top, too big to be socially egalitarian, but too small to embody his global influence).

I've heard about colonial elephant stompings bringing an untimely end to colonial ambitions in the British Garrison Cemetery of Kandy, Sri Lanka, and inter-tribal warfare leading to endings among the Batak people of Lake Toba, Sumatra (okay, I couldn't find any cemetery photos, but I linked to a few shots of the area by someone who knows how to take a photo).

Among the most atmospheric cemeteries I have ever visited are those of Lithuania. At Saules Kapines one finds an organized riot of green natural growth, grey headstones, and mountain goat paths winding through a splendor of eastern crosses. In the first photo of the posting you see the entrance to this parish cemetery of the nearby magnificent St. Peter and St. Paul's Church. Below, the graves cascading down a hillside.

My favourite grave markers were beautiful intricately carved wooden monuments like the one below, which seemed to mix elements of Baltic Viking mythology, Christianity, and naturalist fantasy.
You can test your Lithuanian language skills on the entrance plaque for Saules Kapines.

Nearby is the much more famous Antakalio Kipines, mainly a military cemetery, where you find the last resting places of scores of Lithuanians, Russians, Poles, Germans and others stretching over two centuries. So many graves from so many conflicts, it's hard to sort out who fell at the hand of whom, and even more difficult to figure out why. Because of its central location among traditional European powers, conflict has unfortunately washed over usually less powerful Lithuania time after time (notwithstanding the rather powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania period), with Lithuanians before forced to take sides for or against the latest invaders - and not always agreeing on whom to support.

Here is another of those great carved wooden monuments, this one with a much more military focus on the Second World War (you can spot the 1941-1945 half way down the inscription).

And here is the most imposing of the monuments in the cemetery, to the Soviet dead between 1941-1945. Those statues may look a little small in the perspective of the photo, but in reality they are huge!

In the plaza leading up to the statues there are lots of collective memorial tablets, organized by military unit including partizan brigades. The 1943-44 period appears to have been a particularly tough time.

While the Lithuanians keep all areas of the cemetery in an immaculate state, they have decided to snuff out the Soviet eternal flame at the base of those giant socialist-realist statues.

In the next close-up, you see the statues recognize both female (nursing) and male (combat) war roles, faces permanently set in equally grim determined resolve.

The Lithuanians also appear to have removed spot lights set on surrounding hillsides which would have bathed those statutes in a stony night time ethereal glow.

I found the most moving part of the cemetery to be the wooded hillside filled with Polish graves from 1919-20, each carefully bedecked with its own ribbon in Poland's national colours. The graves were the result of the Polish-Lithuanian and Polish-Soviet Wars.

Wandering aimlessly around as I tend to do in cemeteries (there is a reason I never found Evita's tomb), I never know what I might come across, like this memorial to early Soviet airmen placed off in a corner far away from the Soviet WWII graves.

The part of the cemetery with the most current national significance, seen above, dates from what is known as the January Events of 1991, and contains the graves of the civilians who died in clashes with Soviet troops over Lithuania's assertion of independence. Each grave is laid out around a semi-circle courtyard, with a single sculpture of the dead being comforted (seen in the upper left of the photo) watching over them.

Though the cemetery mostly had a smattering of foreign tourists present when I visited, it's reassuring to know that the local old and young still visit now and then to commemorate and remember what was, and what could be again.

I'm dreaming of a whiiiiiite Hallowe'en...

...dreams come true, apparently!

And last night, Gordon cooked me a white dinner!

Despite appearances, it was delicious. Potatoes from the garden (mashed with the skins on), local cauliflower, and haddock from the east coast. I teased Gordon mercilessly about the monochromatic dinner, but really I am insanely grateful for his cooking. :)

And a memory from Hallowe'en 2005...

Who IS that alien knitter?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The farm

My Welsh, chicken-loving, bloggy friend John asked, quite some time ago, to see more footage of our farm. I took this last summer and only got around to editing it now! It was done on my little Canon Elph instead of my video camera, so the quality suffers a bit. And I didn't even get into the front fields, but then there are 86 acres to cover, which takes time. :) Enjoy. The pigs are gratuitous but cute, and belonged to our friends down the road.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A day without chickens is like a day without sunshine...

...therefore, I am supplying your daily requirement of chicken photos! They all got out to free-range last weekend while we were in the garden doing chores.

Our most elegant hen, Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire:

Yesterday she laid her first egg! I was told she was going to lay blue eggs but it just seems to be a lighter brownish/grey. It is tiny and we found it on the floor of the coop. She apparently needs to master the nest-box concept!

Sophie studiously ignores Lord Gaga.

Errol Flynn and Lord Gaga leg it across the lawn.

Lord Gaga is quite the gentlemen. He is the only rooster that I've seen doing a little mating dance before hopping on a hen.

Georgiana became a woman last week, thanks to Lord Gaga. She is the best wing-girl of the flock. I'm amazed at far and high she can fly.

Errol Flynn and Lord Gaga strut their stuff with Tina Turner and Buttercup.

Buttercup is Lord Gaga's favourite. Gordon calls her the Concubine. They are pretty adorable when they snuggle together. Here Lord Gaga has called her over to show her some delicious bug treat.

Buttercup may be Lord Gaga's favourite, but he definitely spreads his love around. He showed Georgiana a bug on the driveway.

I think Buttercup is #1 wife, Georgiana is #2 wife, and the rest are a herd of concubines.

Captain Caulky repairing cracks in the driveway. The chickens were not particularly helpful, especially when they stepped in the black stuff.

Sophie studiously ignoring Buttercup.

And the soybeans were harvested last week, lots and lots of them. Apparently it was a very good crop year, according to our tenant farmer Dave.

Unfortunately it has also been a bit wet yesterday, and Dave got the combine stuck in our dampest field. Two broken chains later, he finally managed to pull it out with his tractor:

And finally...

Tristan likes hanging with the boys!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Deer meets car, car loses...

Sadly, last Thursday our erstwhile blogging correspondent Gordon had an encounter with a deer on the way to work. The car lost...

The pictures really don't do it justice. The car has been sitting at the body shop for a week now while we wait for the slow-ass insurance adjuster to get his act together and authorize repairs. Our first car insurance claim ever! So far I am unimpressed.

The deer ran into the driver's side, scratched the back door, caved in the driver's side door, ripped off the (lovely, heated, automatic) side mirror, bashed in the front panel and damaged the headlight assembly, tore off the bug deflector and dented the hood, and ran gaily off into the woods.

Luckily Gordon was just fine, and a kind woman stopped to make sure he was okay and give him her info for our insurer. The accident happened about 10 minutes from home. Gordon drove back holding the door shut, as it would not longer close properly.

I figure that with this deer strike, we have now been fully initiated into country life. The Ontario Provincial Police sent an officer from our local detachment to our house (!) to do an accident reports. They don't do THAT in the big city. Then the flatbed tow truck came and took our baby away to the body shop in St. Eugene.

Bye bye, baby!

Sniff, sniff...

We quite like the body shop, Carrosserie St Eugene. When my friend's Dad backed into our car last spring, we took it there for repairs (he paid for the damage.) Unfortunately, the very front panel that was so lovingly restored there last May is now wrecked again.

But on the bright side, at least it wasn't a moose! There are, according to Office Dan from the OPP, 500 deer strikes and a couple of moose strikes in this area every year. And I am beyond grateful that Gordon doesn't need any repairs!

And this morning on the highway in rush-hour traffic, I saw some moron applying mascara as she drove...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Come to our art show and sale!

Please come to our art show and sale on Sunday, November 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Dunvegan Recreation Hall in Dunvegan, Ontario (19053 County Rd. 24.) This is an annual show held by my friends Ronna and Holly, and this year they've invited me to participate too. Hopefully I will meet their high standards. :) I've hooked lots of little "ruglets" to hang on your walls, and am also doing some little acrylic paintings just for fun. We'll see if I come up with anything else in the next few weeks!

There will be paintings, pastels, drawings, rug-hooking, painted china, folk art and more. Come join us and get your Christmas shopping done at the same time. Enjoy free cookies, and Gordon, Richard and David will be there serving coffee and tea.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Roosters of the week!

I've mentioned before that I like to put a "Hen of the Week" on each carton of eggs that we sell. I am still making my way through all the hens, but today I made three "Rooster of the Week" cards. Voilà!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Frisky fowl

My friend Margaret says she has to get out her grandmother's fan to cool herself off while reading about our "frisky fowl"!

There is, after all, a whole lot of testosterone pulsating throughout the coop...

Errol Flynn really is the most laid-back rooster, but as a result he doesn't get as much action as the other roosters. I like to think he has manners, unlike the other two. His favourite hen is Penelope, but that doesn't stop him from approaching the older hens, who generally look upon him with disgust. Errol had the most spectacular comb and wattles of any of the chickens!

Beaker, by contrast, is an avian lounge lizard with the seduction skills of a serial killer. Tina Turner is looking suitably alarmed in this photo.

But really, you need cajones to take on a woman like THIS:

"I look harmless, but if you try to ride me like a filly, I'll knock your sorry rooster ass to the GROUND!"

Those Harco black Sex-Links hens, they don't mess around.

Charlotte, left, is admittedly my favourite and the most cuddly. I've never seen the boys approach her and I'm wondering if it's because they know she's mine mine mine (but not in THAT way!)

And here is the rooster trio of Lord Gaga, Beaker and Errol Flynn, with the delicate Georgiana snuggled up against them. Anastasia is in the background saying "La la la, I can't hear you!"

Let's leave the coop of iniquity and go for a walk around the farm...

The soybeans were harvested this week. I hear it's a good year for the farmers around here.

I love our beautiful barn! We have great plans for it. May it never be devoured by fire.

The fields, pre-harvest.

Soybeans (non-GMO, hooray) ready for harvest.

The last fall leaves on our lone sugar maple.

It has been a great year for mushrooms in our woodlot. I have never seen so many, and such a variety. Of course I will only eat the giant puffballs, since I know for certain they are not poisonous and have no lookalikes around here

I thought this splitting-apart 'shroom was pretty.

Beautiful fall skies. We may get wet snow tonight. Winter is nigh!

And the dogs are always happy with a walk!