Shoulda Woulda Coulda

maple in hoarfrost

90 YEARS AGO October 30, 1929 Triple murder and suicide. “It is now 11 o’clock, and I am going to join them.” Such was the note found by the authorities at the scene of the tragedy about four miles from Archerville Oct. 20 and said to have been written by L.A.Bergum, of that district, who, it is thought, killed his two daughters, his wife, a cat and a goat, and then committed suicide. It is thought that hard times with resultant financial worries had affected Bergum’s mind, as he had not been himself for some time.-Looking Back, Wadena News

Surely the Looking Back page will soon run out of sensational headlines!


Tracks of a large raccoon are in the snow behind the barn. Something will have to be done. They’re a lovely animal, but a destructive one.

Little Duckie seems to be feeling better, but has been trying to get Scott out of bed during the night. Why? We think he wants Scott to go sit on the couch so he can lie next to him. Scott ignored this last night as much as he was able, but when I got up at six I went straight to the porch door to let the dog out — and he wouldn’t go. If this keeps up, Duckie will have to spend his nights in the porch in his kennel rather than on his cushion under the dresser next to our bed. Or maybe we will have to start putting him in “pyjamas” — maybe he gets cold — sometimes I cover him up with a blanket before turning off the light, but he usually throws it off.

What I do know is that neither of us need to be awakened numerous times and this can’t continue. And no, we aren’t having him in our bed. The hair alone … nope, can’t do it.

My drive to work is 25 minutes. I’m in the office for six hours; three on each side of a lunch break when I walk over to my aunt’s and she spoils me with a hot meal and tea. This very much takes me back to my school days when I’d often saunter over to that same house, where my grandparents then lived, and sit down for a delicious hot lunch.

How exhausted I am when arriving home still surprises me. It’s been three-and-a-half months since the job began and I’ve made a point of not pushing myself to “get everything done” when I get home or on my four days off. Sometimes I don’t do dishes for the entire three-day workweek. I’m taking Vitamin B complex to give me as much resilience to the stress of learning as possible — not that it’s a difficult job, but the paper! Everything has to be recorded and filed and I swear there is a ghost that makes things disappear. I seem to be constantly searching, in frustration, for something that isn’t where it should be. And then trying to remember all the details … my memory isn’t what it used to be. If it ever was anything, that is.

Yesterday I arrived home shortly after 4:30 to a clean countertop and sinks (one full of washed Roma tomatoes), and Scott on his way to the barn to feed the cats (I’ve handed the chore over to him for a change; his turn). All I wanted to do was sit on the couch and think about nothing for a while, and this state of things I considered. Why so tired? I’d been sitting (except for jumping up a million times to get something or put something away) most of the day; nothing strenuous. I think what it is is that from the time I leave the house at 8:15 to scrape the car windshield and make my way down the gravel road to the highway, I’m “on.” If I’m driving, I’m “on” — paying attention to the road while listening to CBC radio’s morning programs. If I’m in the office, I’m “on” — busy doing things or talking to people either in person or on the phone. Even if I’m sitting at Aunt Shirley’s kitchen table or, as yesterday, treated to a restaurant lunch along with one of the village councillors by the acting mayor, I’m “on” — I’m with people and I’ll shortly have somewhere else to go and something that must be done.

So when I get home, all I want is to be a sack of potatoes for a while. But it’s time to make supper, and I shouldn’t sit on my ass. I should chop vegetables. On a day when there’s still light, I should go for a walk. Often there are dishes I should do. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, as the saying goes.

This is why I so carefully make no plans whatsoever — any that can be avoided, that is — for my four days off. I need that downtime to be without pressure of any sort.

 For a person who used to go go go (I remember my former husband physically halting me in the kitchen one evening, saying “Just STOP for a minute”), recent years and months have wrought a huge change.

And now, I have 15 minutes to wash, dress, brush my teeth and suit up to leave the house. Good thing there is no time-consuming beauty regimen around here.

Water Jug Turns Birdfeeder

water jug feeder

On the left side of the jug, I’ve removed the cap from the round opening so small birds can get in and out. I have given the barn cats strict instructions to destroy only rodents and leave my birdie friends alone. Other than simply not helping the birds get through the winter by feeding them, I guess I could try putting collars with bells on the three cats that let me touch them. But wouldn’t that also warn rodents they were about to be pounced upon? Also, all the collars I’ve seen for sale are ‘Made in China.’ Thus I always put them back on the hook, even though virtually nothing we buy in Canada is manufactured without at least some fall-apart parts from China, with its horrible human rights record. Maybe I can make collars with some twine that would work just as well. But hell, twine probably comes from China too. 

110 YEARS AGO November 11, 1909

The trial of Sanford Hainer charged with murder of Alfred D. Fraser of Margo will take place at Saskatoon on Dec. 14. Mrs. Hainer is up from Ontario securing defence.

Followup to the excerpt posted yesterday:

Mesci admits his guilt. Expresses no remorse and views the remains of his victims without emotion. John Mesci, the perpetrator of the triple murder at Clair, has been committed to Prince Albert jail where he now lies awaiting his trial. A self-confessed murderer who told without tremor of his cowardly assassination of Thoburn from behind and of the brutal death at his hands of the two helpless women.

-Looking Back, Wadena News


An example of the charm at coffee row:

Scott and I walk into one of the cafes in town. We’re going to have breakfast since the power is out at home, he is ravenous, and a banana and apple aren’t going to satisfy him.

Seated at a long table next to the door are six men, some of them retired farmers, three on each side of the table. One says to Scott as we pass by, “Does your wife know you’re in here with such a goodlooking woman? If she doesn’t I’m going to tell her.”

Scott and I didn’t have much conversation as he waited for his bacon and eggs and I for my spring rolls. We’d’ve had to raise our voices to hear each other. Instead we couldn’t help listening to the men discuss the merits (and lack of merits) of certain body shops, the ages of particular acquaintances, the dangerous driving of a senior fellow, and … well, that’s all I can remember at the moment.


Gord, my former husband (dreamed about him last night and was so pissed off at him! though we get along now better than ever and I’m not pissed off at him for any reason), gave me a used iPad2 when he was here last weekend. I’ve been familiarizing myself with it, and find that the orange sidebar on the left doesn’t open on the iPad. Why? I wonder. Do you have that problem with your iPad and if so, is there something simple I can do to change it?

The three barn cats that love to be petted and cuddled were all vying for my attention yesterday morning:

friendly cats



Vet Visit

Sunset off our back step.

110 YEARS AGO November 4, 1909 Triple murder near Quill Lake: George Thoburn, homesteader, his wife and the latter’s mother, brutally killed by hired man, a Hungarian, age 22 years, bodies of both women found in the bush near the house. Mr. Thoburn, a former resident of Sarnia, Ont., shot and thrown in the cellar; boy clubbed into unconsciousness, but still lives. -Looking Back, Wadena News

So much for the peaceful life of the Prairies. This is one bit of local history I’d never heard of before.


Saturday morning:

Duckie Doodle, our deerhead chihuahua, began acting strangely last night as we sat watching British detective series on the boobtube. He was panting as if a thunderstorm were in the offing. Throughout the night he kept Scott awake enough times to annoy the man. I got up at 10 to 6 so the mutt could sit on the couch beside me as I drink my morning coffee and read. The little bugger still appears to be freaked out about something, an hour later. Thunder is rare here in winter, but we’ve heard it in February so it does happen. Maybe Duckie is hearing something we don’t.


Sunday morning:

We decided Duckie was in physical distress and when Scott, watching him pee in the snow, noticed the urine was red, we started phoning around the countryside to see what vets would look at him on the weekend. The first one to return our call was able to make himself available so we set off cross-country to Preeceville, taking grid roads all the way because the highway was snowy and slippery. Three hundred dollars later, we’re home with medication and food to treat a urinary infection, though not even sure that’s what it is. Poor little Duckie endured an excruciating rectal exam that had him screaming and me almost crying and Scott struggling to hang onto his squirming body.

It could be cancer; there was no X-ray machine at the clinic, but further exploration will be necessary if the current treatment doesn’t help. We were also advised to brush Duckie’s teeth, and not to let him jump on or off the furniture, as it could hurt his back — something that happens easily to 15-year-old dogs.

This morning, even last night, he seems to feel better. No more panting.

It’s good to be home. That was one drive we didn’t need. We left at 11 and didn’t get home till about 4, after one detour to pick up four 20-lb. bags of sunflower seed from an area farmer to feed the birds over winter. I’ll have to rig up my new feeder system today; instead of the little silo feeders, which somehow managed to waste loads of seed by dropping it onto the ground where it stayed all summer, I saw someone else’s setup to avoid the loss: a plastic water jug that the small birds can go right inside of to get the seed. It won’t be pretty but it should do the trick.


What I’m reading now, or still reading, or have just finished:

The Haunted House, by Virginia Woolf

Dinner Along the Amazon, by Timothy Findley — short stories; beautiful writing

The Spirit Box, by Paul Quarrington

The Course of Love, by Alain de Botton — this is one of a kind

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Courting Saskatchewan, by David Carpenter


doghouse for cats

We have a drafty barn with a few small stacks of bales in it and two small insulated houses for cats. Since our dog Sadie has been gone, this large heavy doghouse has sat empty near the house. Every winter Scott says “I’ve gotta fix up something better for the cats.” This fall he used the tractor to carry the doghouse to the barn. It now sits just inside the door, complete with the heated mat that fits inside it.

100 YEARS AGO October 9, 1919 QUILL LAKE: The Lemon Club held a meeting Monday night between Bannatynes’ store and the railroad track. Business of great importance was transacted but as all the members are sworn to secrecy, no one knows what it is.
-Looking Back, Wadena News


Sometimes words pop into my head, connected to no thought I was having and no scene I was viewing. This morning while I was working in the kitchen, along came “kepler.” Word of the Day, I guess.

I may not particularly enjoy standing with my hands in the kitchen sink as I did for the past hour, catching up on dishes, but at least there is a nice big window right there and today I was delighted to witness our cat colony’s patriarch, Buster Brown, chasing oak leaves across the yard as the wind tumbled them over the snow.

Then there are the songs that come out of my mouth, from nowhere. Today it was “By the light of the silvery moon … (not by the dark, but just by the light)” … and I haven’t heard or sung that song in recent memory.


I feel a repeat of my obsession coming on. Remember it? The Holly and the Ivy? O Beautiful Star? If you weren’t following my previous blog, you missed it. Poor old you. Or maybe you stopped following after that. Oh here, have a taste anyway: CLICK HERE for some postings of O Beautiful Star.

And if you scroll down the page, you’ll come to the postings of The Holly and the Ivy.

Lamp Shade Challenged

In Margo in the early 1970s, ceramics were all the rage. The community college gave classes in town and they were popular as all get-out.

60 YEARS AGO – September 24, 1959- MARGO: Potatoes weighing from 3 to 3½ pounds are on display at Otterdahls’ store. At a glance they resemble vegetable marrow. They were brought in by Mr. and Mrs. F. Bohl and Mr. and Mrs. O Haarstad.

-From Looking Back, Wadena News


I bought these lamps for 10 bucks at a yard sale in Wadena this summer because they were tall. I’d be able to sit next to one and get good light for reading. But also, unless I was sitting right beside one, there would be no glare in my eyes; an opaque or glass shade doesn’t work and I like a low light in the room while watching TV. Any shade that the lightbulb shines too brightly through will irritate me; the glow needs to be well diffused unless I’m sitting near the lamp to read.

At first I joked that they were the “ugliest lamps in the world,” which didn’t matter because someday soon I’d happen upon a pair of lamps that I’d fall in love with and purchase and they’d be perfect. I’ve been telling myself this for some years and it never happens. We don’t go shopping if we can avoid it, and if we have to go to the city for some reason, by the time we’re done with necessities and appointments, who wants to add one more stop to the list? With relief we hit the road home — a highway drive of an hour or two, depending upon which city we’re visiting.

I can think something is ugly and if I keep it around a while, I start liking it. That’s started happening with these lamps. So I figure — try the “shade” fix — maybe it will make all the difference.


I’ve looked online at Wayfair so far:

and am leaning toward a burlap shade, one that will not sit so high as these do, will have no pleats, and the sides will be vertical with no slant.

I wonder if, since I want the lamplight to spread widely beneath the shades (remember, it’s all about illuminating the print in my books), I need to buy shades larger than the diameter of the ones you see here.

-the lamp bases are 9″ in diameter

-the lamp shades are 14″ in diameter around the bottom

These shades sit too high, and the “works” or “guts” of the electrical part are visible beneath the lower perimeter of the shade. That bugs me.

Since taking these pictures, I’ve removed one of the shades and put it on another lamp, where it is just right. It’s all about the right shade for any lamp, I say.

Have you got ideas?

The lamp (base and long neck) is 22″ tall.

During my online shade-shopping I’ve learned that there are standard ratios between base diameter and lower-shade diameter that facilitate the most pleasing, balanced visuals. No kidding! I didn’t know all that detail before, but there was never any doubt that a lamp shade that doesn’t suit the base drives me crazy. This has been going on for years because I don’t go out of my way to make a shopping trip and I don’t really trust online photos of lamp shades. I go on about my days and ignore the eye torture as often and as long as I can.

Oh my my, my troubles! I have two other pairs of lamps without the correct shades — except for the one I’ve recently discovered fits right.

Next: should I toast my freshly baked bread this morning or have it plain, with my friend Cathy’s rhubarb marmalade? So many weighty decisions to be made, whatever shall I do.



Monday is My Sunday

pyjama walk

It was a gorgeous hoarfrosty morning. I walked to the end of the driveway — in my pyjamas.

Up since six, again; the migraine book I just read advises to keep to your routines re sleep and coffee and food. It says rather than sleeping in on the weekends, get up and do what you normally do, then go back to bed if you wish. Just don’t delay your coffee or food if that’s what you usually have first thing in the morning.

I get up easier when I can hear that Scott is up and has made coffee. He usually is and always has.

I plan to bake bread today. The whole wheat flour’s been brought in from the deep freeze in the Quonset. The sesame and sunflower seeds and yeast have been taken from the freezer and will come to room temperature on the kitchen counter. I saved the water last night’s supper broccoli was steamed above. Now just have to get around to the measuring and mixing and timing and so on.


Reading Late in the Day: “In a few years they would be old women: sixty!”

Which seems silly. Sixty, old? I never feel “old,” ever, whatever “old” is, unless it’s seeing myself in a photograph, where I look like a completely different person than I know myself to be. It’s as if my outside no longer matches my inside.

A few weeks ago a Margo man who went to the same school as me didn’t know who I was, even after we’d chatted for some time in the village office. Granted we hadn’t seen each other for 40 years, but I can well imagine him and others saying “She’s sure lost her looks.”

Though it’s weird to have the face of a stranger — an old woman — it doesn’t matter to me at all. Inside my face I remain the same person I always was, even with the deepening of many lessons learned.

Or maybe I’m more myself than I ever was … more self-aware, more vulnerable, more insistent on respecting my own needs and wishes, less willing (was I ever willing?) to please others “at my own displeasure.”


The Bookshelf:

Virginia Woolf’s Garden – fabulous. Call me nerdy, but I love flowers and loved reading about Virginia and Leonard’s private relationship as it became known to future tenants of their home, Monk’s House, at Rodmell.

The Haunted House – a collection of Woolf’s short stories

The Witch Elm – a murder mystery with a bit of a twist

Late in the Day – the story of friends, two married couples