Leetle Seesta

I was in Grade 3 and my sister Karen was in Grade 1. Our brother Cameron would have been a toddler of two, and we lived in the teacherage in our small village, as Dad taught at the high school a block away.

In May that year, our little sister was born. Karen and I went to the stores and to the homes of neighbours, announcing that Mom had had a baby. We hoped she would be named Suzie, but were destined to be disappointed; for some reason, they called her Joan. We still don’t really know why, as there was no one in the family with that name and it was not one of the girls’ names that was popular at the time. Our parents had a friend named Joan but that didn’t seem to be the reason. In recent years we learned that one of our 4X great-grandmothers had been called Joan, and with an interest in numerology it occurred to me that perhaps this had been an unconscious influence upon our mother’s choice of names for this last addition to our family.

And what a sweetheart our baby was. She seemed to smile all the time, from the day they brought her home. She was a pink-complexioned gift from heaven, cuter than any button, a darling from the get-go. Nine years my junior, she was never a pest to her older sisters and she was the delight of our mother; she was a kind of creamy whipped topping on the cake of our family. As an infant Joan was a bit afraid of Dad and would cry when he picked her up, but this passed. She and Mom had a relationship that was close and trusting till the day Mom died; they were good friends as well as mother and daughter.

I left home years before Joan did, but when I was there she’d often follow me around, sleep in the same bed, and pick through my belongings laid out on the dresser. “I’m nosy,” she told me, holding some item up for a closer look.

“She just wants you to like her,” Mom said one time when I was home from boarding school for a weekend and had no idea why Joan’s feelings seemed to be hurt. She was only about six years old then.

And I do like her. She is the best: a kind, generous, funny and fun-loving, smart, fair, energetic bundle of joy. Still. And today’s her birthday.

Have a good one, Joanie! Keep on clownin’ around …


Your Big Sis


Deep Sweep

The poplar leaves are out and Bev is here till the end of the month. I’m drinking more coffee and wine than usual. Last time she was here, her friend left some of that International Delight (i.e. plastic), so I’ve been treating myself by adding it to my coffee these days. Just till it’s gone. I’ll never buy it because it’s too tempting, like all bad habits.cropped-coffee

Bev has recently discovered she has the ability to dowse, and has been practising on her friends’ homes. The dowsing rods indicate where there are ley lines going through houses, adversely affecting human health.

We have one going through the top half of our bed, which, according to information about geopathic lines, may explain why we are frequently complaining of neck, head and sinus conditions.


I’ve made another webpage to practise different layouts and designs using free templates. This is fun but time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. Consider yourself alerted: one day you’ll come here and think you’ve landed in the wrong place.


Some routine is good for me. Baking bread on Mondays, doing laundry on Tuesdays, changing bedding on Fridays … that’s about as far as it goes: one “big” job per weekday, accomplished, and my life seems to be in order. All the other daily doings easily fall into place: sweeping the floor, cleaning the kitchen, making supper, feeding the cats at the barn … the walks in spring glory, the birds calling all around the yard.  Thinking I may make Wednesday a bake-something day; Bev came bearing a shitload of pie fillings, knowing I bake but not that my pie crusts aren’t great. Tomorrow I’ll tackle making some pies anyway. My crusts may not be flaky but you can’t go far wrong with a pie, can you? The mess of it is the worst one can do.



When these were handed to me by my knight in shining armour, I felt like a little girl wearing my flounciest dress.


hands coffee cup

Bev’s just finishing her coffee and it’s a beautiful day. Time to get moving.


ps Do you ever get ideas for things to write about and then never write them? I do, all the time. I’ve decided to (when I remember to write them down) use them for blog titles. Today’s is the first one. It came about as I was sweeping the laminate flooring one day. There are cracks between the narrow planks, and when I draw the broom across them horizontally, what I hear reminds me of the sound made high above by sandhill cranes flying over. Don’t ask me how I got to “deep sweep” from there. Probably something to do with telling myself I don’t have to sweep under every damn thing each day. Once a week will have to do.

Trip to Town

“Do you want company?”

It’s late afternoon and there’s some business to attend to in Wadena. It’ll take about an hour and I’ll be content to sit in the truck and read while it gets done. Also, I’m hankering after a drive through the countryside … one of my favourite things.

Our first stop is a mile south at SouthForks, my inlaws’ farmyard, where there are things to load or unload. I wait a couple minutes in the passenger’s seat and we’re off again.

The land is finally dry enough for the farmers to get into the field with their tractors, so there’s one in every direction you look. It’s a “beehive of activity” out there.

tractors in fields

In town, we pull up to a building and I roll down the windows. Enjoying the warm breeze, I pull Paula Fox’s memoir, Borrowed Finery, out of my purse. Wow, what a writer! I’m drawn right in, and only look up when a vehicle drives down the alley we’re parked next to, or kids walk past on their way home from school. The long weekend (Victoria Day here in Canada) has begun, too, which means “Camping!” across the country, and travellers are pulling into the local site to make their evening meals and rest for the night.

camper pulls in

Of course when you live six miles from town, you never do just one thing and come home again. Heck no. We stop at a garage sale and I spend $9.50 on a few small items including a bedside lamp for the spare room. The beer supply is running low so we drive over to the liquor store and replenish our stock. Click to enlarge these photos taken from my vantage point in the half-ton; one to my left, one to my right:

We also get a few bags of groceries at the Co-op; I wait in the truck when a second trip into the store is made for something forgotten.

co-op parking lot

Naturally we have to get the mail too; the photo on the left, below, is taken while parked across the street from the post office. On the right is the highway running east out of Wadena as we hit the dusty trail for Golden Grain Farm, our home, home on the range. Again, click photos to enlarge

Not Gonna Stub My Toe

I don’t run for the phone anymore.

It rang this morning around seven o’clock, and Scott nearly killed himself leaping out of bed, stumbling around corners, trying to reach it before it quit ringing.

Perhaps it was an important call, one he’d been waiting for, but more likely his urgency was a vestige of the days when we didn’t have call display or an answering machine and if the ringing stopped before you got to the phone, you’d never know who was on the other end of the line unless they called again. The mystery and the missed “opportunity” would be felt as a loss. And so when the phone rang, you dropped whatever you were doing and ran for it.

I don’t bolt from the tub and scamper dripping across the floor to answer the phone. I don’t jump up to answer it when I’m in the middle of something interesting on television or if I’m sitting down to a meal. I try to ignore it if it rings while we have company; I feel it’s rude to be talking to a caller when there are guests in my living room, unless it’s to say a brief “I’ll call you back later.” Sometimes I don’t answer it because my hands are in dishwater or in bread dough. Occasionally I don’t answer it because the call isn’t for me and the answering machine can take a message as well as I can; and sometimes I simply don’t feel like chatting. I never worry that I’m missing an emergency call, for I know that when there is something important to know right now, the caller will either leave a message or call back very soon.

There are those who believe this is arrogant behaviour on my part. And to those people I say, you go ahead and be a slave to whoever feels like calling you whenever they feel like calling you. If you think that what you do with particular moments of your time should be up to someone else, and that you are above reproach only when you are at the beck and call of another who has decided that right this minute they feel like talking to you … I am kind of sorry for you.  Me, I’ll decide when and if I’m answering calls, and why.  It seems to me that no one must be available to whoever, whenever. Choosing not to answer the phone is not tantamount to displaying bad manners or disrespecting a caller; it’s a healthy sign of respecting one’s own right to choose who you will give your attention to and when.


The wrens have returned and are making their usual nest in this little house in the oak tree nearest our picture window. I took these photos through the glass. These tiny birds blend in so well it’s difficult to see them, isn’t it? It may help to click on the photos and enlarge them.

The goldfinches have also arrived from their migration and are particularly excited about the feeders I keep filled with sunflower seed purchased from a local farmer. They seem to have a lot to say. I made a fire in the silver bowl I dragged onto the front lawn last night and sat there for a couple hours just gazing at the flames and listening to the birds. Such an abundance and variety! Along with the perfect temperature, a windless evening, and no mosquitoes to speak of (yet), it was heaven for me. I’d bought wienies to roast, so those and a tossed salad were supper.

To be honest, I didn’t actually sit there the whole time. I picked up a spade and dug up some volunteer delphiniums and moved them to flower pots that are crowded around the foot of the power pole, where they will live or die or be unearthed by Goddamn Dog. I filled an old aluminum pot with water from the rain barrel and gave my rosebushes a drink. I sauntered slowly past one of the perennial beds, considering whether to carry out my plan to remove all the blue flax because when it’s not blooming, when it keeps its flowers closed on cloudy days, it just looks like a weed. I don’t really want it in the front of the flower bed anymore.

But I must take care not to jump the gun and dig too much, for there are many plants that aren’t up yet and I don’t want to damage them by not remembering exactly what’s where. So I held off and perused instead, cold beer in hand.

What a Voice!

Our own Connie Caldor. Can you help singing along? I can’t.

Thanks for sending the link to this, Marms.



The sink is full of dishes in hot soapy water and I’ve got a shitload of pictures on my desktop to look at and sort. Not the time to reply to comments! But hello for now.


Bounty from the Earth

If you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter (if you wish to, there are icons on the side that will take you there), you didn’t see these photos of the morels given to Scott by a friend who had been out gathering. These mushrooms are considered a great treat; I believe she was rewarding him for some little thing he’d helped her with.

I drove to Kylemore to pick up the mushrooms and, after a chat with Sylvia out in her driveway, came home to prepare them for freezing, leaving out just enough for Scott to have a feed with his supper.

Our neighbour has got his field south of our yard worked up, and there are lots of tractors out on the land this week. Farmers have got seeding on their minds. They’re getting the machinery ready and “chomping at the bit,” as the saying goes.

neighbouring field

Scott needed a ride in at the end of the day so he could leave the tractor there and finish up this morning, which meant a phone call and a request. “Can you pick me up? I’ll be north of I.N.’s yard; I’m going to walk across her field to the road.”

Why shore. I like nothing better than to hop into Little Green and take a short drive out to the field. I’m not kidding. I turned off the burners that were heating up the evening meal, and headed out to bring my sweetiepie home.

On the Go

Pick up morels from Sylvia. (Check)
Wash, sauté, bag, freeze morels. (Check)
Drop off paint strainer in town at friend’s. (Check)
Withdraw cash from credit union account. (Check)
Take bread to Everett’s, and visit with him a while. (Check)
Get refund from Co-op for overcharge last week. (Check)
Buy groceries. (Check)
Return library books, mine and Emil’s. Sign out two more for me, four more for him — one is classic Alice in Wonderland, which he’s never read and I’ll have to read to him. We’ll see what he thinks. He could read it but it would be slow going as he’d have to ask for pronunciation for a lot of words, and so it’s not much of a pleasure for him. But … (Check)
Go to post office for mail. (Check)
Have two house keys cut at lumberyard; Bev’s coming this weekend! (Check)
Donate refundable containers to the food bank via the Sarcan depot. (Check)
Stop at drive-thru window for a small chocolate milkshake, $2.25. (Check)
Make three or four trips back and forth between house and car to carry everything in.
Pour a cold glass of water and sit in the sun on the back step for a few minutes. (Check)

Next: put groceries away, start supper, drive out to the field to give Scott a ride home. He’s managed to get into the fields to cultivate for the past two days, and is happy about that.
Have I forgotten anything? It feels like I have.
There’s more I’ve done and more I could do. The yard is a mess of sticks and plastic containers the dog has been playing with; they need to be picked up so she can find and dump a bunch more stuff onto the grass. I haven’t had time to go for a walk.
The front flowerbed needs some attention. Just a little bit each day and it’s not difficult to keep it shipshape. It doesn’t look like much right now but it’s good to see the green and I patiently await the flowers that aren’t up yet:

perennial bed

In front of the caragana windbreak you’re seeing delphiniums, maltese crosses, daylilies, columbines, oriental poppies, thyme, globeflowers, blue flax, and purple coneflowers. So far. The rosebushes haven’t budded out yet, the giant shasta daisies are being shy, I’ve torn out the speedwells and a bunch of the hollyhocks (this bed is still too windy, caraganas or no) but will remove more, and the lupins, plume poppy, spearmint and bleeding heart bush have yet to make their appearance. So does the feverfew, which reseeds itself.

Scott managed to find a slot of time one day to load up the lilac branches he’d pruned from the row on the east side of the house. He’s a busy, busy boy.

First Sting of the Season

Dad’s cousin passed away a few years ago from the sting of a wasp or bee. Younger than me, he’d been working on a rooftop in Vernon, B.C., when he was stung. He said to the man with him, “Don’t let me die.”

I was never stung until in my thirties, at a campsite, I moved a bench that had a wasp nest built beneath it. The wasps attacked my bare legs. Over the years since, I’ve had the odd sting, usually without terrible results although once, at my friend Shelly’s, my shin swelled and grew hard and remained that way for some time, enough that Shelly worried about it.

Yesterday I was pulling quackgrass from a flower bed and digging up the row of pink speedwells that I wanted out of the front border when I felt something inside the hood of my bunnyhug, which was pulled up because of the cool breeze. Fearing it was a woodtick, I reached in to brush it off my neck, and saw a dark flash as some larger insect fell toward the ground and disappeared.

giant pencils

Giant pencils at the place I stayed for several days last month.

“Oh! Thanks for not stinging me!” I said to it, before realizing that it had. I’d go into the house and put a mixture of baking soda and water on the spot, I thought, and walked to the Quonset to deposit my trusty horseshoe hoe so Goddamn Dog wouldn’t chew up the wooden handle. With each step the sting hurt a bit more, so I began to hurry. When I reached up to touch the area, I could feel a tiny stinger poking out of my skin.

Could I be allergic to bee stings, like Dad’s cousin was? I wondered, trying not to panic as I hurriedly mixed the soda and water in a small bowl. What if I am, and my neck swells, and soon I can’t breathe?

The stinger came right out in my fingers, the soda poultice immediately quelled the pain, and today there’s just a wee sore lump there. I lived.

Duck Eggs, Night Noise, Where Sharon Lives Now

SadieSue hasn’t been eating much and I wondered why, till Scott mentioned that he’s finding egg shells on the lawn. She’s stealing from duck nests. Who wants kibble when you can have fresh eggs?

The soras are back. It’s tempting to sleep in the office so I can listen to them while falling asleep. With Scott’s C-Pap machine next to me in our bed, bird calls outside the window can’t be heard. The frog chorus can’t be heard. The coyotes can’t be heard. Why is it that the goddamn barking dog can still be heard?

sadie luvs duckie

Sadie loves Duckie. Remember that Bugs Bunny cartoon where the big dog ends up bouncing around the little dog, begging for attention? That’s how it is. Sadie wants to play play play.

If I stop here, my sister Joan will say to herself, “Tsk! Where’s the rest?” So I had better carry on, even though the popular wisdom about blogging these days is “Who wants to read about you? Write posts about them — stories and information that will help them to live/do/be better!”

That’s a tall order. What do I know about living better — especially how other people could live better? I only know that I’m happy a good part of the time, and a lot of that is due to my environment. I’m not elbow-to-elbow with other people, even those I love. I can step outside my door and be alone but for animals and birds and butterflies, and soak up the beauty of sky and clouds and trees. When I lived in towns or cities , I felt trapped and surrounded. How can anyone be happy in those conditions? But that’s only me. Lots of people are not only happy, but blooming, in towns and cities.

It’s not always easy or possible to “bloom where you’re planted,” though you can stay alive. That’s not blooming, though.


After lunch I sat down with a cup of tea and Sharon Butala‘s new memoir, Where I Live Now. Oh my. I was in tears before I’d finished the preface. I recognize myself in her emotional life. And beautiful writing, perfect. I’ve said before that her earlier memoir, The Perfection of the Morning, is my favourite book. It spoke to me like no book ever had. I often think of it, still, of Sharon, when I’m walking somewhere here, anywhere, and remember that others walked here before me, many centuries ago. I wonder who they were, what they were doing. It’s Sharon who reminded me that this land was not empty before me and mine came here.

Tick Terrors, Identity Crisis

We’ve got sunshine but cool wind, so still need to dress for spring apparently. None of this bare-headed, jacketless gallavanting for us.

On Thursday Emil got out of bed and on Friday or Saturday he went outside for an hour and last night I drove him back to Aylesbury House for the week’s work that is ahead of him. He sands reclaimed wood, which is repurposed into art pieces and sold at Rustic Havens, a little gift shop on mainstreet Wadena.

I’m back to being on my own throughout the day. I do miss him. He’s good company. Which reminds me, all the walls and surfaces he touched after moisturizing his hands following each wash need to be wiped down. (Whew, that was a mouthful.)

Excuse me, while I’m thinking of it.


We are all tick bait.
Two or three have been found crawling on me, but none has latched on — maybe they’re desperate to get away! — and the credit goes to Laura’s home-made lemongrass lotion and her essential oil blend for insect repellent. I slather up with the lotion several times a day and spray the oil on my socks, walking shoes, and gardening clothes. Nothing is foolproof but I do all I can because lyme disease is no laughing matter and even if it weren’t for that, woodticks are gross creatures, gak!

Every day when Scott comes home he stops and examines SadieSue and removes a dozen ticks from beneath her fur. She doesn’t like to sit still and will wriggle away when he starts on her lower jaw and chin, but she enjoys the attention. Here she gets one of her daily doses of it as Scott returns to the house at suppertime.

We’ve tried numerous things — the commercial collars, the medications that you apply to the skin behind dogs’ shoulders, a home-made spray, and now a prescription from a vet. Some say the drug is too strong and toxic and they won’t give it to their dog, so we haven’t till now. But it’s a desperate situation. I won’t pick ticks off dogs (get the heebie-jeebies taking them off my own self, and then having to basically chop them in half to kill them, well … nope), you can’t always find them hiding even in short fur like Duckie’s, and Scott doesn’t have a lot of free time for the search. So we’ll try the medication and with luck it will give both us and the dogs some relief.



There goes the timer. Bread dough’s finished the second of its three rises and I must go shape it and put it into loaf pans. I owe Everett 15 loaves because between Scott and me on Saturday night we had $10 and needed $70 to pay for tickets and CDs, and Everett was the only one with enough cash on hand.


I’d received a phone call with an invitation to attend a house concert featuring vocalist Melanie Hankewich and her two-piece band, a.k.a. Belle Plaine. I’d seen one of their house concerts advertised on FB already and it seemed alittle unusual that they were playing in two local places in May, but then again, why not? Maybe Melanie was spending a couple weeks visiting family in the area; maybe the other two players were, too, as their hometowns are nearby.

Anyway, we took Emil to Everett’s for the evening and crossed the street to knock on the door of the hostess, Marj. It looked like we were getting there just in time, as there were a number of vehicles parked outside her house.

The door swung open wide, giving a view past Marj’s smiling husband into the dining room — which was full of people at the table, eating. Hm. The concert was to start in about five minutes, I thought.

“Are we early?” I asked.

He looked confused. “For what?”

“The house concert?”

Now Marj had left her guests at their meal and was coming over to see. He turned and looked at her questioningly; was there something she’d forgotten to tell him? No. She didn’t know what we were talking about either.

“Come in for some ice cream anyway!” he said with a grin. Talk about being welcoming to uninvited guests. It was actually tempting, but …

“You know what,” I said, “it must’ve been another Marge I was speaking to! That means we’ve gotta bolt, because the concert is starting right away — on a farm somewhere outside of Quill Lake.” We had at least a 20-minute drive ahead of us.

So we apologized for the interruption, waved goodbye, and carried on down the highway. I drove. Scott phoned my friend Charlene, who I seemed to recall had been to one of Marge’s house concerts before. Luckily she was home and her perfect directions got us to the farmyard before we’d missed too much of the musical performance. We heard the concert had started late anyway because another couple had gotten lost and the performers had waited for them.

Now, what are the odds that I would mistake one Marge for another, over the phone? But I did.

Here’s one of Belle Plaine’s catchy tunes: