July 20, 2006

July goings-on

I thought I'd better take a few moments to post an update, before I completely fall off the blog wagon.

The weather hasn't been too hot, though that's about to change today, but it's been dry enough that the crops are starting to "burn" and turn white, which of course is no good for yields. At least I can water my raised bed gardens, and the kids and I have been taking turns moving the hoses around. It's hard to tell where the spinach was since the greenery of the peas and carrots have expanded to fill in what used to be a sizeable space. I was surprised to notice the size of some of the beets, which are now shouldering their way out of the earth and which will need eating soon before they turn big and woody (I like them either baked and served hot -- the baking seems to caramelize the natural sugars -- or boiled or baked and served cold in a salad). The kids are snitching carrots and pea pods for snacks while we work in the garden, and we'll probably go berry picking for saskatoons in the next few days, barring any bear sightings. On the kitchen table is my large blue handmade ceramic pitcher with a bouquet of white Queen Anne's lace, cerise yarrow, and spikes of blue veronica. And several drinking glasses full of sweet peas, which are blooming like crazy. The Knee-Hi variety that are supposed to be short are growing so tall that they're spilling over the end of the vegetable raised bed, and the scent is everywhere, making the garden an even more pleasant place to be.

In more unpleasant nature red in tooth and claw news, the other morning we checked on the killdeer, figuring that any day now the babies would hatch and were surprised and saddened to discover no mother bird, no nest, and only small shards of the taupe and spotted egg shells. Probably discovered by a fox or coyote, as we had all feared with a nest in the middle of a field like that. For more bad news on the animal front, Davy's kitten from the start has had the potentially fatal habit of hiding in trucks, either in the front by the engine or in the back by the wheels. Last night Tom took off with the kids for the corrals to bale some of the grass he cut around the buildings (in preparation for the organic inspector, who may be arriving early next week and not, we fervently hope, during fair time), not realizing the kitten was under the truck. For some reason, Daniel noticed the kitten tumble out near our pond, halfway between the house and corrals. As soon as I got word, I rounded up the kids and we went on a search mission around 10 pm as the sun was setting. No luck by calling "here kitty, kitty," so we all kept quiet as we took turns meowing. And lo and behold there was an answering cry. Davy's kitten Felix was alive and a bit dinged up -- he lost some of the fur on his chin in the tumble -- and avoided becoming a coyote's midnight snack. However, when we got back to the house, my kitten and Daniel's were missing, and are still missing this morning despite several search parties.

On the good news front, the day before yesterday my inlaws turned off the highway near their house to discover a stunned but otherwise unscathed older couple from the Eastern Townships in Quebec whose 17-foot holiday trailer had just been flattened by a sleeping truck driver hauling a cattle liner; as Madame put it, "Our trailer went from 17 feet to 17 inches." If they had been driving a car without a trailer as a buffer, they would have been killed; some of the cattle in the liner had to be put down yesterday. They had driven out to the coast and were headed back home after a month on the road. My inlaws immediately adopted Helene and Philippe, taking them first to the hospital to get checked out, and then putting them up for the night. At the moment, H&P are trying to figure out how to get home, since renting a car and U-Haul one-way from our small spot on the map is apparently next to impossible. My inlaws brought H&P by last night to see the farm, and, except for the circumstances, it was a wonderful, bilingual time; the kids demonstrated some trick riding and the bits of French they know, and I think in an effort to repay some of the kindness received, Helene has promised to send some Quebecois French children's songs on CD. They are a lovely couple, and we'll probably see a bit more of them before arrangements are made for them to head home.

The kids are busily putting the last minute touches on their entries for the fair, only one of which (and a collective one at that) thankfully includes livestock. And no food items, hurray, which means no last-minute baking or fudge-making. In fact, we have to drive to town this afternoon to drop off the registration sheet for the Chicken Pen Show, for showing a pen of five birds. I was amazed to read on the sheet that prizes range from $50 all the way up to $250 (even $50 is terrific for an animal that gives you eggs every day and doesn't require any trimming or washing to enter), and most fun of all is the fact that there will be a social following the show in the curling lounge; the kids will have a ball. Other entries include some of Laura's paintings and drawings; painted rocks; sheaves of wheat, barley, and hay; glass jars (pint sealers) of last year's threshed grains, including wheat, barley, field peas, and flax, some of which have required hand cleaning; Lego models; and for some strange reason, the kids' highlight every year, the mounted display of pressed and dried leaves, weeds, and grains/grasses/legumes, all of which have to be identified. Very nice for botany/nature studies, not to mention penmanship; and last year Laura was even moved to include the Latin names for the plants, with which she credited her first place win. Charlotte Mason would definitely approve. If I get a chance, I'll write more on this pressed and dried plant business after the fair.

Saturday is the big Agricultural Society work bee to get the fairgrounds ready. It's a wonderful way to volunteer, and especially to have the kids understand that the fair isn't something put on by nameless faceless types for the kids' enjoyment; it's also a celebration of our agricultural past and present, not just a chance to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and eat mini doughnuts. Laura, Daniel, and Davy have understood since they were small that this is a community effort, and it happens only if enough people pitch in before, during, and after the actual fair, whether it's cutting the grass around the fairgrounds, painting the cattle stalls, exhibiting entries, or cleaning out Old McDonald's Barn petting zoo after the last day.

Speaking of pitching, since this year marks the centennial of both the town and the fair, the Ag Society board has decided to include with the usual old-fashioned threshing demonstration a 100-person threshing crew. The only requirement is a strong back and your own pitchfork. Tom is an official participant, the kids unofficial, and all are looking forward to the event. I've been doing my own pitching ahead of time, to the local papers in a bid to get them to come out and cover the event.

That's it for now. I'm off on one more hunt for missing kittens, to help Laura mount her pictures, and then load up the truck for all our errands this afternoon -- Ag Society office, library to return some items and pick up several more that have come in (those audiobooks are coming in handy in the kitchen as the kids work on their projects), Laura's friend's bicycle to return after their sleepover here, garbage bag of outgrown clothes and toys to deliver to Goodwill -- and to think of something cool and quick for supper.

Update on the kitten saga: Daniel's calico kitten was found, safe and sound but hungry and scared, during chores this morning. Apparently it hitched a ride last night too, but had the (small) sense to wait until the truck stopped before dismounting. It was heard mewling from the wheel on top of the small portable concrete mixer. So I'm thinking that my little gray one must have gone along for the ride too, but where it got off is anyone's guess.

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