Archive for the ‘Down home’ Category

A roof with a view

Walking back from the car this morning I heard a soft “mmmwuuuump.”

Flocks of Canada geese currently own every pond and watering hole for miles around.

One tough leather-and-chains pair checks out our pond every year, swimming elaborate circles and inspecting grassy banks.

This year three of our ducks sauntered down to the pond and tried to play nice with the wild gander and his gal.

Only a few minutes passed before our ducks rapidly waddled and flapped their way back to the cloistered safety of the chicken coop, quacking something about their inability to keep a conversation going with the new guy.

Hey! You two hens! Cut out that cacklin’ in there.

You can hear me. Now knock it off!

Stella! Come on, Stella!

Hey, Stella! Hey! Stel-laaaaa!


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The answer, my friend…

A good farmer checks the flock every day.

You head out to assess food and water, lodging, egg production, ailments and overall stability.

On the way to the coop you stop to notice the occasional natural moment of beauty.

A spotted guinea fowl feather, sweetly tucked in behind a few blades of new grass.

These crazy birds, you think. Molting all over the place.

In fact, the ground around the coop is littered with multi-hued feathers resulting from a diverse flock, feathers that fall out on a daily basis.

Over at the coop, the Mille-fleur rooster struts for his hen, glad to be let out for the morning.

Same for this Blue Cochin. He enjoys tackling my foot at feeding time, ferociously hurtling forward in attack mode, all seven ounces of him ruffled up to make him look like A Big Tough Guy.

I usually slide my foot underneath him and flip him back a foot or so. It’s our little game — he’d be mortified to discover I find his tough guy facade kind of cute.

After several futile minutes he abandons his attack and decides instead to impress the blonde.

Back in farmer mode,  I notice it’s kind of quiet out here. The lunatic guinea fowl are not in the coop.

Which means they’re outside the coop. Which means they were outside the coop last night when Homeboy went out in the dark to lock them up.

Which is why no one noticed the feathers.

The guineas were crazy lunatic birds, supplying tear-drop shaped eggs and, vulturine countenance aside, have a certain endearing weirdness. I’m alone in my affection for them but hey — their overall and utter peculiarity made me laugh.

A walk around the meadow didn’t divulge any more murderous evidence so the second gal may have sought refuge in the bushes.

Along with our Indian Runner duck.

A spot of good news: No coyotes on the island I’ll be calling home in just a few months.

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Pretzel child at work.

Hands up if you’re this flexible.

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Cleaning up

First we start with a couple of photos, early shots of 2010.

Just to say where we’ve been, before we get into where we’re going.

First week back at school in January we got a day off school. Parent-teacher interviews.

Recalcitrant Mother took the children to the AGO instead for the King Tut exhibit. The Princess in some oh-that’s-so-five-millennia-ago accessories.

A simply stunning ski Saturday at Mount St. Louis. So nice to have my tuned and sharpened skis on after the rental units in Panorama.

Fun paint application from my iPhone. Guilty pleasure, technology.

Equally goofy product by one or other of the back-seat artists on the way to somewhere.

That’s the January wrap-up.

Thanks for dinner, Mary and Tim.

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Home Work

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny a ha-penny will do.

If you haven’t got a ha-penny, God bless you!

Hey, kid! Fix that pencil grip!

That’s better.


I learned that little ditty when I was in Kindergarten from our teacher, Mrs. Knudson. Her first name was Margaret.

Back then — 1964 if you must know — it was very special to have connived knowledge of a teacher’s first name.

These days knowledge of teachers’ first names is de rigeur.

In the meantime, such discussions are relegated to the sidelines as we complete our spelling homework.

And in fact, I’m less concerned with homework than I am with playing with a camera in low-light situations, sans flash.

Homeboy, however, is gloating over the fact he has no homework.

None. And he can smile.

Because The Mother knows he’s going to get nailed in just a wee few hours.

The Assignment That Ends All Assignments.

And I’ll be there.

Sans flash.

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All we are saying…

Our school’s Peace Concert last night.

A beautiful tribute to teachers and students collaborating, creating, co-operating.

One of the special aspects of a tiny country school.

Homeboy here got to exercise his inner Bill Wyman with Mr. P’s School of Rock.

Some clarifications required: Geeky plaid shorts because his class had an Australian theme (well, that takes care of the shorts; Homeboy is geeky all on his own). Black leather tap shoes because Homeboy later evolves into an east-coast step-dancin’ machine.

The Princess pops into the photoshoot in swim trunks and bare feet. Outside it’s minus-seven with a minus-20 windchill.

The show begins at precisely 7 p.m. with an entourage of 3-5 year olds taking the stage. Mrs. M repeatedly whispers, somewhat greater than sotto voce for the can-can dancer to drop her skirt. Nah. Not when she’s in full spotlight.

The enthusiasm and joy are pure and unadulterated. The children garble away en francais, not a clue to what they’re reciting in La Neige but it’s perfect in its innocence.

The ninth day of Christmas.

The Princess played a recorder duet — Oh Come All Ye Faithful. More like Oh Come All Ye Who Practised. And that narrowed it to two.

The Big Lugs came out on stage later with their tenor saxaphones, trumpets, clarinets, flutes and drum kits, minus the cute red-and-white dresses and sweater vests.

Parents of the younger children were several times reminded that *this* was in their future. Not sure how many took the message seriously.

Embrace every minute.

That’s what I say.

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Awaiting winter

Outside the snow is just beginning to fall.

The weather stations report a “big one” is coming. School children can only hope.

I like the first cloudy hours of a snowfall — the world in black and white.

In the meantime, a summer flower transmogrified for the winter scene I imagine in my head.

Time for flannel sheets and a hot water bottle.

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Forever blowing bubbles


Whenever my father comes to town it’s a party.

We sortie for ice cream, we skip school ‘cuz if you can’t skip school now when can you skip? take in the Royal Winter Fair, we visit elderly relatives, we have a lot of fun.

And there’s always something new to learn. Usually a song — some long-ago reminiscence that comes to his mind and which is utterly obscure to anyone born after, say, 1955.

Have I Told You Lately that I Love You

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

Abadaba Honeymoon


This time, it’s homemade bubble-blowing solution.

Nicholas and Dad bought, weighed, measured and poured according to Recipe No. 1 (I learned there are three more recipes to come) and set out on the front steps to see how big the bubbles could be.


Pretty big, as it turns out.



Ingredients are fairly straightforward — water, dish soap and glycerine — but no doubt proportions are key.


As we work out way through the various recipes I’ll let you know which was deemed best.

But in the meantime:

Bubble Blowing Recipe No. 1

600 g water

200 g dish washing liquid

100 g glycerine (available at drugstore)

Mix and blow!



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Musical interlude


Some beautiful music spaces exist in this city.

This little room abuts the side of a big and old Baptist church downtown, once a chapel filled with the faithful.

Among the faithful long ago sat Lucy Maud Montgomery, she of Anne of Green Gables fame, during her brief stint as a Torontonian. Lucy Maud’s house is just down the street.


In its current state, the former chapel hosts a highly polished ebony grand piano for music lessons and rehearsals.

We’re here for the latter.


The lad is here for an hour to prepare for a recital this coming weekend.

Maria, the pianist, patiently guides him through the finer points of rallentando and ritardando as they relate to his performance.

He’ll be playing the three movements of Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor and it’s kind of tough for a 10-year-old because he’s got to be the boss.

He has to set the tempo. He has to signal when wants her to start. He has to speed her up, slow her down, set the mood.

When you spend your day taking orders from the tall people in your life, that’s not so easy.


She tells him, “We’re a team, you and I. We work together. Don’t worry if we don’t get it right the first time. That’s why we come here.”

Here in this little room, with the ghost of Lucy Maud.

Would Anne Shirley hesitate to give orders to a tall person?



Thus the pianist and the performer confer and converse, plan and prepare.

The hour ends, he bows, we leave.

We also go for ice cream.

Lucy Maud would approve.

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Autumn may be the time for a chlorophyllic slowdown but beneath the soil hums a vast network of mycelia, waiting to pop up and show itself a mycological arc.


About 40 to 60 mushroom species can grow in these fairy ring patterns and they can live and reappear in the same spots for hundreds of years.

And because they’ve been around so long, fairy rings play wonderfully imaginative roles in European folklore.


In Germany, the rings were said to mark the site of witches’ nocturnal dancing. In Holland they showed where the Devil had set down his milk churn. Personally I’d have expected the Devil to drink something a little stronger than milk!


In Tyrol, the fairy rings showed where a dragon had breathed fire and once having done so, nothing but toadstools would grow there for seven years.


One tale from Scotland tells of fairies sitting on the mushrooms and using them as dinner tables.


And from Wales, that the fairies used the mushrooms as parasols and umbrellas.


It’s supposed to be particularly bad luck for a mortal to step into a fairy circle so don’t expect to see our lawn tidied up in any particular manner before the snow falls.

Wouldn’t want to upset the little folk…

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