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Fur-Babies Zenishness...

Farm-Sitting Again…

The favourite trail…

This is my favourite part of the walk with the dogs. We go out to run the fields twice a day, and this is the first section of our journey. It’s so peaceful through this trail, and I always find at least a shopping bag worth of pine and spruce cones.

I don’t often get a picture of all three dogs in one photo – I take ’em where I can…

I’m glad to be back here again for a bit, but it’s odd not sleeping at Ruby’s house – I’ve got used to it, and our bedtime routine.

This stint of “farm-sitting” was scheduled back before Ruby went to hospital with the last bout of pneumonia, and her son had set up a visit with one of Ruby’s nieces to “cover for me”, while I’m out here. I’ve been visiting in the afternoon instead, and that feels weird, too.

Aubrey is on a short trip this time – 4 days – he’s gone to a yoga conference in Toronto. That seems so strange to think of Aubrey at a yoga conference, of all things, but he says he’s having a good time.

He’s also going through a reno right now. His, though, seems to be going more smoothly than mine, although he’s literally living in the midst of the house being ripped up and rebuilt around him, while everything he owns is piled up in the middle of the room.

He’s had the floors ripped out and replaced entirely – just one last room left for new flooring – and all the walls have been freshly painted, and he’s demolishing an entire end wall of his living room and remodeling it.

And his huge reno will still be finished before my one little attic room. I’m both jealous and resigned to that fact.

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Cards & Stationery Gift Shop Photography

The Farm in Winter…

New blank greeting card available at the Zazzle® store!
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Artsy Fartsy CANADA Cards & Stationery Fur-Babies Gift Shop Photography Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Vicarious Tourism Zenishness...

Narnia at the Farm

Everybody look for the Lion…

 
I’m sleeping with the dogs at the farm for the next 10 nights, and keeping the home fires burning for my brother. He has run away to Hawaii, the shit.

After swearing at the coffee maker that I couldn’t get to “coffee” (again – this happened to me this past summer when I “farm-sat”, and this time, Aubrey showed me step-by-step what to do – nothin’. His coffee maker will not make me a single cup of coffee.), and swearing at the wood-pile that didn’t want to give up a few sticks of wood to get the fire going in the the airtight stove (at least I won that battle), I took the dogs out into a Winter Wonderland.

Kaylee was stunned, ecstatic, and overjoyed with the amount of snow at the farm. She plowed non-stop through snow up to her neck in places. Bert and Ernie caught a bit of her joy bug and romped around with her, when normally, they usually all kind of cut away in different directions during morning runs.

Aubrey also showed me how to get Netflix up and running on his bedroom TV yesterday, you know, so I could take my new “No Netflix” lifestyle and just pitch it out a window and get all addicted again on Night 1. “You don’t even need to sign in!” he exclaimed. “See? Just turn it on!”

“Sign in to your account.” Is actually what comes up on that screen when I turn it on.

Thanks, Aub. Either your instructions suck, or I have become Tech Stupid (and that’s very possible).

I did get this glorious photo, though – which is now a Christmas Card at Les Becker Designs (you should buy one to send to your Gramma).

And I got the fire going, Former Girl Guide that I am! The farmhouse had better still be standing when I get back out there tonight.

[signoff]

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It Helps If the Whole Family Is Crazy Oh Mother...!

The Chamber Pot

Kyla Nora Maude Becker - 1998 - JK - photo
The 1998 Version of My Aunt Blanche…

No, really, let’s compare, shall we? If only to piss off my daughter – who tells me she’ll kill me if I post this, but then laughs out loud when she looks at this photo of herself, so I think I’m all good…

Blanche Van Every - 1920-something - photo
Tell me that’s not eerie…

Yes, kids, it’s time for another Aunt Blanche story…

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It Helps If the Whole Family Is Crazy Oh Mother...!

Aunt Blanche

Aunt Blanche - 192?
Aunt Blanche – 192?

Aunt Blanche was my mother’s older sister. She was the first born – and she wasn’t very old before my grandmother realized she was a little, well, different. I suppose the proper, “politically correct” term to describe Blanche would be mentally challenged. She never went to school, never held a job, and never married.

I have a photo of Ky, when she was about 4, that looks just like Blanche. Ky hates that picture, which is why I’m going to dig it up someday and post it, ‘cuz I think it’s cute that she looks like a modern-day version of my Aunt Blanche, and I’m the Mom, and she can’t stop me.

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Oh Mother...! Photography The Landlady

Mish-Mash

Little Red Shoes
“Little Red Shoes”
Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

The Little Red Shoes sit in my mother’s Etagiere, if I spelled that correctly. Elle? Wanna let me know, Betch?! My mom calls it a “What-Not”. I think it’s because it’s to display all your knick-knacks and what-not in. Anyway, that’s where the Little Red Shoes are, when they’re not in the bathtub, with me and my camera. Bathtubs make great backgrounds for some pictures. Wet bathtubs are not necessarily good for cameras, but mine’s tough.

I love the Little Red Shoes, but I don’t have a story about them. I just couldn’t come up with a pic for this post.

I’m having trouble catching up with all the posts I have in draft. Hence the title – “Mish-Mash” is about what this one will be – just a couple of bits and pieces that I’d like to get out of my hard drive and onto the blog. This clip from today’s post by Cardiogirl reminded me of a bit about my mom when she was a kid, which, in turn, reminded me of one about Ruby’s mom…

clipped from www.cardiogirl.net

So essentially we have a socially-accepted version of a wealthy pretty woman (former Ford model who must have earned a lot of cash) whose hobby is traveling the globe and shopping. So she finds “amazing stuff” and brings it back to New York to re-sell it. Do I have that right? I thought so.

And these aren’t your mother’s baubles. A telephone table finished in frog skin. I’m understanding this, though I find it crazy, until I get to the shagreen part. What is shagreen? Is it like shazam?

  blog it

A million years ago, when my mom was a little girl of about 12, she and her sister were down at the nearby fishin’ hole with their cousin. My mom is the older of the three, but for some reason, it was Auntie and Cuz that did the ordering around of my mom. This was the story that made me realize that my mom was a little mouse when she was a kid. How she managed to grow up into a stern (SERIOUSLY stern) School Marm, I will never know. My mom was the teacher you didn’t want to get, because you couldn’t get away with any monkey business, and you might even (OMIGOD!) learn something!

At any rate (as Mom would say), they were down at the fishin’ hole, dib-dabbling around in the water, when the conversation turned to frog legs. As an appetizer. Because that was what the rich people ate. Probably every day, even. Imagine, they told each other, all the rich people in the big cities paying unbelievable amounts of money for a plate of frog legs, when there were hundreds of frog legs attached to hundreds of frogs right in front of them. For free.

And so Auntie and Cuz decided that they wanted frog legs for dinner. My mother didn’t think that was a very good idea. She thought it might be a little hard on the frogs. Auntie and Cuz didn’t give a damn about what the frogs thought of the idea, and they didn’t give much of a damn what my mom thought about it, either. They just sent my mom up to the house to get a knife. And my mom went. Slooooowly.

The whole walk up for a knife, she tried to think of a way to save those frogs. She couldn’t think of a thing. She considered just not going back to the fishin’ hole, but decided she might pay for that later, so instead, when she got to the kitchen she decided she would bring back a dull butter knife. She reasoned that it would hurt the frogs less than a sharp one would. At 12, my mom was all for “less hurt”, apparently.

As it turned out, a dull butter knife does NO hurt to a frog, because it wasn’t long before the other girls gave up trying to saw off frog’s legs and quit in disgust. They didn’t get their frog leg dinner that day, but there were probably a few pissed off frogs in the fishin’ hole before they gave up.

Years later, one of those girls ate frog’s legs in a restaurant – by accident. She saw someone else’s order of what she thought was chicken and just pointed to it, telling the server, “I’ll have that.” Served her right.

Ruby’s mom, now, would have got the legs off those frogs lickety-split. She was a woman who got things done (she also had no forearmsthere’s a story for the blog, huh? Soon. Honest.).

Despite being a woman who “got things done”, Ruby’s mom had a heart of gold, and hated to see any animal suffer. She lived a hard, rough life on a farm, though, and there were times that some animals just had to be “taken care of”. Chickens had to be killed. Pigs had to be slaughtered. Sometimes, you had to shoot your dog. And there were always kittens that couldn’t be kept, and had to be “taken care of”.

Ruby’s mom hated that job, but it had to be done. She believed that the most humane way to “take care of” kittens was to drown them. Most people would shove the kittens in a burlap sack and tie it shut, and pitch the poor buggers in the nearest river. Not Ruby’s mom. That wasn’t humane enough for Ruby’s mom.

No, Ruby’s mom would pull on a pair of heavy gloves, fill a pail full of water and, one by one, she would hold each kitten (gently) under the surface until it was dead. Oh yeah, and she would make sure to fill the pail with warm water, so the little dears wouldn’t die shivering…

Random Song for the Day: “Alive” – Pearl Jam

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Oh Mother...!

Great Aunt Emma

"Emma's Knight"Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
“Emma’s Knight”
Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

I must apologize to the memory of my Great Aunt Emma, for this horrible photo of her painting. It’s a water-colour, framed behind glass, hanging in an awkward niche in my parents’ small space. To get the shot at all, I had to jam myself between the fake gas fireplace and the stereo stand, straddling something or other – it might have been a speaker; I don’t remember. I imagine Emma, if she could somehow see them, would marvel at both the fireplace and the electronics in the stand, not to mention the annoying blinds that caused me problems with the reflection shining on her painting, 70-odd years after her death.

The knight in the painting is Emma’s depiction of a Crusader, having his sword blessed before setting off to convert the heathenish sinners into unwavering faith in a God they’d never heard of.

And if you can’t convert ’em, hell – run ’em through.

When I was little, I used to stare at Emma’s painting for hours at a time. I thought, then, that it was Joan of Arc. I used to imagine that maybe Emma felt a little like Joan: misunderstood… ostracized… martyred. Well… “martyred”, I guess, came later for Emma.

She was my mother’s father’s sister, one of three. As you can see, Emma was an artistic soul, at a time and in a place where that was unusual. The time was the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, and the place was a teeny-tiny farming community on the Manitoulin Island – a community of hard-working, God-fearing, good people. “Haweaters”, they still proudly call themselves, and I’m just as proud to be descended from them.

Emma was a “difficult” girl. She was not exactly… dependable. Her moods were sometimes… erratic. Her actions often confused people.

Sometimes, she could be extremely morose. Depressed. Her family worried over her. At other times, she became violently angry, and frightened them. There were days that she was giddy, and loud, or just plain “odd”. There were also days, and weeks, and probably whole months at a stretch that she was just plain “Emma, herself”, and they would be relieved and nervous at the same time, wondering which Emma would be there next, and hoping by some miracle that her “fits” had passed for good this time.

My mother believes, now, that Emma might have had Bi-Polar Disorder, or what at one time was called Manic Depression. I think my mother might be right, but that was an unheard-of condition way back then. And I’m guessing you have a pretty good idea where Emma ended up.

It must have been a difficult decision, sending her away. Committing her to an asylum. The Nut House. Booby Hatch, Funny Farm, Loony Bin. Horrible, terrible names, I know. Back then, though, they were horrible, terrible places to be “institutionalized” – places where, if you were shut up into them, whether by your family, or by a magistrate, you would be shut up with other people that may very well have started out with troubles similar to yours, but over time had really been driven literally mad. By the time you met your fellow inmates, most would be dangerous, psychotic, unrecognizable versions of themselves. And you would probably end up the same way. And back then, they almost never let you out.

Emma’s sisters, Marjorie and Lavinia, would go and visit her when they could afford the trip to Toronto. Sometimes, she didn’t care if she saw them or not. Maybe during those times, she didn’t realize who they were. But there were also visits when Emma was “Emma, herself”, her perfectly normal “self”, the sister they loved. Those visits were especially hard for Marj and Vine, because Emma would cry, and beg them to please, please, just let her come home. She hated it in the asylum. The other patients frightened her. She was going crazy. Please, please, just take her home. But they couldn’t take her home, and they would have to say good-bye and leave her in that awful place, alone.

After awhile, they didn’t visit anymore.

Emma died some time during the Great Depression. My mother doesn’t know if she was still in that asylum or not, but she was still in Toronto when she died. No one had any money then. No one could afford to travel.

There was a man who came from the Manitoulin, who lived in Toronto at the time. He saw Emma’s obituary in the newspaper, and recognizing the family name, he decided to go to the funeral. He knew Emma’s people, and he wanted to give his condolences. He wasn’t able to.

He was the only person there.

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles

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Oh Mother...!

Jimmy Prentice & the Radio

Philco_Radio_1941
Philco Radio, 1941

Jimmy Prentice was somewhat of a local oddball, to hear my parents talk. I don’t know if he actually had a home, or not. My mother talks about how sometimes, just before dinner was set to be “lifted”, Gramma would be looking out the kitchen window, and say, “Better put another plate on,” and they knew Jimmy was walking across the field.

He’d come in and have dinner with the family, and afterward, off he’d go with the men to do the afternoon chores. They had a farm of dairy cows – help with the chores was welcomed, and well worth a meal or two, even during the Depression. More than likely, Jimmy would be in for supper that night, too. And then for breakfast in the morning…

He’d stay on a few days (or weeks), help with the farm, eat with the family, sleep wherever there was room. Then he’d mosey off across the field; to the next farm, maybe, or into town.

One winter evening, during the War, Grampa opened the door to a very, very sick Jimmy Prentice. Flu was a pretty serious thing to come down with back then, and Grampa put him right to bed. He was sick for a long time.

Gramma and Grampa fed him up, cleaned him up, generally took care of him for the duration. No way would Grampa turn Jimmy out. Not because it was winter on the Manitoulin. Not because Jimmy had the flu. Nope. Jimmy Prentice had a radio.

Now, Grampa wasn’t necessarily against technology, but in the early ’40s, with farmhands and livestock to feed, not to mention 8 kids (minus Bill, who was overseas fighting a War), purchasing a radio was not high up on his list of priorities, to say the least. They got “The Family Herald” once a week for the War news; what did they need a radio for?

Family_Herald
The Family Herald

The Family Herald would be read cover-to-cover by Grampa, the day it came. Then Gramma got her turn, and then it was passed around the household until everyone had had a chance to read it through. Sometimes, clippings would be mailed out to a sister or an Aunt. By the time the next issue came to the farm, the last would be in tatters, most likely relegated to the outhouse, where it was read again, and reread, and then “recycled”.

Letters from Bill (and he wrote to everybody from overseas) would also be passed around. Sometimes the letters were delayed, or lost altogether. News was shared. As worried as they were, the family knew that last month, at least, Bill was alive.

And then… Grampa discovered that the War News could come every supper-time, if somebody turned Jimmy Prentice’s radio on. Meals became sombre affairs, quiet, other than the static-y voice coming out of that little box on the sideboard. No one dared make a peep, for fear Grampa would shout them back to silence. World War II got closer to home.

Of course, over the next several weeks, Jimmy Prentice got better. Pretty soon, he was taking supper at the table, listening to the radio, and then, slowly, out helping with the chores again. Eventually, he decided it was time to mosey over the field to wherever it was he would go; the next farm, maybe, or into town. And, of course, he took his radio with him when he went.

Supper was eerily silent for the next few days. Grampa was out of sorts without the static-y voice on the sideboard. Withdrawal. They all missed Jimmy Prentice’s radio. The Family Herald was days away yet, and the news in it would be “old” news. Bill seemed farther away than ever, and World War II might never end…

And so, one day, Grampa came home with a radio of his own, and everything seemed that much better. The world was smaller again, and if it – the world or the War – should finally come to an end, he would be among the first to know.
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“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.

There’ll be joy and laughter
And peace ever after,
Tomorrow
When the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again,
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.”

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “The White Cliffs of Dover” – Vera Lynn