Search This Blog


Follow by Email

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ready for baby

I bought a carton of cream with the expiry date of January 9, 2016. As I read the date I realized by the time this cream expires, my granddaughter will be born. Baby season is ramping up around here on the Fisher farm.
Saturday was Anastasia’s surprise baby shower. I am truly amazed that we managed to keep it secret all this time. We had a little help, because she was a bit preoccupied.
Earlier in the week, Annie got a call from one of her husband’s friends. They were planning to kidnap him for a Baby Bachelor Party. Apparently this is a thing.
Around 1:30 in the afternoon on the 21st, the Wiggins were sitting in front of the TV, watching an old Anthony Hopkins movie. They were just getting to the scene of a bear attack when four men, their faces covered, entered the house from four different doors. It was a bit of a shock, but not all that terrifying, because although they were wearing hockey masks, they were also carrying cheerleader pompoms. And one of them was in a Scooby Doo costume. Anastasia, who was in on the whole thing, concentrated on keeping their four hunting dogs from attacking the intruders.
Andrew was manhandled out of the house and into the driveway. Then the men revealed themselves to be his hunting buddies, and his heart rate went back to normal. I was just happy to hear the whole thing hadn’t gone horribly wrong – the last guy who was kidnapped for his bachelor party was taken naked from the shower. One of his abductors ended up with a broken nose. I think if you’re going to plan this sort of thing, it’s a good idea to have the subject’s partner in on it so they can run interference. Anastasia made sure Andrew was out of the shower and dressed before zero hour when the kidnappers arrived. And if the partner is pregnant, as in the case of Anastasia, it is more reason to ensure she is in on the game. Otherwise she might panic and go into early labour, and no one wants that to happen.
So Annie had plenty to talk about when I picked her up to take her “boot shopping”. That’s what I told her, anyway. She said she was suspicious about the plan, and wondered if it might be a ruse to get her to her surprise baby shower. But when I suggested I would make lasagna for dinner and invited her to join us, she was scratching her head again. She didn’t consider lasagna a typical offering for a baby shower. But she didn’t realize I had about thirty people coming late afternoon, and they would be coming and going to and from work, so I planned a potluck dinner. Everyone was bringing something. I made lasagna.
People started arriving at the farm at 2:00pm. I took off to get Annie at 2:20. As per the plan, I left my cell phone at home. She was so excited about The Abduction of Andrew, she just kept chattering away and I doubt she even heard me when I said I had to go back home to get my phone before we could go “boot shopping”.
She was still re-enacting the events of her afternoon when we pulled into the driveway and she saw the pink balloons the Farmer had tied there. “Oh, Mom!” she said, finally cluing in. There were so many cars, we had to park in the hay field up the drive. She was crying before we even got in the door.
We played a couple of games with our guests, while the little mama sat in her decorated chair of honour and opened her gifts, for two hours straight. It’s a good thing she grabbed a plate of sandwiches and a glass of punch before she sat down. Many of the things she received were hand made, and some barely-used items were handed down. The Wiggins family is pretty well equipped now, and that baby can come today if she has to (although we hope she doesn’t).
Anastasia was very pleased to discover that there actually was a pan of lasagna at her baby shower. And I ran out last week to get her a pair of Ugg-style boots for her swollen mama feet, so she had that surprise as well.
Just over a month to go until the due date. Christmas will be the second most important thing happening around here this holiday season.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The womanly art of having babies has changed

Well, I don’t think the essential art of having babies has changed much. But the culture around it certainly has. I walked into a baby-supply store yesterday and was completely overwhelmed by all the stuff the world says we need. I feel sorry for today’s expecting mom, trying to equip her layette and household with everything she will need when junior arrives. Where do you begin?
We have two babies in our family due on exactly the same date. Anastasia, our daughter, and Glorianna, our niece, are due December 31st. Gloria isn’t too concerned about the coming child. She has had a baby shower or two but she will likely give birth with just a bassinet for the baby to sleep in, a package of diapers and a car seat for the baby to come home in. She will get the rest of the items as she needs them. Daily trips to Babies R Us will keep the new daddy busy. Her baby registry is only about a dozen items long.
Anastasia’s gift registry is five pages long. She has worked as a nanny, and she used to run the infant program at the local Montessori school. She knows what she needs and what she wants. She is organized.
Both mamas-to-be have items on their registry lists that I have never heard of before. For example, what is a wiper warmer?? Gloria said she went into the baby store and just stood and stared at the wall of baby bottles. Then she turned around and walked back out. Gloria has a consultant advising her on what she will need. She also has a lactation consultant, a pre-natal consultant, and a doula. Anastasia doesn’t want to do any of that training-for-childbirth stuff. As with everything in life, she prefers to learn on her own. Thank goodness her doctor doesn’t seem concerned. She says she will teach Annie everything she needs to know when the time comes, about when to breathe deep, when to breathe shallow, when to hold her breath, and when to push.
When Gloria opened her gifts at her baby shower on Sunday, she got a little weepy. It’s part hormones, part anxiety about this whole new world she is entering. As an elementary school teacher, Gloria is very familiar with little kids. It’s the whole baby thing she has to get used to. She held up each little outfit, and imagined it filled up with fat baby boy. Her eyes welled up with tears. The little mamas have just over a month to go. The doctors tell them their babies are already four pounds.
I like that these young mothers have so many choices open to them. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, modern women were told they should bottle feed their babies formula. Certainly there were the earth mothers and the hippies who breastfed but most suburban moms felt the bottle was a sign of progress and independence. 
I was twenty-one years old with my first and I was determined I was going to breastfeed my baby. I had La Leche League on speed dial, and I called their experts day and night. I soon learned that making milk wasn’t going to be a problem if I learned to sit still long enough, drink enough water, and stop worrying so much. In just a few days I got the hang of it. And baby got enough milk. I fed her for a year, her sister for about eighteen months, and her other sister for nine months. I made their baby food by blending up unseasoned cooked meats and veggies, and I used cloth diapers unless we were going out of the house. Neither Gloria nor Anastasia have cloth diapers on their list.
I think I bought maybe one bottle of formula in the entire time I had babies in the house. I never bought a jar of baby food. I was proud of my ability to provide for my children, and to keep costs down while ensuring I was providing the most natural care and feeding possible.

But would I have used a Diaper Genie if offered one? You bet your buns I would.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

A love story's final chapter

The Farmer meets me for lunch nearly every weekday. He wants a simple meal, like you can cook at home, so we usually meet at one of the local diners. I tell him I can make us soup and a sandwich to take to work and save him the twenty bucks. He says he likes the break in the middle of the day, where you get out of the office, and have someone else make your tea. I think it’s an old habit from his bachelor days but perhaps he is on to something.
Many times we would see the same couple dining at a nearby table. He was broad-shouldered with a ready grin. She was petite and often had her eyes turned to the newspaper. They both had white hair.
If the Farmer caught me watching them he would sometimes give me a little nudge with his foot under the table. I tried not to eavesdrop but I couldn’t help it. The gentleman had a voice that was soft, but it carried. He called his wife sweetheart in every second sentence.
Their conversations were mostly him asking questions, her answering. He would say, “Where are you from, again?” or “Why did we never move to British Columbia? I always wanted to live out West.” She would answer, patiently, in a manner that revealed she had provided the same responses to the same questions, many times before.
Sometimes we exchanged smiles and waves as we went our separate ways after lunch.
Then one day, perhaps a year ago, I saw the woman sitting alone. I realized I hadn’t seen the pair for a few weeks, and now it was just her, on her own, reading her paper. I ventured over.
“Hi there. Where’s your sweetheart?” I asked her.
“Oh, he’s in the home,” she responded, soft and sad.
“He’s at home?” I was confused, and a bit daft.
“No, he’s in the home sometimes, and he also has to go to the hospital sometimes, but now he’s back in the home.”
“Oh.” And then, “You must miss him.”
“I visit him, but he keeps asking me when he can come home,” she says, and I can tell she is getting upset. I tell her I’m sure they are taking very good care of him and I’m sure he loves her visits.
I make a point of going over and saying hi every time I see her sitting there on her own. Sometimes her daughter is with her. We talked about how difficult it is to make life-changing decisions, about getting rid of most of the contents of the home you’ve lived in for decades. About leaving town and simplifying your lifestyle to accommodate your new requirements.
“Well you don’t have to decide to move right now, do you?” I ask.
“They took away my license,” she reveals. “I sit there in that house and my daughter has to come from Ottawa to drive me out to see my husband in the home.”
Plans are made for a garage sale, so that a lifetime of model airplanes and other unique collectibles will go to appreciative new owners. I think of how hard it must be for her to part with the things that her husband made with his own hands. But there is no room for these things in her new home, and perhaps she is looking forward to her own little space without them.
She moves into her new home, beside her daughter, in Ottawa. She will have help for the yard and the driveway. Her living quarters will be small enough for her to manage on her own. And her family will be close by in case she needs them for anything. I tell her I think she is making a very good decision for herself.
And then, like a confirmation, her sweetheart dies. There is nothing tying her to the home they lived in for so long. She is free to go, to enjoy her life, in its new shape.
She may be in a completely different environment now, but I’m sure she often feels the presence of a broad-shouldered man with a ready grin, sitting across the table from her, his big hands reaching for hers. Rest in Peace, George.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The cow clinic is open for business

A couple of our cows are still drooling. The Farmer took another look at the dosage on the Ivomec de-worming medication and realized he needed to give them about five times what he originally administered during his flying leaps through the herd. You have to spray the liquid on their backs. But first you have to corral them and sneak up on them. It’s a lot easier said than done.
Before he headed out to the barn to feed and do chores, I clipped a pedometer on his belt.
“We’re going to start counting our daily steps,” I announced.
“Why?” he shrugged.
“Because we are supposed to walk 10-12,000 steps a day,” I said.
“Says who?”
I convinced my husband that it was a good way to keep activity top of mind.
“Oh and when I get to 10,000 the pounds just fall off,” he said, shaking his head.
We got the cows in the barn by bringing fresh hay bales in where they could smell them. Step one, accomplished. Then we pushed them out the door where they were huddled at the entrance to the metal chute or alley with the head gate at the end.
“Just hold that bucket of sweet feed on your side of the headgate. When she puts her head through, push the gate lever down and it will hold her head in place.”
Theoretically, yeah. But this is a 1500lb Big Betty with an attitude. She wants the sweetfeed, all of it, then she is just going to shake that headgate lever off her neck and shove the whole gate open. And that’s exactly what she did. But by then she had her medication.
We are still learning just how strong our barn infrastructure needs to be to hold a cow in place. A lot stronger than it does to hold a sheep in place, that’s for sure.
This procedure went on for the next few minutes – push the cow into the chute, put the bar down behind her bum so she can’t escape, spray medication on her back, release. I ran out of sweet feed after Betty so she was the only one who got a treat. I’m pretty sure the rest of them could smell it and were quite confused about the trick.
Finally the only cow that remained to go in the chute was the sickest one of them all. Her chin was swollen with parasites and she had a foamy drool on her lip. But she didn’t like being the only one in the chute, so she took a run at the gate and, with all her strength, put her shoulder into it and busted it open.
“She’s the main reason I was doing this today,” the Farmer said, throwing his cane on the ground.
“You can still get her,” I encouraged. “Look. She’s right there, in the middle of the crowd around the hay feeder. Just sneak up on her and spray her back.”
The problem is, you have to pump the spray nozzle five times to get enough of a dosage. I am reminded of our big Belgian horse Misty, how she used to jump, all 1800 lbs. of her, straight up in the air if she heard a squirt from a spray bottle. I used to have to spray a cloth with bug repellent and wipe her down with it because she could not stand to be sprayed.
The Farmer snuck up behind the black drooling cow with the white face. She munched happily away on the hay, oblivious. It wasn’t the feeling of the cold, wet spray on her back, but the sound of the nozzle, I swear, that sent her reeling away from the feeder. She spun around and the Farmer got her again. She kicked her heels in the air and spun around in the other direction, trying to see where the noise was coming from. The Farmer kept jumping to stay behind her, out of sight. It was quite amusing to watch. Finally the startled cow took off toward the open pasture, a man in muddy duck shoes struggling to keep up with her, squirt bottle in hand.
“Run, Fisher, Run!” I laughed.
Mission accomplished, the Farmer limped back to the house, shook off his barn coat and kicked off his shoes. He pulled the pedometer off his belt and handed it to me. It read 5,000.
“Well that’s a good start,” I smiled.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

A grisly discovery shatters the peace and quiet of the farm

We own a mile of Kemptville Creek. The shallow waterway runs along the edge of our 200-acre property along County Road 18 east of Bishops Mills. If you paddle your canoe up to our property line, you can see the bridge over the creek at County Road 20. This is where the body of a young man was found last week. That, as they say, is a little too close for comfort.
I first learned of the discovery through a friend who met the police roadblock on his way home. I went and spoke to the officer on site, who could obviously tell me nothing, except to say there was no risk to public safety. Neighbours closer to the site said they had heard there was a homicide on the bridge. Another friend posted a message online saying a local resident had found a body.
I wondered how the police could say we were safe in our homes that night. How could they know? Did they have the person responsible in custody? No, they did not. For the next two nights I awoke every time the wind moved a tree branch, causing the outdoor sensor light to flash on, and off. My migraine headache induced by too much indulgence on Thanksgiving flared and lasted all week long.
In our secluded location, on a bend in a single-lane dirt road, we often see dumpings of garbage and even hunting carcasses: geese, fish, even a bear. It’s upsetting to think that the beautiful farmland, forests and roadways we call home are considered a place to drop unwanted trash to others. Now someone has turned our peaceful rural landscape into a crime scene. Yellow police tape flutters in the wind where it stretches around the site from tree to tree, blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Crime scene investigators and forensics specialists are on the scene for days after the discovery, taking samples, photographs, and video. Documenting the scene where one young man’s story came to an abrupt end.
On Friday, police revealed preliminary autopsy reports. They had an unidentified deceased male and the cause of death was not obvious. Further testing would have to be done. The description of his attire and grooming was a bit more city than country in my first impression. Maybe he was brought here from Toronto, or Montreal. He had the name of a hardcore band on his t-shirt, “BANE”. They played Montreal last summer. If there was no sign of injury, did he die from drug overdose? Heart attack? The police say the body was in good shape, so it wasn’t in the water long. Tips have been flowing in from the public. Vehicles have been spotted near the site in recent weeks – but they often are. There is a parking area and a groomed path down to the water where people launch kayaks or canoes, or send their dogs in to fetch sticks on a hot day.
Hopefully by the time this column goes to print, the dead man will have been identified. It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t have anyone looking for him. With today’s rapid network of communications between policing partners in Canada and the US, surely they will have him identified soon.
I’ve spent far too much time over the past few days, wondering who he is, what happened to him and who the people are who can fill in the missing links to the story. Like a self-diagnosing sick person, I am online doing research and investigation, looking for clues.
The police said one thing during the press conference that caught my attention. For the first time in my many conversations with police since this case began, when asked if there was any danger to public safety, she didn’t say no. She said they were treating the case as a suspicious death, and we should exercise personal safety. I went home and made sure all windows were locked as well as the doors.
Then I sat and watched the sun go down over the creek, the cows grazing in the foreground, black silhouettes in the twilight. The air was filled with the song of geese flying in, following the line of the water, their favourite place to stop for the night.

Dealing with zombie cows on the farm

The Farmer and I were working in the garden when we noticed the cows. They were standing in a line beside the fence, staring at us. Most of them were drooling. They were very creepy, like zombie cows. I told them to cut it out. They moved closer. My husband said they likely had a wee dose of parasites from the grass, and they needed medication. He made plans to do it bright and early the next morning, before they left the barn.
Unfortunately for my partner, I had to be at work early for a meeting so he was on his own in the cattle-rustling business. He attempted to lure them into the cattle chute with a fresh new salt lick. As it had yet to be licked I don’t know if they could smell it. In any case, they weren’t interested and just by-passed the whole operation. He did manage to catch two of the tame ones – Betty and Mocha – but the rest took off before he could needle them with the Ivomec de-wormer.
Later in the day the cows were crowded around the water cooler at nap time, discussing politics or whatever it is they do at that time of day. The Farmer stood silently, just out of their circle. When they were huddled together he climbed halfway up the ladder to the hayloft and sprayed down onto their backs with the de-wormer that he hadn’t managed to get into them by needle.
A few minutes later he went out to see if he had missed anyone. The rest of the cows were lying down, in the cattle chute. He successfully sprayed them too. Mission accomplished. I told him he should have waited for me to come home with a bag of apples. My luring techniques usually work. But I think he was pretty successful because I don’t see anyone drooling anymore.
We’ve had our first frost now so I guess it’s fair to give up on my garden. I’ve ripped everything out and turned the sod over. I say sod because it was basically a grass garden with some plants sticking out of it. Next year I need to get serious about eradicating the grass and weeds. What an exercise in frustration – trying to find tiny green onions and carrots in weed patches that are twice as high as the veggies.
The Farmer has also requested that I don’t plant quite as many squash or ‘exotic’ (orange, green, pink, and purple) tomatoes next year. They make great photos to post on Instagram but they apparently are not ideal for his traditional spaghetti sauce.
My husband has spent most of his free time lately shoring up the woodpile as we prepare for another long winter. Soon he will install the wind barrier walls on the porch and we will stack cords of wood there, within easy (housecoat and slipper) access of the house.
I am looking forward to the winter, actually. I have just put the finishing touches on my first book (The Accidental Farmwife, due out this spring) and it is time to start working on another.
I will curl up on the couch beside the woodstove, computer on my lap and cat on my feet. Depending on the time of day, there may be a glass of red wine or a cup of green tea beside me. Life is good and there are things to celebrate about all four seasons.
The Junior Farmwife is entering her final trimester with grandchild #1. We are very excited getting ready for this most wonderful addition to our extended family. I have been given a playpen with change table, high chair, bassinet and crib. I am currently deciding on where everything will be installed and set up. Soon I will be more prepared for this child than her own parents are. Well, almost. I just want to be ready for the first time I pick up the phone and hear, “Mom, can you watch the baby for us?” You bet your sweet Aunt Bippy I can. So excited.
Have a great week, everyone, and remember – I don’t care who you vote for: just VOTE.


Why it's Misty the horse, of course

It was a very difficult decision to give up our beautiful Belgian horse, Misty. She wasn’t a trained horse, but we were absolutely positive she had untapped skills and just needed the chance to display them. Unfortunately, the Farmer and I were completely ill-equipped to discover, train or utilize those skills.
Having a horse is a huge responsibility. We considered ourselves lucky to have gone through six years without any major medical bills or disasters. But it was time to find a new home for our 1800-lb pet. She needed to find out what it means to be a workhorse. Traipsing around the meadow all day after a mischievous donkey had to be boring at times.
For over two years we fiddled with the idea. We put an ad on one website or another, and didn’t renew them when they expired. I put posts on Facebook saying Misty was looking for a new home, and as soon as I got a response I took the offer away.
Finally, on St. Patrick’s Day 2014, the Farmer got a call from Roy Sherrer, who raises Belgian horses on a farm near Spencerville. He knew Misty well. Just like that, she was sold. I blame it on the Guinness.
Within a few weeks, Roy had Misty hitched up with another horse and pulling a wagon. We were surprised but oh so happy to hear that she was learning to be a horse.
And then, once trained, Misty was sold. To a farmer in Quebec. Roy came over to get us to sign some papers and he asked us how many times she had been hitched before. The answer was, well, never. Misty had been hitched once for a photo opportunity, at her original farm. But we hadn’t put as much as a saddle on her. He said she learned within just a few hours, to follow the lead of her hitch partner, and pull. We were very proud.
Roy said Misty’s new owner was going to take her to the International Plowing Match in September. I started to think about how I would find out when Misty was competing, so I could attend. I imagined the Farmer and me, in our plaid shirts, cowboy boots and jeans, Misty’s own cheering section.
Then, out of the blue, I got a message from a friend who had an almost unbelievable story. My uncle and his partner Christiane used to enjoy their visits to the farm, and Misty. Christiane was visiting her mother in Val des Monts Quebec recently when she heard a familiar snort from the farm next door. She walked over to take a closer look and couldn’t believe what she saw. “Misty!” The red-gold horse responded to her name. Christiane checked in with the elderly farmer who had just added the horse to his team and he confirmed her name and origin.
Christiane gave me some more info about Misty’s new home. Her owner hitches his team to wagons and sleighs in the winter, complete with jingle bells, and takes families for rides in the village. He has a beautiful spot in the valley and she will be very happy there. I felt much better, knowing where she was. I know I need to let her go and it’s all quite silly to be concerned for her happiness but it’s nice to hear she found a good home.
Next, I received an email from the granddaughter of Misty’s new owner. Sarah explained that her father didn’t speak much English, so she would be our go-between. She told me Misty wouldn’t be going to the plowing match. Apparently she didn’t get along with her new hitch partner, so they were back to square one. Well that was disappointing.
I told her Misty is used to following, not leading. She followed her sister around from the day she was born. And when her sister died, she turned around and there was Donkey.  I’m sure they know Misty’s character by now, but I thought I would add my two cents. Hopefully they will give her another chance.
I think Misty would really enjoy being part of the Christmas celebration in the little Quebec village, jingle bells on her halter, pulling a sleigh. She always loved the attention of people, and the excitement of the crowd. I hope she gets her act together and if they don’t have a strong lead horse, she might consider being one herself.