"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Monday, 27 May 2013

Stones and Grumpy Love

Sunday, my friends, was a glorious day. Blue skies, sunshine, no humidity and a brisk north breeze to keep things lively. And best of all, I was able to soak it in for four hours straight.

D and I occasionally team up to do what I like to call "property management" and what he likes to call "a lot of damn stuff around this place." With our adorably feral children biting our ankles most weekends, it's rare that we get to engage in outdoor chores together (with the exception of the ever-popular dump date). When we do get an opportunity to hang out and do some sweaty, grumbly, my-back-is-gonna-kill-me-tomorrow type of stuff, I like to make the most of it. I'm not normally a gung-ho "Hey, let's dig a trench!" kind of girl, so when these occasions do occur, I really give 'er. Then even D grimly admits that I'm actually DOING SOMETHING on the weekend. (He does not consider parenting or sleeping in or drinking coffee and playing online scrabble to be DOING SOMETHING, which is one of his few tragic flaws.)

Anyway, Sunday's SOMETHINGS consisted of:
- distributing the four foot pile of wood chips that's been sitting in the driveway since April into the gardens
- starting my hay bale garden (more on that in another post, cause it's freaking crazy and deserves its own blog, let alone entry)
- scouring the side road for really big rocks to line the bottom of my new office garden
- attacking the scary grass around my arbour that comes up to my knees every single spring, no matter how many times I attempt to kill it
- raking our lawn, which resembles a freshly cut hayfield and elicited less-than-polite comments from an older neighbour

The tricky part was that we only had a few hours in which to do all this stuff, since Grandma, who was looking after the kids, had to be somewhere else in the afternoon. We dropped them off around 11 a.m. and I visited with my mother-in-law for a few minutes while the kids gleefully chased the cats around the swing set.

"Let's get doing this if we're doing it," commanded D, striding purposefully toward his parents' shop.

"Guess that's my cue," I muttered to Shirley and headed for the car. "Where are you going?" I yelled at D.

"I'm taking another ride home," he hollered over his shoulder. "Get going!"

I got going. At home, I poured myself a cup of coffee, took it outside and began to pitchfork wood chips into the rusty old wheelbarrow we'd recovered from one of the barns after our gorgeous new wheelbarrow got stolen (Note to any nouveau-country folks: don't leave anything near the side of the road unless you want a stranger to come and take it. Yes, that includes wheelbarrows full of recycling). My plan was to create a garden behind my office, which is on a steep slope of unmowable grass. I figured lots of wood chips, some ground cover plants and rocks would make it look like an actual garden instead of an errant weedy mess. D was not convinced. He hates anything to do with gardens, but he hated the pile of wood chips on the driveway even more. Sure enough, I heard a heavy rumbling as I dumped my second load of chips onto the slope. There was my man, chugging up the driveway in his dad's skid-steer. He started loading up chips into the bucket at a rate of five wheelbarrows. I cheered.

He went back and forth a few times and I raked the chips as he dumped them, all the while thinking that there was something kind of hot about a man driving heavy machinery in order to fulfill one's whims. I got as close to the skid-steer as I dared.

"Can I have a ride?" I yelled.

D shrugged, which I took for assent.

I surveyed the giant bucket and the ridiculously tiny cab that my six foot husband was crammed into. "How do I get in?"

D rolled his eyes. "Climb the bucket, woman. And hurry up."

I clambered up the bucket and plopped myself onto his lap. Kind of cosy. Could sexy-time in a skid-steer become a thing? That's when the first waft of stink hit me.

"Ugh...it smells like POOP! Why does it smell like poop in here?" I wriggled, trying to come to terms with the smell.

"Because Carm uses the loader tractor to clean pens. Geez, you've got a bony butt, woman. Now sit still and hang on."

Riding double in a skid-steer is an unsafe but awesomely fun thing to do. We finished the garden and I directed him to the arbour where I wanted to kill the evil grass growing around it once and for all by smothering it with wood chips. I hopped out and did my thing while D brought load after load of chips.

When I heard the motor cut, I wiped the sweat off my face and leaned in to the cab of the skid steer, waggling my eyebrows. "Wanna go inside and have some lunch?"

D stared at me. "No Kimmy, I do not want to have lunch. I want to get this done. Let's go get you some stones." I cheered again and we abandoned the skid-steer for the truck.

Once we were on the road, my husband leaned across the bench seat and touched my hand. I gazed at him. He was so handsome in his lumber jacket and brown hoodie, a tuft of curly hair peeking out over his forehead. He was getting me rocks and helping build my garden. He really loved me.

"I just want you to know," he began, and I squeezed his fingers affectionately, thinking back to the days when we used to sneak down side roads for different reasons than rock picking.

"I just want you to know that I have NEVER gone back down a side road to pick up stones that someone has taken out of a field so I could dump them on my lawn. Never. Ever. In a million years."

There was a silence as we turned left off the concession road and onto the bumpy gravel.

"Well," I said, "isn't it great how I open lots of new horizons for you?"

"Not in this regard, no," he answered, removing his hand from mine and staring straight ahead. A sudden vision of his brother and father's reactions to the situation flashed across my brain and I realized that D was risking deep ridicule to get me my stones. I sensed I was going to have to reward him richly to make up for this farming sacrilege. This became even more apparent after D smushed his finger between two of the rocks I'd chosen while unloading them. He jumped up and down wordlessly while I wrung my hands and made sympathetic noises. Then he jumped in the truck.

"Where are you going?" I said. "Are you okay?"

"I am NOT okay," he said through clenched teeth. "I am going somewhere where I can swear really loudly." And he drove off, with the windows rolled up. I didn't see him again until he came to bed after doing chores and helping his uncle plant an acre of our sweet corn.

I patted him timidly on the shoulder as he rolled into bed. "Um...thanks for all your help today," I whispered.

"You are a pain in the neck," was my darling spouse's response as he took me in his arms and kissed my neck. Ah, true love.

I have a feeling a giant rhubarb cake and a lot of shoulder rubbing is in his future tonight when my crusty but loving man gets home from work. And I think I'll keep quiet about the idea I have for building a new rustic fence in the corner of the back yard. At least until next spring.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Anatomy of a Birthday Party

Jady lady turns 4 next week, but we celebrated her birthday today in the form of a joint party with her cousin, who turned 5 yesterday. It was a family only party and very casual, but like all parties, there were highs and lows. And cake cutting injuries.

To give you a taste, here are some direct quotes from the birthday tyrant herself:

7:30 a.m. (singing) "It's my party day! My party day! We're gonna celebrate! Celebrate! Yeah! And dance! And sing! And eat cake! Yeah!!!"

8:25 a.m. "Mumma, my new party dress is too small so I took it off. You have to buy me a new one."

8:50 a.m. "Today is my party so everyone has to do what I say. Humph."

9:30 a.m. "C'mon Dylan, let's have a dance party to practice for the birthday party!"

11:40 a.m. (guests have mostly all arrived) "There are too many people in my house."

11:55 a.m. "C'mon Grandma. Let's go to your house where it is quiet."

12:30 p.m. "I don't like this kind of day. I am going to change my birthday to another day."

1:00 p.m. (as her cake is unveiled) "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHH!"

1:10 p.m. "AUUUUGGHHH!!! GRANDMA CUT ME!!!!!"

1:30 p.m. "Mumma, the icing on my cake tastes yuckky."

2:00 p.m. (upon seeing her new dollhouse from Grandma & Carman) "OH! I love it I love it I love it!"

2:11 p.m. "My new scooter makes me kind of nervous."

2:40 p.m. (pushing my Dad's face away as he leaves) "Nope, no kisses for you Grandpa."

9:15 p.m.
Me: It seemed like you didn't have such a great time today. Do you want to tell me about it?
Jade: Yes. Grandma cut my hand.
Me: That was an accident.
Jade: Yes, but she cut me. With a knife. And the icing on my cake was yuckky.
Me: It really was, wasn't it? So, what good things happened to you today?
Jade: OH, there was plenty. I liked opening presents. And the gumballs on the cake. And my scooter.
Me: What about your dollhouse?
Jade: What dollhouse?
Me: *sigh* Goodnight honey. Happy almost birthday.
Jade: Mumma, I love you more than the toilet flushes.
Me: I know you do, honey.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Kittification of Someday

(This is a revised and expanded version of a 2009 entry)

A month before we officially owned Someday, D and I went for an illicit hike through the meadow to look at the river. It was my idea; he warned me that if we were caught, we’d be in trouble, since we didn’t legally have possession of the land yet.

“Please,” I scoffed. “Who’s gonna catch us? The farming police? Don’t be such a chicken.”

So we had our tromp back to the river, Neko crashing through the undergrowth ahead of us. I was enchanted with the evergreen forest at the top of the hill, the wild apple trees and pussywillows, the swoosh of the Pine River as it flowed past our feet. I imagined lazy afternoons reading on the riverbank, envisioned taking my dad to fish there. Neko frisked around us and I jumped around in the tall grass and hugged D with delight. He patted me on the back with infinite patience. To him, the river was just an interruption in the farmland. To Neko and me, it was heaven.

As we clambered up the steep, goldenrod-choked path up from the river to the meadow, I noticed a figure leaning on the gate at the other end of the field.

“Oh good,” muttered D.

“Who’s that?” I asked, panting as we crested the hill.

“Doc Munn’s daughter. I told you we’d be in shit if we did this,” said D, grabbing Neko by the collar and clicking her leash on. “This should be fun.”

As we got closer, I put on my friendliest, most beguiling “Oh, is it wrong we’re on your land?” smile and went to introduce myself. Ms. Munn was not amused. She informed us we were trespassing and if one of us had broken a leg in the field or by the river there could have been deep legal trouble. I looked sideways at Dwain. He stood there and accepted the chastisement, although I could tell by his jaw he was about ready to give a lecture of his own. Neko, meanwhile, repeatedly choked herself in her eagerness to make new friends.

Ms. Munn had an old dog with her so we let our pets sniff each other while I attempted to make small-talk about animals and how beautiful the property was. This seemed to soften her up ever so slightly.

“I walk up here every night with my dog to feed the cats,” she informed us.

“Cats?” I asked. “What cats?”

Ms. Munn led us inside the abandoned horse stable and pointed out each of the four cats who lived there, giving us a brief history of each feline.

“This is Mummy,” she said, stroking the plump, purring black and white cat sprawled at our feet. “And that’s Black Betty,” she said, pointing to a pure black kitty reclining on some straw. “She’s named after your mother's cousin Betty Pollard,” Ms. Munn informed D tartly, “because they have the same personality.” I kept a straight face, vowing to remember this conversation word for word so I could amuse my in-laws with it later.

Next came the Teenager, so named because she was “moody,” and finally Frances, who peered at us from between a crack in the boards. “Don’t try to pick her up,” instructed Ms. Munn without further explanation. We also received detailed instructions about administering food, water and bi-annual rabies shots. She seemed so attached to the kitties that I timidly suggested she take them with her before we moved in. She looked at me as though I'd suggested we barbeque them and retorted, "It's the only home they've ever known." She went on to tell us that the cats were worth thousands of dollars, a statement that caused D to emit a choking sound Ms. Munn and I pretended to ignore. I could not wait to describe this scene to Carman.

We never ran into Ms. Munn again after that day, but she did leave us a card in the kitchen which we found the morning we moved in. “Aww, she must have left us a housewarming card,” I said, ripping it open and feeling bad that I’d found her so prickly on our first meeting. The card simply said, “Please take care of the cats. THIS IS THE ONLY HOME THEY'VE EVER KNOWN.” Two labelled photos of “the girls” were tucked inside. Apparently, Someday came pre-kittified.

My mother always had at least one cat in the house when I was growing up, a succession of different personalities named Vodka, Snowball, Velvet, Champagne, Selina, and Chaucer. Since Someday's barn cats were now mine, I decided to rename two of them a bit more creatively based on their personalities. Frances became Ricochet, because she exploded behind hay bales or under doors like a bullet as soon as I walked into the barn, and Mummy became Comfort. Mummy seemed like a silly thing to say to a cat who was fixed, and she was so cuddly and purry that Comfort just suited her.

Of the four, Comfort and Black Betty are the friendliest, the Teenager less so and Ricochet has never allowed herself to be touched. Maybe it’s because I don’t call her Frances.

It’s a lot of cats, even for a place as big as Someday. Neko is always a nose away from her food bowl, and she’s so huge it’s hard to ignore her for long. The cats are way down the lane in the barn though, and I have to mentally poke myself to remember to fill their food dishes and take water out every couple of days. They’ve all been spayed, which is awesome, but soon I’ll have to figure out how to get them rabies shots. Heaven knows they won’t easily be transported to the vet without a fight or three.

Jade took over cat-feeding duties as soon as she was able to walk back to the barn. She and Black Betty have a special bond, while my favourite is Comfort, whose mellow vibe and motorcycle engine purrs won me over from the first day I met her. It has become a morning ritual for Jady and I to walk back to the barn to visit the kitties and feed them, although it took me several days before I realized that Jade was managing to secretly eat a handful of cat food every time.

One day, we went to feed the kitties, only to find a giant, marmalade-coloured interloper in their midst. I was surprised, to say the least. Someday cats are mild-mannered, clean and friendly. This new kitty was enormous, filthy and looked like he knew cat-kwon-do. Even Jade, lover of all animals, treated him with suspicion. "Dat kitty big," she said, and gave him a wide berth.

He stared at me defiantly as I tried to figure out where he had come from and what I should do about it. I didn't recognize him from Blair's Grove or even Robbie's farm up the road. It was spring; I guessed he'd come in search of a meal and a wife, the latter in which he'd be sorely disappointed. In the end, I shrugged and scooped a little extra Barn Cat kibble. They must know him, I thought, as my kitties meowed and prowled around my legs like Mr. Marmalade was no big deal. Maybe they invited him over for supper.

Well, the moment the kibble hit the plates, Mr. Marmalade barged right in, elbowed Comfort and Black Betty out of the way and began gobbling food like a lion at a kill. The other cats ignored him and went to the other plate of food. But Mr. M. must have thought they were getting something tastier, because he flew over to the other plate, hip-checked them all out of the way and plunged into their food like...well, like Neko.

I swear I could hear the Teenager sigh as she looked up at me with an exasperated expression and trudged back to the first plate again. Apparently Mr. M. was not so much a guest as a party crasher, and a flea-ridden one at that. His table manners left much to be desired. Someday cats are mellow creatures who wait patiently for their food and eat it in delicate little crunchy bites. With the exception of Ricochet, they love to be petted and stroked, and will often curl up in my lap. Mr. M’s eyes get all squinty and serial-killer-ish if I try to come near him, and the one time I snuck up and laid my hand on his back, he jumped a foot in the air and glared at me like I’d just tasered him.

So Mr. M. has got to go. He eats too much and doesn't want to make friends. He bullies my foursome of genteel kitties and I don't like it. Herein lies the proverbial rub: how do I get rid of the creature? I’ve tried to shoo him away. He runs two feet and then stops, as if daring me to chase him. I’ve yelled at him, made weird noises, stomped my feet and threatened to let Neko finish him off - all to no avail. Mr. M. has established himself as the newest, greediest resident of Someday Farm and I have absolutely no idea how to get rid of him humanely.

I asked a few friends, who suggested raccoon traps, calling the local vet or just putting up with him. I have absolutely no desire to trap a cat, much less a raccoon by accident. The local vet would laugh at me. So I guess I’m left with a grudging acceptance of our new resident and the fact that Someday may become increasingly kittified. But at least I don’t have to worry about the Teenager getting pregnant.