Sunday, January 29, 2012

Just another pesky daughter-in-law. ;)

I just spent the weekend at the NSAC taking the third module of the Modern Shepherd course and if I had the energy, I would write a harsh and extremely critical overview of the program thus far, but there is one module left and I'll wait until I decide if I'm going to bother with it or not before I expend any brain cells on it (which I think I'm short on after this weekend).  Spending time with my Mama though was a nice treat and sleeping in a clean, very white, very comfy hotel bed all to myself is probably worth the annoyance of the occasional bad speaker. 
No, tonight my annoyance, and confusion is aimed at something else entirely. 
(disclaimer: this is no reflection of my personal situation, just a commentary on the plight of the D.I.L. scapegoats across the country).
The Country Guide is a magazine that always circulated around the house growing up and seems to have been one of those magazines that every farm family has sitting on top of something somewhere in the house.  I don't remember reading it growing up, like I did with the Rural Delivery or the old Harrowsmiths,  but since I've started to actually pay attention to farming it has become a really interesting read for me.  So much information regarding all kinds of farming operations and businesses and so many perspectives (although maybe often erring on the side of large, conventional-encouraged I'm sure by the astounding amount of ads/$$ from chemical companies) and things I don't often think about. 
So when it arrived this month and I had read the first couple articles that caught my eye I noticed an advertisement for an "informative video series" hosted by Dr. John Fast (who also happens to be a speaker at an upcoming event that Mark and I are attending).  I read his quick bio and quickly glanced at the short list of 'upcoming video topics'.  The first one is called:
"How to Fix the Daughter In-Law"
I thought, haha, this is a great joke topic.  I wonder what it's really about.  Well here's the short description:
"Please fix our daughter-in-law!" According to Dr. John Fast this is a very common complaint in farm businesses and a most convenient person to blame when things are not going well."

....umm....WHAT!?
I read it to Mark who smirked and made some comment, thinking I was worked up about them targeting women or something until I screeched,
"I'M A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW!"  He looked at me as if this had never occured to him before. 

Now maybe it's because in the Wilson family, Mom has always made it pretty clear that her boys were damn lucky to marry the women they did and that if something went wrong, they had only themselves to blame.  Or maybe it's because Mark is the only boy and (dare I say it?) a bit of a mama's boy who can (mostly) do no wrong (eeeep!)(my own mother included!), but this has really hit a chord with me.   
Of course I can't get the actual video to play, but that doesn't really matter because I'm pretty sure that I know the gist of what will be said and I have no doubt as to it's relevance and importance. Even when the speaker will inevitably say that it's deeper than that, that there's other, real sources of the problem, is it truly a 'very common complaint when things are not going well"!?!  Is it REALLY that common of a complaint?!  Is there not a better way to describe this topic!?   

No, maybe not.  Maybe that's the polite version.  A more forward, or blunt version might call it "Gold Digger" or "Son Stealer" or "Nightmare from Away" or "City Slicker Horse Lover Come To Ruin the Farm".
Perhaps a line of videos for the daughter-in-laws across the country called "BabyHouse:How to Have Those Grandkids Quick to Save Your Place on the Farm!" would prove popular for the other side?
Ok, but in all seriousness, I can't wait for the video to load so that one day I'll be ready to handle whichever pesky girl Thayne may bring home.  The nerve. 
And good luck to all the female farmers out there.  With no video to help the daughter's parents of those dreaded son-in-laws, they're doomed, forced to watch all the problems that come with those guys on the farm.  Maybe I'll make that video.  Wouldn't THAT be educational.  Best seller.

Ok, when that comes out, I'll let you know.  In the meantime, here's a quick photo update of the kids and their goings on. 

Thayne is at the fun stage of emptying, throwing, removing, clearing, destroying and repeating all of the above.  I love this shot of him admiring his handiwork after partially emptying the book box.  

 It is so true that the simplest gifts are often the best and these two shovels the kids got for Christmas have lived up to that.  Although our snow is fleeting this winter, when it comes, it provides some GREAT entertainment.  As you can see here, they are mastering the art of throwing snow at the other one whilst making it look like an accident.  Thankfully they have also mastered the "don't come crying to me unless there's blood or bones" and have learned to either get out of the way or retaliate. 
 I got a great response for readers when I posted a picture a couple summers ago of the kids playing in what I called their 'hillbilly swimming pool' which was just a large mud puddle beside the barn (and I mean MUD).  Once again, I'm happy to bring to you the joys that a puddle can bring to wee ones.  The culvert at our lane has fairly terrible drainage and when it was full of water this winter, it froze and made a PERFECT little 3'x7' skating rink.  They got the skates strapped on and 'hit the ice' as they say.  It was just the right kind of day and because it was so tiny everyone felt like they were doing fantastic when they got from end to the other.  The other bonus to a puddle rink is that there is usually some good shell ice around the edge for snacking on when things get 'down'. Plus, the excitement of having an 'audience' (albeit a drive-by one) was pretty invigorating and often resulted in great tumbles as Lucy would prepare a grand stride or 'twirl' for the benefit of the drivers (who I'm sure mostly didn't even see us in the ditch) and wipe out almost every time.  To her credit though, she got cold before she lost her temper and gave up, which is a giant leap for us. 

 Thayne has been enjoying the outdoors a lot more without the snow too.  He's getting around pretty good and is content to crawl around without me carrying him, so life has gotten much easier that way.  Now I can boot THREE kids outside while I compose a blog entry (haha-just joking. I check Facebook instead. haha!)   
And speaking of my little guy, he celebrated his big 0-1 last weekend!  He was pretty overtired by suppertime and fed up with all the excitement (balloons and streamers can really wear a guy out) so his expression is less than enthusiastic. 
 But I know that deep down he appreciated that cake and ice cream. 
Mark loves this picture and I have to admit it's pretty funny.  Someone has been eating his spinach. :)

The farm is plugging away.  All critters are well and Rosie's belly continues to expand.  We're learning more about BioAg and are really confident in the superiority of the products.  There is so much to learn and we're enjoying all the new education. 
The latest company newsletter mentioned a stat from a study of conventional dairy animals and how 21% first time conception rate is now considered excellent.  That means that if 21% of cows who are bred after one exposure to bull or semen actually catch and become pregnant, it's considered a great rate of success. 21%!???!!! Aren't most of those cows being brought into heat artificially anyway!?  I can't help but think of that study I referenced with the mice fed the high GMO diet whose rates of conception fell with each generation until after four generations they couldn't conceive at all.  We're only 2 1/2 generations in.
yuck.

Anyway, here's to continued education and the simple things in life.

-Sally
   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pulling off the fracking tape.

So, here's the thing with fracking and all the other potentially environmentally hazardous methods of fueling our fuel-obsessed lives; I hate it. 
I just finished reading a book called "Half Broke Horses" (by J. Walls) which was an amazing based-on-true-life account of a woman growing up in Texas and then Arizona back in the early 1900s.  She was a feisty character who got into all sorts of adventures but had this hard working attitude that did her well through the rougher times. I was reading it at the blood donors clinic the other night and the chatty nurse who was 'hooking me up' commented that it was a good book but 'terribly sad'.  I had only just started it, so was disappointed to hear that and as I was reading, turned the pages nearly reluctantly waiting for the grand downfall. 
It never came.  There was no sad part, I thought.  It was all part of this great life of hard work and new beginnings and successes and failures.  One of the themes in the book though was that the main character embraced the future rather than shunning it like many other characters in the story.  She saw those who sneered at the first cars as backward and she relished the idea of flying a plane or getting electricity when most others saw all those things as wasteful and foolish passing fads.  Even as she grew older, she continued to see the future as a welcoming thing, rather than an intimidating wasteland of unknowns.
I wish I could say the same.
I don't love cell phones and excessive e-interaction (says the blogger), and I don't love thinking about where we are headed if we continue in this global economized world.  I don't love that we continue to dive headfirst into what seem like great ideas without really taking the time to look at it from all angles (ie. GMOs).  I don't love that our first world depends so heavily on the third world to do our dirty work and still remain the third world.  I really don't love that our governments haven't figured out that the economy DOESN'T matter if the environment is shot.

But the thing about fracking is that this may be the best time to do it.  It seems pretty much inevitable to me that oil exploration, natural gas, uranium and all other alternative fuel sources are going to be exhausted before we're forced to figure out whether we really need asparagus in January or if we need to go to Dubai for a meeting or if we can actually survive on our own, using a local economy.  Once gas runs out (and I understand we've hit peak oil...so it's all downhill from here), we all know that between the corporations and the governments, all options will be explored, extracted, exploited and exhausted.  And what a frenzy that will be eh?  Gas is gone, so what's next. Well, at that point it will just be a wild cowboy race to dig up the next best thing, no matter the cost, environmental or otherwise.
SO, while I may really really despise the idea of fracking and all it entails, I have to admit that right now, while we have some sharp minds in the environment keeping an eye on it and a few 'laws' and some science trying to keep up, it might be the only time to do it. 
Once a race has started, there's no time to look back, restart with new rules and stop if necessary.  It just doesn't happen.

That said, I'm not convinced the sharp minds and the science is really quite ready yet and for damn sure, the laws need a little bolstering.  Due to a loophole in some policy somewhere, the drilling companies are not required to provide a list of all the 150 chemicals it takes to create those cracks deep down in the earth.  (You can't use a hand soap in a bakery without a WHIMS sheet but you can contaminate multiple water tables with 150 unaccounted for chemicals!?) 150. Mixed with water, that they admit, can never TRULY be all removed, cleaned out, etc.  And those chemicals that are able to be removed from the water go to...? A tailing pond somewhere for the next generation to deal with?  150 chemicals mixed into billions, BILLIONS of liters of what will soon become our most precious resource, all to extract what may provide us a few more years of bright lights, cool homes in the summer, fast cars, big planes, tropical produce and vacations. 

 I don't have solutions, and I'm no environmental martyr,  I'll be the first to admit, but I think I can see where this is headed, and if things were a little more transparent, and the accountability was written in stone, with real consequences, I might be better able to 'grin and bear it'.  Ok, probably not grin, but at least bear it.
If we're going to do this thing (and I'm sure we are), let's do it now while we're not desperate and we're actually paying attention to what is going on.

-Sally

Monday, January 16, 2012

Intended Audience

When I was in elementary and middle school and we had to do writing projects (which were a favorite part of school for me) one of the rules which was always repeated was, "decide who your intended audience is first".   When I started this blog, the audience was my family back in West Branch, who is still primarily who I write this for (particularly the political posts-haha), but a few times lately, I've had some vivid reminders that just because that might be my INTENDED audience, it by no means IS my audience.

The first time I ran into the problem of unexpected readership was when I entered a radio contest with a poem to win lobster or something and then when I lost (undeservedly so!! haha) I complained about it on here and one of the judges of the contest left a comment.  I had never suspected that one of our local radio broadcasters was a reader of my blog.
Then, over Christmas, some of the cards we received included comments that mentioned following the blog.  And not people that I would have expected to follow it.
Since then, two incidences in particular have made the anti-anonymity of the blog a little too real.  One, was when the son of the owner of Bio-Ag (who we are now dealers for) came for a visit from Ontario and in his email before arriving wrote something along the lines of, "..and I've been reading up on the blog, so have some idea what I'm getting into", or "what to expect" or something.
Second was when I got called for an interview for the Maritime Noon radio show and the journalist mentioned reading up on the blog and that they would not be mentioning my Peter McKay comments.

So, with all these things in mind, suddenly my stream-of-consciousness, ranting and op-eds are not quite as easy to channel. 
That said, I'm not one to censor myself very well and there is nothing on here that I wished I hadn't written (especially the Harper and McKay comments!), so I'll probably just continue to embarrass myself and remember that despite reading the blog and 'having ideas of what to expect', both the Bio Ag rep and the journalist continued thier initial missions of dealing with us/me and I think both rather enjoyed my...er...spirited self.  ?

Actually we had a great visit with Parry, from Bio-Ag and although there's a lot to learn, Mark and I are looking forward to learning even more about the products and seeing where this venture takes us.  We're hoping to get to Ont. sometime to check it all out and meet the crew.  It is really nice to know we're supporting a 'small' company rather than a huge, faceless, corporation.
But our visit to Ontario will have to wait because Mark and I are off to Nfld. for a little getaway in Feb.  Yes, I realize the Rock is not exactly a vacation hotspot in Feb. but according the agricultural calendar that is the only time we can reliably get away with the least amount of responsibility left behind.  It's two weeks before Rosie's due to calf, the lambs have all arrived and there's no chickens on pasture.  The kids of course are a large load of responsibility, but my tireless mother is a bugger for punishment and has graciously accepted that load. 
We have friends in St.Johns who we're really looking forward to seeing, but I think we'll probably mostly just enjoy eating at our pace, using the washroom without interruption or an audience, sleeping past 6am, reading a real live book, and going to some pubs.  If anyone has some suggestions for St. John's attractions, please let me know!  We're flying and only there for a few days, so given the time of year, will probably not get very far out of the city. In preparation for the trip (and to lessen the monotony of reading the same damn books of the kids') I've started reciting the favorites with a strong Nfld. accent.  They get a great kick out of it, although I think my accent is probably pretty terrible. 
Check out this hilarious YouTube video I saw the other day, speaking of Nfld (although it could be Cape Breton too).  The video is pretty funny, but the commentary near the end is FAR funnier.  Make sure you have the volume up to hear both voices near the end.  (warning-a little explicit for the kiddies if they're watching).




     
Feb. may be the best time farm-wise to leave, but it still leaves our snowblowing customers a bit up a snowy creek. Thankfully we have a neighbour who can fill in, but here's hoping for a dry spell while we're gone- for everyone's sake-including ours while we're in the air!

Well, this entry has been pretty tame, so I'll be sure to pep it up it a bit next time.  Heavens, I wouldn't want to be considered one them green 'radicals' that our dear friend Joe Oliver is all worked up about.  argh.
barf. 

Hope this finds you cozied up on these frigid days!  Makes for some mighty rosy cheeks and really makes ya question the effort in getting the 400 piece snowsuit on three kids for a grand total of 5 minutes of fresh air.

-Sally

Friday, January 6, 2012

Quick Photo Catch Up


These are by no means chronological since this is Thayne in his new hat on Christmas morning.  I like how you can see the excitement of Christmas morning in his eyes, despite him not really understanding any of it and woke up after most of the chaos had passed (although in our house it never really passes).


 One of my favorite parts of the Christmas decorating when I was growing up was this little group of plastic houses called The Alpine Village (which for a while I thought was a bit illicit since Mom hated when my brother had beer labels on his stuff) and I got the privilege of setting it up, deciding its placement, the amount of snow (cotton batting), etc.  My first Christmas away from home, Mom sent it over to PEI and again, I found the perfect little home for it, set it up lovingly and was so proud.  This year, I finally decided/realized that nothing is sacred with children around and that I would surrender the aging village (with a severe speech in 'being careful with this village-it means a lot to me!') to Lucy who I was happy to see enjoyed rearranging and setting it up as much as I did. Everyday the village would get fixed up and the few little snowmen characters would get put in their place. 
It wasn't until I brought out the little manger scene characters that we had made last year from salt dough that things really got interesting.  The snowmen dissappeared (to be found underfoot in July most likely)and were replaced with the shepherds and Mary, each watching their respective house.  You can see the shepherd and his sheep looking in on the red house.     
 You can see in this shot that one wise man is particularly worn out and is taking a nap in the manger. The wingless angel is guarding the church and Jesus is missing, to be found later wrapped in what might be called swaddling clothes on the doll bunk beds in Lucy's room.  He is about the size of Lucy's thumb, so surprised that he was found at all.  
 In some of the time passing we did in the month coming up to Christmas, we discovered the wonders of cornstarch.  And just when you thought that dry cornstarch couldn't get any more fun, you add water and discover another 45 minutes of adventure.  My tidy boy wasn't interested in getting into the slime, but did enjoy the show he sister put on for him. 
 
Here he is on Christmas morning having found a quiet corner behind the mound of garbage and stashed his chocolate in his new toolbox and was having a moment to himself. 
Another pass time for the month of December was every manner of homemade decoration.  Here's our front window and as the month went on, more window sticker (thanks Mom) characters were invited to the Christmas excitement.  We had Valentines and Easter covered there as well.   
 Turns out Christmas trees are tricky to photograph but I wanted to try to get the 'natural candles' that was all over ours this year.  I don't think they're very common on commercial trees and they make a 'wild' tree that much more special, to me at least.  There's two big ones in the foggy foreground, but there's more at the top you can almost sort of see in this shot. 



And here's what consumed much of my Christmas, or so it felt.  Had late nights, early mornings and midnight treks to the barn, which I seem to be still catching up on. 

In other news, Mark and I are heading to Nfld. soon for a little getaway.  Turns out that a getaway from the farm pretty much has to happen during the coldest, worst travelling months because the rest of the year is pretty well booked up with life consuming chickens to be moved, sheep to be moved, cows to be milked, crops to be planted, tended and harvested.  Even in Feb. there's snow to be blown, but alas, it will have to blow itself since we're headed for the Rock.  (and if there's anywhere that sounds inviting in Feb. isn't it something called The Rock!?) haha.

-Sally

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Too opinionated?

aghk.  Getting pictures from my camera to my computer lately has loomed large in front of me like a task beyond my abilities.  And then posting without pictures just seems like a rip-off to my readers who I'm pretty sure often come for the pictures more than the rants.  So, there's my latest excuse.
I've also been in recovery mode from the frantic lambing we had during Christmas and have not yet quite caught up on the sleep. 
Lastly, I'm torn as to what I want to tackle.  The whole supply management discussion going on right now has me a bit on edge, but it's not exactly my department, so I'm not quite feeling educated enough to tackle it at this point.  Give me time though and I'm certain I'll come up with some mind altering idea that will fix the world's problems.  I've also been quietly building a stronger argument against fracking that is nearly ready for blog reveal (prepare thyselves brothers), but am waiting to better articulate it. (Have you heard the latest?-Fracking has been tied to earthquakes now. Am still looking into that one.)
I couldn't go without posting tonight though to congratulate my dearest old friend Peter McKay on his recent marriage to an ex-beauty queen.  How fitting since he is an ex-politician who is now just a robot in the Harper machine we used to call Canada.

The sheep are doing well. Mark has the barn all puttered out and I think a snow dump might actually do him good to get out in the tractor for a while.  The kids are coming down from Christmas and the house is almost back together (whatever that means). 

Hope this finds you settling back into routine and looking forward to a new year of good friends, family and great food.

-Sally