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M is for Moss and Maybe a Mushroom?

M is for Moss and Maybe a Mushroom?

I’m actually not sure whether that’s some sort of fungus-mushroom thing (my knowledge in this area is minimal… microscopic… miniscule…) or some kind of squidgy alien being. The photo was taken on the day of our recent expedition to the Kinsol Trestle. But, I like the photo (which is so quintessentially west coast wet) and am heading out into the rain to spend another night camped out in the truck on piglet watch, so I don’t have time to craft an m-filled missive. There. I’m all caught up on my A-to-Z posts!! For now. We shall see what the morrow brings!

L is for Late Nights in the Hog Pen

After weeks of waiting, we are back on piglet watch, this time in the newly designed and constructed hog hut. We’ve had terrible troubles with our sows panicking during farrowing and then lashing out at what they perceive to be the cause of their pain – their new piglets. When Olivia had her last litter and I tried to intervene and get the piglets out of the way until she could finish delivering everyone, she came after me. Let me tell you it is no fun to be tossed in the air by an angry sow, flung aside like I was of no heavier than a scrap of cloth.

After that rather scary incident, I was very leery about getting between Pearl and her piglets and thought I’d be very discrete, staying way out of the way while she delivered her little ones. That was a mistake. Well, perhaps not a mistake when it came to protecting myself, but a mistake in terms of saving the piglets.

We had been busy preparing a safety pen for everyone and were about a day away from completion when Pearl went into labour a tad ahead of schedule. So, I had to improvise with a couple of pallets and a gap between the pallets and the hog shelter wall. By the time I had maneuvered this makeshift safety pen into position, Pearl had dispatched three or four piglets. She continued to deliver and after I had the protection of the pallets, I was able to pull four more to safety. We dried them off, put them under a heat lamp, and waited until she had delivered the afterbirth before warily putting the surviving piglets back in with her. Even though we had a creep set up and an area with a heat lamp in the hog shelter (for the piglets to stay out of the way), she still managed to squash two more during that first night! So, after all was said and done we wound up with two piglets out of a litter of eight.

A day later, we also had a lovely new safety pen built inside an old horse trailer and positioned in Olivia’s pen. Olivia has been eating and sleeping in there for several weeks now (with the back door open so she was free to come and go) and late this afternoon when she was producing milk, I locked her inside. She is quite comfortable in her ‘den’ but this new, smaller area with its low walls allows me to safely work around her. I can reach in to assist and remove piglets as they are born. They will stay close by under a heat lamp, but out of the way so the risk of squashing is minimized.

It usually takes mom and babies about 72 hours to learn to talk to each other. Mom has a special grunt that means ‘get out of my way while I lie down!’ and another that means, ‘I’m lying down now – come and eat!’ As soon as they have this all sorted out, I’ll open up the back door of the safety pen and they can all come and go as they please, but meanwhile, everyone should be reasonably safe.

Had I known how stressful this whole farrowing process was going to be before we started down the rare hog breeding path, I’m not sure I would have started on the journey! But now that we are on the road, I have to admit there are few things cuter than new piglets. Not that any appeared last night. I slept down in the truck and checked on Olivia every couple of hours, but she slept through all my nighttime visits.

I started writing this post last night thinking I would finish it in the wee hours of the morning when I could post photos of the new arrivals. Hah! Unless Olivia gets in gear today and delivers everyone during the daylight hours, it looks like another night wishing the truck was just a couple of inches wider so I could stretch out properly.

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Meanwhile, I will enjoy these little cutie pies, who hatched yesterday. Can we all say ‘awwwwwwwww!’

K is for Kindle… Kinda

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For some reason, it took me a while to figure out that even though I don’t own a Kindle per se, I can still take full advantage of being able to download and read all sorts of great titles using my Ipad and Iphone. Because, of course, there’s an app for that.

Having discovered this Kindle app, I have been delighted to find I can read some of my favourite magazines at a fraction of the price and without having to worry about adding to all the stacks and stacks of old paper magazines I really should be recycling (but can’t bear to part with because, you know, I might just need that article about the benefits of mason bees or the best way to use kale in a casserole…).

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Not only was I delighted to be able to browse through virtual magazines to my heart’s content, when I was desperate to find something decent to read about the nuts and bolts of farming with horses, I was able to shop at some crazily late hour and download a couple of good reference books. These were not only delivered to the Ipad instantly (so I could read in bed), but I’ve been able to schlepp them around with me ever since so I could bone up on stuff like drag harrows when I’m standing in the lineup at the bank (now that I’m the proud owner of some awesome farming devices, I need a crash course on how to use them), I didn’t even need to have the Ipad with me as everything syncs automatically to my phone.

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I have both a spike-tooth harrow and a spring-tooth harrow, a fact I am still finding hard to believe…

For those of you who are shaking your heads in disbelief that I somehow missed this memo, I’m curious what books you are carting around in your phone/Ipad/Kindle/other e-reader. For those of you who, like me, took a while to warm up to the idea of virtual books, what’s holding you back?

 

J is for Jenny and Josh

"Prove It, Josh!" by Jenny Watson

“Prove It, Josh” by Jenny Watson

Somehow when it came to choosing a profession (or two) I picked a couple that really don’t make a ton of money – writing fiction and farming. As a result, I’ve always done other stuff on the side to help support my writing/farming habits…

One of my contracts is working as a publicist for Sono Nis Press and one of my tasks in that capacity is creating short videos that feature SNP authors and their new books. I really enjoy these projects (I have fantasies about film-making, something I’d like to do on a larger scale at some point…) and today posted the most recent over on the Sono Nis Press channel on YouTube. I love Jenny’s description of the process (agonizing!!) of writing a novel. For anyone who thinks writing a book for kids is easy, have a look.

(and for more information about Sono Nis, visit the Sono Nis Press website.)

I is for Irresistible Implements

I’ve had a very, very long day and do not have the strength for a proper post. But there is something terribly compelling about these post-a-day challenges, so here’s a teaser…

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Not long ago I FINALLY (after several years of looking) found several very cool horse-drawn farm implements for sale at an irresistible price. This spike harrow was the first one we asked Brio to drag around… [Much] more on this topic to come, but for now, let it be known we are on a rather steep learning curve as we try to get horse/harness and implements sorted out!

H is for Hula Hoop

There has been a lot of coming and going around here over the past few days and this has made me think about the odd things we take, leave behind, and bring back when we travel. Dad has just spent three weeks in Provence and England and the coolest thing he brought back was several jars of pigments. He plans to add these warm, earthy tones to linseed oil and paint a series of landscapes (he travelled from hill town to hill town, collecting a gazillion images and ideas…) using the actual colours of the place. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. He has only been back a couple of days and is already at work in his studio. It shouldn’t be long before I can post something inspired by his recent travels.

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Dad returned hugely inspired (and a bit out of breath from all the hiking he did).

Several of the Germans will be leaving by car tomorrow, heading for the USA. They will be leaving behind all manner of fruits and vegetables, which is rather bizarre when you consider most of the produce one buys around here these days originated south of the border. How is it logical that you can’t take an apple fifty miles south of here?? Because MC arrived during a snowstorm and is now heading for California, he is also leaving behind his winter coat and mucky farm clothes. Later this summer he will return to reclaim his [temporarily] abandoned clothing and help out again on the farm. Perhaps he will enjoy himself enough that he will stay through another change of season and will need his heavy coat once again… [H is also for hope... and I am hopeful this might come to pass...]

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[Photo by Rob Campbell Photography]

Yesterday I had a quick chat with my friend Sylvia Olsen, the author of quite a few books and an expert knitter (among her books are Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater and Yetsa’s Sweater). She is heading off to a writing retreat in Ireland and we were chatting about how she will divide her time writing, knitting, and hula hooping. Hula hooping? Yep. Sylvia has a collapsible hula hoop with which she travels. Which is way more interesting than the fact I always travel with my personal pillow (it’s thin and all the hotels insist on HUGE fluffy pillows that make my neck ache).

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My daughter never leaves home without her Rescue Remedy (she travels a lot but hates to fly and swears by putting a few drops under her tongue to get her through takeoffs and landings). When I mentioned Sylvia’s hula hoop, Dani reminded me that she used to travel with her juggling sticks and this, in turn, made me think of several trips I took years ago with a pink ballet tutu stuffed in my backpack. This was long after I stopped dancing, but I had this idea that I would write a collection of travel essays called Travels with Tutu. I did wind up with a handful of odd photos of a pink tutu placed artfully in unusual places (atop a mountain in Japan, on a huge log on a beach somewhere along the West Coast Trail), but somehow the concept failed to hold my attention long enough to collect enough essays to make a book. Part of the problem, I think, was that the pink tutu on its own was not that photogenic (or, I was not a good enough photographer to make the images work well enough to warrant inclusion in a book). This was long before the selfie became a thing, so it never even occurred to me to wear the tutu myself.

The idea of Sylvia hula hooping on the edge of some windblown Irish cliff makes me smile. I really hope she has someone take a photo of her and her hoop in some cool Irish locale so I can vicariously enjoy her trip!

All this made me wonder, what is the essential item you cannot leave home without when you travel? Have you ever left something behind on a journey, intentionally or not? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever brought back with you after a trip?

G is for … Sorry… I Have to Say It: Great German Guests

After the past number of weeks of glowing, gushing, grateful posts about my Great German Guests, it seems like there can be no other theme for today’s post. Indeed, this evening the house is overflowing with Germans – AB is back for her third stay – MC is here for another couple of days and MC’s two friends – also from Bavaria – dropped in for a quick visit as well. NEVER have the dinner dishes disappeared so fast! Imagine a whole team of Germans scurrying around your kitchen figuring out a better system for putting everything away! And the efficiency with which that dishwasher is loaded! Ach du meine Güte!

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What a shame my German mother was not still here to enjoy the company of our young visitors. In an odd twist, just about everyone who has come to stay has been from Bavaria, which was my mother’s adopted home after her family fled from East Germany as the Russians invaded. I grew up with stories of Bavaria and of the war (Mom was born in 1939) and it’s very odd to hear many familiar place names and some distinctive phrases from the region popping up in conversation.

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Some of my fondest childhood memories are of when my Omi would come to stay (or, when we would go to visit her in Bavaria). I used to love Omi’s stories, one of which was eventually woven into the picture book, Grandparents’ Day. Omi’s family spent some time in Brazil where, as a child, she was bitten by a poisonous snake. The result of that encounter left a spectacular scar on her leg and hearing her tell the story of what happened next (which involved a blacksmith and an impromptu cauterization of the oozing wound with a super-heated poker) was so awful and so cool I loved/hated it when she would say, “Have I told you the story about the snake?” The process of taking such a grim tale from its original state to the final, more-or-less appropriate-for-young-children format was quite the journey…

Hearing all this German being spoken around the dinner table recently has awakened some corner of my brain where, apparently, quite a bit of German has been sleeping. How is this possible that a language can lie dormant for decades only to be activated by endless conversations about how crazy it is we have all these nice big roads and such ridiculously low speed limits? What’s really strange is that I understand the most when I’m not really trying to listen… kind of like the way you see better at night when you don’t look directly at whatever it is you are trying to see.

Speaking of night… time to sign off: Guten Nacht!