Thursday, January 30, 2014

Today's video/Budweiser commercial

So wonderful. I cry every time I watch it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I'll Never Marry a Farmer by Lois Hole

I'll Never Marry a Farmer
On Life, Learning & Vegetable Gardening
by Lois Hole
nonfiction 1998
finished 1/27/14

Perhaps because my mother died when I was in my twenties, I have looked for, and often found, mentors in many different fields over the years. My favorites are the gardening women. They seem to be particularly strong, no-nonsense sorts of people such as A. Carman Clark, Thalassa Cruso, and now Lois Hole. The sad thing is that they are all dead now, but their words live, and await generations of women, both young and old, wanting to learn how to grow vegetables and flowers, and along the way learn how to live a good life. 

This is a particularly special book. It is partly a how-to manual, covering most vegetables in two page spreads and it is also a reminiscence of a life well-lived as a vegetable farmer. She and her husband Ted tried a few different ways to use their Alberta, Canada farmland - grain, chickens, cattle but “nothing seemed to work out.”  They settled on growing vegetables because of a lucky placement of their home vegetable garden. 
My garden happened to be right next to a well-travelled road, and that seemingly insignificant detail changed our lives forever.
One day two fellows stopped by and wondered if she would sell them some cucumbers, and then came back a week later for more. Lois and Ted thought that if they were this interested then perhaps others would be as well, so they placed an ad in the paper which said
“Hole’s Farm - Vegetables for Sale,” and our phone number. Well, our phone just rang off the hook.
There are occasional philosophical musings such as this one on Healthy Soil.
The soil in which we plant determines what will take root. How we thrive and what we produce depend so much on where we choose to plant ourselves. … People thrive in all kinds of situations - different soils are right for different people. Some grow in a sandier, drier mix - some need extra nutrients and enrichment - some struggle through the clay to reveal their true strengths.
Lois tells us stories of farm life, her children, neighbors, and workers on the farm. She pays homage to a special person who gave her knowledge and inspiration, an illiterate woman who was an expert on the native plants and how to use them. She lived in a hut made of logs and mud, with no running water, and there raised eight children, and took in other kids who had no parents. The author expresses her regret that she didn’t take the opportunity to write down Mrs. Durocher’s wisdom.

Lois Hole was the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta from 2000 until she died in 2005. You may read about her appointment here. In 2011, a rooftop garden, the Ted and Lois Hole Healing Garden was opened at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Also, part of this hospital is the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. 

The title comes from a time in her childhood when she pronounced to her mother, “No matter what, I’ll never marry a farmer.” Well, she did, and it was the best decision of her life. 

I read this book for the 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, and I’m so very happy to have made the acquaintance of Lois Hole. This is a wonderful book, full of wisdom and common sense about gardening and about living one's life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My long-awaited reads month

Even though January has ten more days, I think I’m finished with my long-awaited reads month. I began with Electric Eden by Rob Young and read quite a bit before I realized it was just too dense, too filled with information. I thought I'd try something less scholarly so I picked up Toast by Nigel Slater, and I just didn't like it, and put it down after a few pages. I walked around the house and looked for books I've been meaning to get to for a while, and decided to read a Laurie Colwin book I've owned for years - A Big Storm Knocked It Over. I read many pages and then quit. There was a character I could not stand, and the main character had some kind of weird attraction to him. My last try was Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie. I read about 50 pages. I did enjoy it, but finally gave it up because, though I am a fan of all things English, there were just too many references to names and places I didn't know, though I do think it would be a wonderful read for someone who lives there. So, I'm going to move on to some other reading I have planned for this year. This was fun for me, even though I didn't become immersed in a book or finish one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stuck by Stacey D. Atkinson

by Stacey D. Atkinson
fiction, 2013
Kindle book
finished 12/6/13

Stuck begins with the definition of the word

stuck adj.

1 unable to progress
2 confined in a place

Odette exemplifies both 1 and 2. She is in her early twenties, works at the same convenience store she has worked at since high school; and she is ‘confined’ to living in a trailer with her teenage sister, and her Bingo-addicted mother.
I never pictured my life to be like this: sleeping all day, eating supper for breakfast, working the night shift for a few dollars more than minimum wage, and still living with my mother. But then again, I'd never actually set out a specific plan to achieve my independence. I just fell in step with the routine of life.
She describes her childhood:
Having a Bingo Ma wasn’t easy. There were days when we could only afford to eat plain spaghetti for supper, no sauce even. In the evenings my sisters and I would wait in the living room for Ma to return home from the hall to see if it was a Win Day. On these days we could buy whatever kind of chips and chocolate bars we wanted, even the expensive kinds like Toblerone. …
We’d be on a delirious sugar high for a good week before realizing the money had run out. Then we’d be right back where we started, marking an on the calendar to count down the days until the next welfare cheque arrived.
Their trailer is a mess with ‘dirty glasses … and lipstick-stained butts’ until Odette has the time to clean. Odette’s paycheck supplements the welfare and Bingo money. She feels responsible for her teenage sister Sophie, whom she fears is heading for trouble. There is an older sister Natalie.
At the age of twenty-five she could already claim a failed marriage and three kids from three different fathers. … To get by, she lived on her monthly welfare cheque just like Ma and got paid under the table for a weekend shift here and there at the fish plant.
The book takes place in Pointe-du-Chene, New Brunswick Canada. It is a fishing village near the city of Moncton. 
Besides the trailer park and the fishermen’s homes, the rest of the village was a thriving cottage community, full of people who celebrated the summer months.
I haven’t been able to find the exact quote, but I recently heard someone on the radio say that the divide in the US now isn’t based on race, but class. And I expect it may be the same in Canada. In Pointe-du-Chene, there are the rich tourists and there are the locals who make their living by fishing, and by catering to the summer visitors. Very rarely do the twain meet, but in Stuck, Odette becomes friendly with one of the Yacht Club young men. She lets herself be a woman of mystery, not telling him her true identity. It is very interesting to see how this plays out. Odette also meets a stranger on the beach where she goes after her night shift ends. 

If you read my book reports, you probably know that I favor the slow, quiet book. I like a book that drops me into a character’s life and lets me live alongside her for a while, getting to know her and the life she lives. I am exceedingly fond of Odette. She is a low-key kind of person, who is involved with her family and community, while at the same time having a dream for something, and somewhere, else. The reader doesn’t know if she will find an opportunity to follow that dream. 

New Brunswick is a bilingual province, and I really enjoyed the occasional use of French in the book. If you don't know the language, you can still get the gist of what a word or phrase means. The sense of place is very strong, and we see that Odette is a product of her home town. 

The word ‘pleasant’ isn’t used very often as a description of a book, and if it is, it is apt to be used in a sort of disparaging way, but I love the word. The thesaurus says:
enjoyable, pleasurable, nice, agreeable, pleasing, satisfying, gratifying, good; entertaining, amusing, delightful, charming. 
And this book is all of those things. It made me happy reading it. I found the ending perfect, yet real. In life most problems are not neatly solved, but we generally find a way to deal with them, and Odette does. It was one of my personal favorites from 2013. You may visit the author’s website here.

 A while ago, I got an email from the author asking if I’d like to read and write about this book. I get a few of these emails every year, and most of them are about books I wouldn’t read in a hundred years, but everything about Stuck appealed to me. I knew I would love it, and I did. She offered to give me the Kindle book, but I bought it for myself instead. It is available as a Kindle book for only $2.99 and is also in print version. 

This is my third book for the 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

I happened to find a little song called Pointe du Chene girl which I think kind of captures the spirit of Odette.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A reading plan for 2014

I had a rather shocking revelation a little while ago. When I posted a list of 2013 over-looked books I heard about on the radio, Aarti left me a comment in which she said
I wonder how much diversity is represented in this list. As a rule of thumb, I usually think that POC authors are much more overlooked than their Caucasian counterparts, so I would hope that at least some of those above are minorities!
I wrote back
I took it upon myself to search the names in google images to see about the diversity because I know you are right about this! Okay, here you go: all Caucasian except for Hilton Als who is African-American. I just went through my list of books read this year, and every single author is white. Granted a fair many are olden days writers, but still, but still. Not very pleased with myself. This will be my own personal little challenge next year to read more POC authors.
These are the books that I own which were written by writers who are not Caucasian. I hope to read them all in 2014.

January 21 I began with The Cambridge Curry Club, but quit. I tend to not read books about a group of women, each of whom have some grief or embarrassment or trouble in their lives. This was that kind of book - set in a charity shop in Cambridge, England.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Death of Esther the goat

I found myself thinking over the years that maybe, just maybe, Esther would beat the dying rap and live on forever. On one very frustrated day, I looked up the life span of goats, and though the average is 10-12 years, the number 30 jumped out at me. If she wasn’t immortal, then certainly 30 wasn’t out of her reach. But the reality of life which is death caught up with her. And I mean literally ‘caught up.’ Esther wasn’t easy to catch, either by us or the grim reaper. The night before she died, Tom was exasperated for the zillionth time when she snuck in the front door of the barn, knocked the top off the grain can, and started eating. And the very day she died, she was out of the pasture roaming around the lawns. Then Tom came in and said she was down. We called the vet and Tom brought her up to the office and Esther was given that last shot. 

The first photo we have of her is this one from 2002 with Bracelet and Annie, all gone now. 

You’ll notice that Annie the white one is much smaller. She was a pygmy goat, our third. Those were great goats. Small, friendly, companionable. We bought Bracelet and Esther sight unseen. The people said they were pygmies, but we knew the minute they hopped out of the truck that they were not. They were regular sized goats. And they were nothing like the malleable, naturally well-behaved little pygmies we had known. From the start, they were trouble. They lived life on their terms. If they wanted to leave the pasture, they did so. The electric fence didn’t faze them a bit. If they wanted to eat down the 55 day lilies Tom planted in his 55th year, they did so. One of my own personal favorite blog entries is about the goats. 

After Bracelet died two years ago, which I noted in this post, Esther only got worse, though I didn’t think it possible. She was an unstoppable force. She was on the move all the time. I would watch her as she took a bite here of daylily, and a bite there of yellow bean leaves, and wondered why she didn’t stay put and enjoy her meal. I looked it up and found out that goats learn about something by eating it. They learn about a plant for a while, and then move along to learn about the next one. She wouldn’t touch tomato leaves or onions, but most everything else among the flowers or vegetables was fair game.

Tom and I knew that when (if) she died, we would feel a sadness, simply because she was such a personality. And we do. We used to call her our outside dog, because she really liked to hang around us when we were out. But we also feel relief. We have some new ideas about the gardens for this summer, and I have been wracking my brain wondering how on earth we would keep her away. Last year she did some big damage. Several flowers never blossomed because she ate them off while in bud. We had to replant the yellow beans because those leaves were a special favorite. 

The last picture of her was taken Christmas eve day out the window as she walked out of her pasture, across two lawns, and out into the north pasture. Just ‘cause.

So yes, there is relief. But yes, we shall miss her.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year of Afternoon Gardens - January

If you look on the sidebar under ‘letter topics’ you’ll see ‘a year of morning gardens.’ Back in 2006, I began taking monthly photos of the same spot, and when I had finished, I posted them all in a blog entry. I decided I’d do it again, (can it really be?) 8 years later. This time I’m going to take the photo in mid-afternoon on the first of each month and post it. There are flowers to the left of the patio, and behind the bench in front of the house. It’ll be fun to see the changes as the months go by. My 2006-2007 morning gardens are all the more meaningful to me as two of the dogs are now gone. But our Sadie is still here, and I’ll try and get her in a picture one of the months.