My Dad

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Seven years ago today my father died.  I don’t speak of him often as we had a complicated relationship.  He was a man full of love, laughter and terrible jokes.  He taught me how to play tennis, hockey and chess.  He played guitar for us, and sang.  He was a good grandfather and loved his grandkids dearly.  The amount of love that filled him was levered with equal parts anger.  He was a drinker with a temper, and it made for an unsteady childhood, to put it mildly.

My oldest daughter had just turned six.  We had the whole family over for her birthday dinner at our little house in Toronto, and my dad arrived with his personal support worker.  I made meatballs, and my dad said I would of made my grandmother proud.  My dad was half Italian, and liked good food.  His mother was born in Calabria, with family roots in Sicily.  He was dead two days later on Thanksgiving Sunday.

My friend Heather was visiting when the policeman came to my door.  I immediately started joking with him, asking if he needed backup, or if he came to arrest me for being so awesome? I now know that it is rarely a joking matter when a police officer arrives at your door.  Jess and I left our young children with Heather, and we went to identify my father’s body.

When I arrived at my dad’s house in Markham I set about calling his family.  My stepmother was on a well deserved vacation at the time.  I couldn’t understand why my phone call to my uncle was not connecting.  I finally realized that they had blocked my father’s number.  His relations with his family had become strained.  Addiction rarely improves relationships.  As a result, I hadn’t seen many of my father’s siblings in years.

This past spring, I went to my cousin’s wedding celebration in New York State.  I reconnected with my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my father’s side.  It was so lovely to see people who look like my dad, and me.  It filled a void that I have been unable to fill on my own.   I hope to see more of them in my near future.

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And today, my stepmother is visiting us for the first time since we have moved to the County.  I have asked her to bring my father’s photo albums so we can reminisce about my dad and the happier times we had.  My children don’t have many memories of my dad, and I want them to know the good parts about him.  I believe he tried his best as a father most of the time.  Some people are unable to overcome their personal demons, and my dad was one of them.

On the day of my dad’s funeral, I wrote him a letter of thanks and forgiveness and left it in his embalmed hand.  Sometimes it is easier to forgive someone when they can no longer do harm.

Seven years is a long time. A lot has happened over that span.  The world keeps spinning after death, kids grow up, lives continue.  Tonight, over our bowl of meatballs, we will toast a man who brought both joy and sorrow to this world.

 

 

 

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Winter Projects

 

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The bed and breakfast is coming to a close at the end of the month, as is my book keeping job at the farm.  This will soon leave me with plenty of time to do the things I long to do. Our new lifestyle allows for plenty of work and play, just not always at the same time.  There are clear cut working months and relaxing months to our year  All of us here in Prince Edward County who’s lives ebb and flow with the tourist season, can breathe a little easier with our new found time when October rolls around.  I have some really big plans for my fall and winter months and I can’t wait to start them.  And by “really big plans”, I do mean small, attainable, and enjoyable plans.

Crafting: I am trying my hand at embroidery.  It’s an old timey craft and I’ve found some hip designs from Cozy Blue.   I am hoping that pairing will make me feel less like an old lady with a needle, and more like a happening middle aged crafter.  As with many of my crafts, I don’t really know what I am doing.  I watched a few videos on embroidery stitching so that knowledge should keep me going for a least a few patterns.  Plus I tend to have low standards for my crafts so I don’t get stressed out if they don’t turn out perfect.  It’s more about keeping my hands busy than the end result.

I have signed up for two painting classes this fall.  One is being taught by the lovely Kato Wake, whom I’ve had the pleasure of attending her class before.  And the other class is free for South Marysburgh residents, and will be taught by another local, talented painter Janice Gibbins.  I am so excited to lose myself in an art project twice a week for the next few weeks.  Here is the painting a made for my dog crazy daughter two years ago.  I am certainly not claiming to be the next Van Gogh, but I can tell you that my then eight year old was very impressed with my work.

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We have kept our bees wax from our honey harvest, and will be making lip balms, and lotions to keep our epidermis protected and well hydrated through the dry winter months.

Social Media: When I first encountered instagram, frankly I found it a bit dull.  I wanted more information than a single photo was able to give me.  Two winters ago, I decided to try and find one photo a day to post in a bleak wintery landscape.  I liked the hunt for something beautiful to share each day.  After that winter, I was hooked.  I am now an avid instagrammer, and marvel in the snapshots of my friends, neighbours, and strangers around the world.

I recently started a new instagram account.  My handle is @thelifeofmydeadmom.  When my mom died, I kept many of her things including all of her photos.  Years ago, I arranged them by decade and then put them in a box.  That box has stayed closed for most of the last three years.  It’s been too hard to look at them.  I have often been on the verge of tears much of the last few years, and was unwilling to let these photos unleash the torrent of tears.  I am much more comfortable on the calm side of the dam.  I am now in a different place emotionally, and thought it was time to organize.  Each day I take a photo from my mom’s collection, post it in my account and then transfer the photo to a photo album.  It makes a large task more manageable for me.  I also want to share these photos with my family in the U.K., and my mom’s friends.  And I have questions, with no one close by to ask.  I am hoping my mom’s family and friends can fill in the blanks when needed.

Next on the horizon, is @thelifeofmydeaddad.  This may prove to be a bit more tricky as I don’t have many photos of my father.  It may have to be a joint project with my stepmother, and the Hawkins clan.

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Our Home: I plan on elevating our home with a few finer touches.  Just some basics like paint, light fixtures, and window treatments.  I have spent some time pricing out roman blinds for our excessive amount of windows.  It has taken me a while to reluctantly conclude that outsourcing this job is out of my price range. It is a task I will have to complete myself, although I lack the skill.  I have watched videos and plan to start some practice blinds soon.  If you are in the market for some badly made roman blinds, I may soon be your gal.  We do own five sewing machines, yet none work properly.  Perhaps the first step in this plan is finding a sewing machine repair person.  Any recommendations?

Writing: I would like to write more.  I don’t always have things to say which can damper prolific writing.  I have been encouraged by several friends to write a book.  I am taking that suggestion fairly seriously, and have written the first paragraph in my head.  I have yet to transfer it to digital paper but it is all part of my big winter plans.  Once I am officially out of work and back in my track pants, I am going to set a strict writing schedule. We will have to see where that takes me.

I can do most anything in track pants.

 

 

the birds and the bees.

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Let’s start off with an update on my bees.  I gathered my first honey harvest yesterday and it was very exciting! I wasn’t sure if I’d get any honey this year as my hive was a little behind the pack compared to the other hives in my beekeeping workshop.  If there was a honey gathering competition, I was certainly on the losing team.  Don’t blame it all on the bees, they had their reasons.

When I first got my nuc (nucleus colony) of bees at our second workshop, I dutifully brought them home and transplanted them in their new hive.  I checked on them as instructed and they seemed to be doing fine.  It turns out I had no idea what to look for as I was new to this bee keeping scene.  When I showed up for our third workshop, many of the other students were seeing lots of larvae and bee eggs in their frames.  My hive had none of that.  It only had honey.  After much debating, and a friend do a visual check, it was concluded that my hive was without a queen.

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Gavin, from Honey Pie Hives and Herbals, quickly rectified the situation and brought me a queen the following night.  Queen introductions have to be handled with a little etiquette so the hive bees doesn’t assume the new queen as an outsider and kill her.  You know what they say about assuming?  It makes an ass out of u and me.  To deter this unnecessary assassination, I put a few sheets of newspaper between the two brood boxes.  In the bottom are the current bee dwellers, and the queen is placed in the higher brood box.  It will take the bees a few days to eat through the newspaper to get to the queen.  By that time, they will have gotten use to her pheromones and not consider her as an intruder.  It all went according to plan, and now they are one big happy bee family. Bee babies were made, babies were born, pollen was foraged, and honey was made.

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I jarred 3 litres of honey yesterday.  It is lovely, dark, and full of flavour as most late season honey is foraged from Goldenrod.  Only a third of the honey was capped honey so some will have to be stored in the fridge.  I am absolutely thrilled about our honey harvest! I have plans for lotions and potions with the collected bees wax as well.

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Now on to the birds.  As of today, I am tending to 74 chickens.  Nine are our laying hens, and the rest are meat chickens at varying ages.  We have 24 four week olds, 20 two week olds, and 21 one day olds.  I’m not sure how after four years of living here, I morphed into the Chicken Lady from Kids in the Hall but here I am surrounded by chickens.  We are on our fourth round of meat chickens this season.  We hope to raise most of our own chicken meat for the year.  Jess renovated our chicken coop so there is an incubator for the new chicks, a slightly less heated incubator for the two to four week old chicks, and then floor space and outdoor access for our older chickens.  In the past we have taken them to an abattoir but Jess would like to do the slaughtering himself this year.  I am not so keen on that plan.  I am happy to raise them, feed them and clean up after them but frankly I am too squeamish to be part of the slaughtering.  That may be due to my city upbringing, or simply a tendency to not want to be grossed out and splattered with chicken blood.  I do own a pair of chicken shit boots that I wear in the coop, but I am not sure if I am able to upgrade to chicken blood boots.  How many pairs of boots does a girl need anyhow?

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We did lose 3 of our hens early this spring.  Rambling Rose was getting picked on by the other hens, so we separated her and moved her to her own coop.  Every morning she would fly out of her coop and free range around, always staying close to home.  One sunny afternoon, my oldest was having a pool party with a few of her friends.  Out of nowhere came a black dog who immediately killed Rambling Rose right in front of my daughter and her friends. Luckily it only dampened my daughter’s party for a short time, but unfortunately for Rambling Rose, her party was over.  The dog in question was a rescue dog, and had escaped a neighbouring dinner party to do a little recreational hen culling.

Two other hens were killed by a predator in the middle of the night.  We have had very few problems with predators in the last four years so we got a bit lackadaisical with our protection plan.  Our hens have an electrical fence around their space, and we didn’t always remember to turn it on.  One night this spring, something got in and killed two hens. The predator didn’t eat them, just killed them which makes little sense to me.  So now we never turn the electric fence off, more to keep predators out and less to keep the hens in.  In the last few days, there has been a juvenile Osprey lurking around.  Jess spotted him on top of the chicken tractor looking in.  I’m not sure the Osprey is old enough to realize our hens our much too big for him.

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That just about sums up all my updates on the birds and the bees here at South.  I do hope to get some more laying hens, as we sell our eggs and eat quite a few.  I have been asked by a few friends if they can buy chickens from us as well.  Perhaps next year, I’ll up my chicken count but for right now our meat chickens are just for our family to consume.

 

 

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Septemberfest 2017

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We closed down our bed and breakfast this past weekend.  The Milford Fair was on Saturday and we invited 25 of our closest family and friends to join us in this small town delight.  Most of our friends rolled in from Toronto, with a thumbless handful from Peterborough.  The kids decorated our float, we ate well, played Capture the Flag, laughed, reminisced, sang, drank well, played Milford Fair games, had a bonfire, stayed up too late, swam, and generally had a fabulous time together.

Pool Septemberfest

We have all been friends for a long time.  Some of us went to high school together, others met in university, my oldest friend and I have been good pals since we were four.  We had a slight crush on each other in Grade 5, but let’s face it, he was more into me than I was into him.  He has always been able to make me laugh.  He is one of the three funniest guys I know, ranking up there with Jess and my brother.  I always feel like I am one of the guys with him but in a good way.  As our jokes get more obnoxious, raunchier, and sometimes a little cruel, it only makes us giggle more.  He has a heart of gold, and he is family.  I love you N.B.!

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Really I love all my friends who were up last weekend.  Not to get too mushy on you but they are all so awesome, and the only downside to their friendship is that they live too far from us.  Granted we were the ones who moved away from them, but isn’t that more their fault than ours?  They should visit more, or simply ditch city life and move to Milford.  We could have more of everything we had this past weekend.  And then I could get better at playing Capture the Flag, and not feel like I was going to have a heart attack as the under 20 set effortlessly chased me down.

Our core group has been celebrating Septemberfest since the year 2000.  It was originally a birthday party for Jess up at his dad’s farm just South of Collingwood.  His birthday would always coincide with the Flesherton Fair, and we would all make a weekend out of it.  Now our group has grown exponentially with our gaggle of children.  It was a naturally progression to move the party to Milford where there is little need to camp and there are a few more luxuries to enjoy.

As always, the Milford parade started at our place.  We get a close up look at all the fantastic people, animals, and floats to grace our streets.  Here are some of the few local attractions this year:

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The owner of this horse use to be a student at South Marysburgh school.

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The Kiwanis guys are here every year.  They have a Middle Eastern float with stuffed camels.  The Middle Eastern theme is odd to me as it has no association with the County, but it is always my favorite float.

IMG_0958 These guys were just hanging out.  I offered them a coffee but they would have none of it.  The guy on the left was much friendlier than he looks.

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This was the best tractor name in the parade.

I am now going to proceed to bore you with all the ribbons we as a family raked in!

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Second place ribbon to Alysa H. for Any Flower Floating in a Bowl.

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Second place ribbon to J.P. for Peppers, hot, 3.

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Third place ribbon to J.P. for Pumpkin, Field.  Please note, pumpkin was picked by seven year old Theo so we let him take home both the pumpkin and the ribbon.

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Second place ribbon to Alysa H. for Felting.  There were only two entries.

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Third place ribbon to Ruby P. for Any Baked Item Judged on Flavour and Appearance.

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First place ribbon to Wini P. for Any Baked Item Judged on Flavour and Appearance.

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Second place ribbon to Alysa H. for Miniature Arrangement, over 3″ but under 5″.

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First place ribbon to Ruby P. for Any Collection.

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Second place ribbon to Alysa H. for A Photo Showing Motion or Action.

And there you have it folks, another successful Milford Fair/Septemberfest weekend.  Now I have to go and start working on my fair entries for next year.

The Show.

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We were not the stars of the show.  We were more like twinkles.  I believe our trailer was longer than our segment on the show. Nevertheless, my girls and I watched HGTV Great Canadian Homes with bated breath last night.  There are some awesome homes on that show and a little glimpse of ours.

For all my friends and family far and wide around this great earth, the full show is right here for you to see.  If you are not interested in fabulous Canadian homes and want to just see me and the family then skip to minute 32:58.  It should take you about 48 seconds to watch it.

Please let me know what you think of the show.  I’d love to hear.

And, yes, Tommy did mispronounce my name.  But I forgive him after all those nice things he said about my place.

 

HGTV Here We Come!

HGTV Filming

I woke up this morning and found this in my Facebook feed.  My lovely neighbour up the street had posted it.  It was a long day of filming back in October. You wouldn’t believe how many times they made us repeat “We bought a school!” while being filmed by a flying drone.

I haven’t seen the full show, but am told it will air June 18th on Great Canadian Homes.  If you don’t have cable like me, you will be able to see the show online after the 18th.  I will most likely post a link as I am pretty excited about seeing it myself.  Mostly I love that some of our journey has been documented outside of my blog.

Today also happens to be the day that we took possession of the South Marysburgh School four years ago.

Happy watching!

 

Bees.

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I’ve got a hive! It is only wee but it is buzzing with activity.  We’ve been wanting to keep bees since we moved here but there always seemed to be a long list of projects that took priority.  Little things like heat, clean water, a new roof, renovating 11,000 square feet, and starting a new business stole most of our attention the last few years.  It took the bees a while before they got to the top of our list.

Our project list was intentionally lighter for 2017, so I signed up for a bee keeping workshop. The workshop is being run by my neighbour Gavin, who is a master bee keeper and runs Honey Pie Hives and Herbals with his wife Bay.  The workshops are once a month for 6 months.  I’ve only completed two workshops, and look at me, I already have bees!  Really I haven’t done much since I got my bees, as I am not suppose to open the hive for another two weeks.   Bees have been taking care of themselves for centuries so I’m quite sure they are not waiting for instructions from me.

I have to admit that my sweet tooth was partially my inspiration to keep bees, but after a few hours of observation, I am finding them quite fascinating. During our workshop, Gavin opened one of his hives so we could have a look inside.  We discussed bee living while hundreds of bees flew around us.  I really wanted to take some photos, so I bravely yet cautiously took my glove off to snap some shots of pollen legs.  Bees have an arrangement of hairs on their hind legs that is referred to as a pollen basket.  When bees collect pollen, they mix it with their saliva and pack it in the hairs on their back legs so they can transport it back to their hive.  The result is some chunky bee legs in the colour of the flowers they were harvesting.  I’ve been in the bee dark most of my life and had never seen such colourful bee legs before.

Pollen Legs Red

Pollen Legs Yellow

I came home Sunday night with a box full of buzzing bees in my back seat.  I drove real slow, and rolled through every stop sign as a few bees had escaped their box and were buzzing around in my van.  Once I got home, I suited up and Jess lit my smoker for me. I kept my cool, and the transition from bee box to bee hive was a smooth one.  Now I just have to wait for the honey to roll in.

Hive Set Up