Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Dreaded Mid-January Year-End Review

I've been procrastinating about this post for the past few days.  I guess you could say 2013 was one of those years.  I'm not sure I want to look back, but for the sake of posterity, I'm slapping up a few photos:
Two fat cats, our lovely plywood floor and some knitting.  I'm happy to report my Rowan Soumak shawl is finally off the needles, and I have but 30 piddly ends left to sew in.  Hopefully by the time the weekend rolls around, I should have it blocked and photographed.  If the cats let me have it, that is.

Oh, fall was so pretty.  The light is gorgeous, and makes the barn look like this:
I've mentioned I love fall, haven't I?  This is what it looks like outside now:
No.  I take that back.  We've had a bit of a thaw, and now all of Odin's poopsicles are in clear view.  It's only white and pristine for a few days.  (Damn this infernal winter to hell).  December was vicious in many parts of North America, and January with that ridiculous "polar vortex" hasn't been a treat, either.  We've had some of the coldest weather in recent memory, but we've managed to stay warm.  Taking two weeks off in December helped, too.  Not having to leave the house during winter is a dream of mine.  Friends always joke and say they need a crowbar to get me out of the house, and it's not far from the truth.  If I don't have to go out, I won't go out.  Simple as that.

This cats looks how I feel.  A bit overstuffed and skeptical at this time of year.  This was a greeting card that became a gift tag, and it's been going back-and-forth between my friend's house and mine since 2008.  It never ceases to put a smile on my face.
It's anarchy in our house, I tell you.  This cat scratching post never got quite finished, a common malady in our house.  But Dindin loves playing with it.  It stands to reason that we have scenes like this, too:
BobCat in Odin's crate.  Wonderful.  Everyone in this house is screwed up a bit, I think.  (It might be a prerequisite, come to think of it).
Here we have Odin on Tessie's favorite bed.  And we have Capucine, who needs to sit INSIDE of things:
Capu is a real card.  She needs to sit in this drawer.  Likewise, BobCat and Odin have their issues, too:
Isn't it amazing how pets love to explore a new space?  I made some more room for our ever-increasing bottle collection, and both were happy to lend a helping hand. 
Odin is in his leggy phase.  I love this phase.  He's so disproportionate and goofy it's adorable.  This boy is going to get big.  He's close to 30 lbs. already and just over 4 months old.
Aaaand yet another for good measure.  In due time, Tessie will be able to have her bed back again.
Odin met the horses - and goat - next door.  He's quite fascinated by them.  If you look closely, you can see the foal on the right side looking at him.  The foal wasn't quite sure of Odin, but tentatively made his way over to us.
I was worried that Odin, considering he's a southern dog, wouldn't like the snow.  I wasn't worried for long.  He loves the snow, and buries his head in it, sniffing out bunnies and mice.  He also knows how to keep warm:
His favorite spot is right beside the wood stove.  Hmmm, just like me, come to think of it.
Yet another project on (and off!) the needles.  One strand of Rowan Cocoon and one strand of Kidsilk Haze held together.  THIS is the way to knit.  I haven't quite decided if I should redo my cast-off edge or not.  Sitting by the fire, dog at my feet, sun setting behind me, I think this was the closest to knitting-heaven I've ever gotten.  I also frogged and re-knit this project and it wasn't even a chore.

Awww.  Poor old Schatzie.  I never thought when we adopted a 20 year-old cat she'd last 8 more years.   It's amazing just how much we miss them, even Schatzie, the ancient thorn in my side. Godspeed, little Schatzie.
This photo, taken last March, is one of the last few I have of Cooper.  Here he is, coming back from his early morning tour of the grounds. Godspeed, my dear boy.   I still miss him more than words can say.
An early spring sunset.  Come this time of year, we're hoping for a quick thaw and an early spring.
We had a lot of rain last year.  Some amazing storms blew through the area.
Mid-May, we had a really hard frost.  These were my grapes.  Needless to say, it wasn't a stellar year.  I keep threatening to tear yet another row of grapes out, and I might make it a reality in 2014.  Even our oak and ash trees were frost-bitten.
Wow, was it ever mucky outside.  I hope spring 2014 isn't a repeat.  I think Odin might need rubber booties if it is.
Our wheat.  It got lodged during a really strong downpour.  The plants in the front are Jerusalem artichokes.  Be forewarned, should you ever plant these, you'll never get rid of them.  Ever.  Plowing them under makes them duplicate as if by magic, too.
Again, we had some memorable sunsets.
And yet another.
And yet another.  That reminds me, we keep meaning to get lightning rods for the house.   We had an estimate for some gorgeous red glass-ball rods.  I'll have to rattle Eric's cage.  These lightning rods are on the little barn directly beside the house.
Our friend Isa painted this beautiful painting for us.  It puts a smile on my face every time I come down the stairs and look at it.  It's bright, it's perfect, and we love it.  Note Bob and Tessie snuggling on the sofa.
This is the view right out of our western living room window.   This was one of those perfect summer days.
A perfect early fall sunrise.
And the equivalent, a matching early fall sunset.

Onward we forge.  Here's to 2014.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Introducing Odin

Without any further ado, meet our newest family member:
Welcome little Odin!  All the way from Mississippi via Maine, Odin has traveled more in his 14 weeks than I have this whole year.

I've been watching Petfinder for Border Collie/Lab mixes for a few months now, and in early November, I fell in love with a little puppy called Tauras, a dead-ringer for our late, great Cooper.  Even Eric was impressed.  He took one look at his photo, looked at me, and said, "Where is he, and when can we get him?"

I filled out the adoption form, and the long, arduous wait began.  I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion.  To say that I fell hard for Tauras would be an understatement.  It was like our new puppy was so near, yet so far.

I stared at Tauras' photo that I had by now saved to my desktop, and went to check out his Petfinder profile umpteen times a day.  He was part of a big litter relocated to Maine from Mississippi by a non-profit dog rescue organization called Helping Paws headquartered in South Portland, Maine.  Not only had Tauras piqued my attention, so did two of his litter mates, Teddy and Tristan.

Two weeks later, with no news regarding the status of our application, I dejectedly put Tauras' photo into my recycle bin.  At that exact moment, a new email popped up!  Our application had been approved!  We could have a puppy!  Yippee!

Alas, I was told that Tauras' foster family decided to keep him (who could blame them?) but that little Tristan, Tauras' littermate, remained available.

It took a week for Eric and I to coordinate our schedules so we could both make the trek to Maine together.  As we drove down, I had a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach, a sort of dread, wondering what I had gotten us into...
I had been emailing Tristan's foster-mom.  We bantered a few emails across the ether, and I had a good vibe about her and the care she was giving Tristan.  When we walked through the door, Tristan greeted us like long-lost family.  All of our our doubts melted away in an instant.  We knew we had found our dog.

I can't begin to tell you just how well Tristan had been looked after.  His foster-mom cared for him like her very own.  He sits, he's learning how to stay and come, he's great on a leash, and he's crate-trained.  He asks for the door, and he's good in the car.  He's used to dogs, he's used to cats, and he's house-trained.  He sleeps curled up beside me, and let me sleep in until 9:30 this morning, something I've had the luxury of doing exactly twice this year!

Odin, as we obviously baptised Tristan, is the perfect puppy.  We're over-the-moon in love with him, and have spent the last few days getting accustomed to one another.  The cats are on the fence.  While Tessie used to block Cooper on the stair all the time, she's not sure about this newcomer and spends a lot of time upstairs, using her best stealth-cat techniques to move around the house.  BobCat is taking things in stride and lets Odin lick his face.  BobCat has reclaimed his spot on the couch, and has no problem putting the young 'un in his place while tolerating his canine affections.
Capucine for her part, has already re-assumed her regular schedule, and last night, came into the bedroom as is her habit, and said goodnight while Odin watched her from the bed.  She keeps a watchful eye on him.

Lookit those pink puppy paws!  Lookit that spotted baby belly!  At 14 weeks, Tristan is already 23 pounds.  Cooper weighed 14 pounds at 13 weeks.  It looks like we'll have a big boy on our hands.

My little Mississippi Mud Hound, as I affectionately call him.

To say we're beyond lucky is an understatement.  Odin is such a good boy.  I've been wearing him out with long walks up and down the hedgerow, to the back-end of our property.  We've been to the pet store to pick out new toys, and have visitors who play fetch until Odin tires out.  Every day is filled with excitement and newness.
It's wonderful, seeing the world through the eyes of a dog once again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


It's hard to believe that we've been renovating this old house since 2001.  Eric started off with gusto, got lots done in the first year, and then other things took over.

Real Life took over, that's what.

Eric decided that this October, he'd take a month off work - unpaid, I should add.  He wanted to tackle the upstairs, once and for all.  The last time I posted about our so-called progress, it was October 25, 2012.  I called the post Renovation Day 1388 to coincide with the day we officially started the knotty pine purge.  If I add 364 days to that count, we'd be at 1752 days, but that's bordering on terrifying.  Let's forget I even went there.

Oh, what a naive and innocent soul I was!  I've often said I'm time-challenged because I need to be, and I'm not kidding.  My sanity depends on looking the other way, and pretending that everyone lives with exposed 2x4's and plastic sheets in place of bedroom doors, don't they?  When people ask me how I deal with it, I put my hands over my ears, and sing LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA, very loudly to prove my point.  That's the defense mechanism I've built up over the last few years.  Maturity is not my middle name.
Remember I said we always complicate things?  That's why we're still here, 12 years later, wielding power tools and cursing, albeit lovingly, at each other under our breath.

Truth be told, our house was massacred at the above spot by previous owners.  A couple of square feet of actual, physical house structure was missing here.
Here's a photo taken last year that shows what I mean.  The master bedroom is behind the formidable plastic sheet, as I've affectionately named what we've considered a bedroom door since January 2009.
 While Eric insists he didn't over-engineer, I tend to agree with him so as not to pick a fight.
Here we can see the BC Fir timber-frame structure that Eric built to shore up this part of the house, and accommodate the rail-mounted glass door from Sadev we're putting here.  Perfection doesn't evade Eric, which is why he talks in terms of 64ths, and uses a micrometer to measure things.

While some people think it might be romantic to renovate an 1850's farm house, I'm here to say but one thing:  NOT.  Knowing what we know now, we'd much rather build from scratch than marry old with new, ever again.  It's, like, six times the work.
Trying to get things to fit flush - on the first try - takes a bit of knowledge, a lot of patience, and the right tools. Make that a lot of knowledge, and a bit of patience, on second thought.
When Eric asks me to hand him the 0.5mm pen instead of the 0.7mm pen for marking, I think he's over-doing things just a tad, but I do have to hand it to him, literally and figuratively.  His attention to detail pays off in the end.  When Eric marks and cuts, stuff fits.  And if it doesn't?  That's where the La La La La song comes in.
In order to finish up this corner, we actually had to remove part of the vapour barrier and the boards we had initially put up in 2009.  Once the timber-frame structure was complete, and the electrical wiring done, Eric insulated using Roxul Safe'n'Sound.  Again, words can't express just how highly we think of this product.  I have to be punny and say it rocks.  Enough said.

We've used a radiant barrier everywhere upstairs.  I cannot extoll the virtues of this misunderstood step enough.  We used rFoil NT radiant barrier upstairs and highly recommend it.  It makes a huge difference in the comfort of our home, and should be considered by everyone building or renovating.  It's an integral step in insulation.
rFoil installed!  Eric is chugging right along!  The barrier is joined to the studs using Mulco's Acoustic.  There's another pun in there, because this stuff sticks like a SOB.  Buy a big container of lighter fluid - that's the antidote.  Where 2 sections of barrier overlap, use the best aluminum foil tape you can find - we prefer Cantech brand.

The only thing missing is the drywall.  Thankfully, Eric has a new foreman:
Capucine is to construction as misery is to renovation.  Crack that whip, kitty!  Here she is on the platform Eric built to be able to work safely in the stairwell.  We've left it in place for now, and we only needed to knock our heads on it twice to remember to duck, both coming up and going down the stairs.  When we remove this platform, I can guarantee you it will take us a few days to walk straight again.

Hark, what have we here?

Why, the drywall has been applied, the joints are done and sanded, and the first coat of primer is down!  We're so excited by this step, we actually run our hands over the walls and burst into gales of laughter.  Clearly, we're not quite sane, but that's a prerequisite for undertaking a project of this magnitude in the first place.

Paradoxically, part of me is sad we don't see the old structure of the house anymore.  While I never really got used to the dangling electrical outlet (see the first photo), and always tentatively fumbled for it when the house was dark, I'm sad to see the old part of our house now covered.

I'll probably get over it by tomorrow.

And, for your viewing pleasure, things would not be complete without two sunsets and a message from Capucine:

Looks like you missed a spot, right there!  Just doing my job!  X O X O, Capucine.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Six Months.

It's hard to believe that Cooper has been gone for six months already.

I've cried gallons of tears over him since then, and I know I'm good to cry gallons more.  I wish I had a cure for heartbreak.

We still see Cooper everywhere.  My heart sinks when I make the curve in our driveway and I don't see his smiling face in the patio door, waiting deliriously for our arrival, his tail quivering with excitement.  I still check my watch at 4:30, and think it's food time.  Our friends still come in the house, and ask, "Where's...?", their voices trailing off.

We know just how they feel.

His bed is still upstairs, and his collar still hangs at the door.  I jiggle it from time to time, as if doing so might conjure him up.

The first night after he died, I dreamed about him, and that he was still with us, but in a parallel, invisible universe.  I dreamed I could see a faint outline of him if I concentrated hard enough, sort of like a holograph, but he was there and always would be.  

I sleep with his favorite stuffed toy, the same toy he brought me mere hours before he died, leaning in towards me like he always did when he wanted attention.  There are nights where I admit that I clutch it more furtively than others.

We sometimes laugh as we recount and remember things he did.  Sometimes we wipe a discreet tear out of the corner of our eye.  Other times, particularly right now, the tears come fast and furious, and my breath comes in gulps.  The pain in my chest is more real than I care to admit.

I try and sit still with the pain, trying to make sense of the senseless.  It's a futile attempt, of this I know.  All I can do is give thanks for the still December morning he came into our lives.  I simply could have driven by him, and life would have been very, very different.

Cooper was the glue that bound everything together, and I'm trying hard to find a way to hold it together without him.

If people are the heart of a home, a dog is most definitely the soul.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Sunflower

For the past few weeks, I've been driving by a lonely sunflower in the middle of a grass field:

This sentinel flower has been standing at full attention, dutifully facing the sun, every time I drive by in the morning.  Every day, it puts a smile on my face.

Here's the sunflower in full context:
The maples in the background are starting to turn yellow and orange and red, and the ash trees have lost almost all of their leaves.  This coming weekend will probably be the best showing of fall colours, and we've got our fingers crossed that the weather will hold out.  Speaking from experience, we just need one wet and windy day to bring all the leaves down.  That would spell the end of summer 2013, and we don't want that to happen just yet.  It seems like summer just started!  We've got some rain in the forecast this weekend, and then more of what we've been having.  Our current spell of beautiful weather has been the best we've had all year, it seems.  Not a single night of frost, not a single rainy day, just bright sunny days, and cool foggy nights.  Just perfect!

The soy fields in our area were cut in the past week, and the field right across from my favorite sunflower is bare:
You can make out the adjoining field of corn on the left-hand side of the photo.  Corn still has a few weeks to go before harvest.

Our wheat was harvested a few weeks ago, and our fields have already been spread with manure and plowed under, ready for next spring.  Our direct neighbour has spread his field with liquid manure, so maybe a bit of rain to wash the smell into the soil might not be a bad idea.  Right now, it's nausea-inducing.

My favorite sunflower started to hang its head late this week, and today when I drove by, the field had been cut.   Bye-bye sunflower, hope to see you again next year.
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