Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Continuing the countdown!

These guys are awesome and as a "zebra" I appreciate a bit of Christmas on the Serengeti.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Week and All That Jazz

Christmas is five days away, Ian and a friend are arriving on Christmas Eve and what does our householder have planned?

With the announcement that we'll be having guests for Christmas dinner my plans changed from chicken stew for the two of us to turkey and all the trims for four. I don't mind a bit, in fact I'm looking forward to it. One meal of turkey a year I can manage. But it does mean my late week market basket will be piled higher than I anticipated.

I'll also finish the painting in the kitchen that I didn't finish before. I don't know, motivation fled, or energy escaped or something... but I need to take care of that last remaining bit of brown linen wall.

We are now officially festive. Yesterday, I unGrinched and put up the Christmas tree (all 18" of it!), wound a pine garland around the molding over the sofa, put the salt dough ornaments we made in 1979 on it, and brought out a few of my favorite old toys.

Gifts, not much. I got a stocking stuffer for each of the kids, but we have followed through with our decision to make a KIVA loan each month, and support a few other charities, in lieu of buying Christmas gifts none of us really needs.

Outside, we've had another snowfall. Flurries were predicted and two inches fell. More snow is expected, so barring a sudden warming spell, our Christmas will be white, unless you count the colours of the birds which come to the seed I throw out for them each morning. A covey of 20 quail make a significant dent in a the birdseed budget, but I love their silly ways.

Let me see, where have I put the paintbrush?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Countdown

And what can we say but, "Look for the bright spots and enjoy them to the fullest!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Rerun

But everyone loves the familiar at Christmas right? I love this song and clip from the British children's Christmas show, The Snowman

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's Past is Filed in a Manila Envelope

I sat down today to do a job long postponed. As a genealogist for more than 30 years I have amassed an enormous collection of documents, maps, pedigrees, papers, bad photocopies of old pictures and a collection of family letters dating back to 1966.

This "mess" is loosely organized by surname into brown manila envelopes, tattered and pushed to the limits of their ability. For the past several years my horde has not fit into the two foot deep file box I have lugged along with each move. I had a stack of eight or ten "extra" envelopes piled beside the file box in the cupboard.

I spent the day sorting, discarding material I'd copied (just in case) which turned out to be an unrelated line, weeding out duplicate sheets - when we gained the ability to print our own documents at home it was always "better" to print two, three or four copies rather than one. Never know when you'd need an extra family group sheet for great-uncle Jeremiah Kast and his 21 children. Best safe than sorry!

I have reams of papers other people have sent, hoping we would have a link. Sort sort sort, toss toss toss.

The most difficult were the letters. No one writes real letters any more but we used to generate a steady flow of letters. I had several large envelopes absolutely groaning with hundreds of letters. Some were written to my parents by their siblings, there was a single letter from my father-in-law written shortly before he died, and many - dozens - from my sister, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, aunts, and cousins. Reports of marriages, births, deaths, the gossip of small family scandals and an occasional triumph, the march of time captured in the neat or spidery scripts of writers who are almost all now returned to the quiet well of creation from which they sprang, to quote the Tao de Ching.

Most precious, I have a two-line letter from my father, who was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known, but who was almost completely illiterate. He was severely dyslexic, but in 1910 they just said he couldn't learn. In grade four he was removed from school and put to work in the fields. I had folded this little bit of paper away years ago, and thought its power might have diminished. It has not. He struggled so hard to write those two lines. It seemed a precis of his life.

The time will come when my sons will look at all this and shake their heads, and they will probably throw the whole collection away. Some genealogists leave their neatly catalogued family collections to the local library to flesh out the county history. There is no "local" of any consequence with my ancestors. They came from the four corners of the earth, rolled through state after state like tumbleweeds, moved with the seasons, took only their appetites and (most likely) left unpaid bills behind. The descendants are prosperous these days but I remember the terror in my parent's voices as they talked of trying to raise a family through the Great Depression.

There's 500 years of history in that file box, stories and journeys which began in France and Spain, in Shropshire and Wiltshire, Germany and Holland. Some whose ancestors came across the Bering Strait 20,000 years ago and who stood on the Eastern shore and watched the newcomers arrive. Don't be rough with them boys. Even if it's just for my sake. [Edit: Older son insists he is not the beer-swilling Nascar obsessed lout portrayed by his mother in this post, but a highly sensitive soul who appreciates his rich family history. He's a good boy, as is the younger one. Maybe they'll flip a quarter for the box of documents - I'll leave it to them to decide if it's the winner or the loser who babysits mother's paperwork through the next generation. grin ]

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

KIVA Loan for December


This month our KIVA loan goes to 22 year old Azizov Sohib in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. He is married and has a small child. For more than five years Sohib has been running a joiner’s shop manufacturing wooden doors and window frames.

Hard-working young people like Sohib are the future of any nation. I admit a soft spot for those who produce beautiful joinery and carpentry, as both my father and brother were master carpenters who produced beautiful cabinetry, furniture, clocks and even houses. So, as a small remembrance to my brother Hall, who recently passed away, and my dad Charlie, who left us in November of 1985, a loan to a young man who carries on the tradition of beautiful woodwork.

Sohib is respected as a good worker in his neighborhood. His business generates a stable income allowing him to support his family and improve their living conditions. Now he needs to purchase additional materials for his manufacturing shop. For this reason he applied for a $1395.00 (USD) loan. This is Sohib's third loan, which he promises to repay his loan in a timely manner. He thanks everyone for their support.

Tajikistan has a rich history. It was along the Silk Road and the boundary of Alexander the Great's empire. The poets Omar Khayyam and Rumi were from Tajikistan. The country is home to communities that still speak the ancient Sogdian language, epic mountain passes, and a civilization that dates back to the 4th millennium BC. And, even today, it is a complex mixture of the Islamic faith, Soviet culture, New West culture and Central Asian traditions.

Tajikistan is now the poorest of the former Soviet republics. The civil war, which ignited soon after its independence from the U.S.S.R., further damaged the already weak economy. In addition, 93% of the country is mountainous and only 7% of the land is arable. These conditions have resulted in high levels of unemployment and have forced hundreds of thousands to seek work in other countries, mainly Russia. While the people of Tajikistan are working to improve its agricultural production and manufacturing sector, nearly two-thirds of the population still live in abject poverty. But with hard work and a little help Sohib and his family will not be among those living in poverty.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Young Get It


A 15 year-old boy understands the implications of our actions. This past week it was -30 C in Calgary, while at the same time it was not yet cold enough to freeze water at the Arctic Circle in Iqualuit Northwest Territories Canada. We are told the polar bears are starving because there's no sea ice, and after their six month summer fast they are running out of time.

My young friend Thomas, who lives in the Netherlands, just completed this video for his AV class assignment. We had some trouble deciding on how to translate a Dutch idiomatic word that means animals take only what they need and do not ravage the earth. I'm not sure we succeeded, but watch and see if you agree.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hallelujah! Flash Mob

One of my great joys used to be singing in the church choir. And this was one of my favorite songs. I may be one of the few people who listen to the entire "Messiah" year round. So this tickled me when I just found it.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Asian Chicken Vegetable Soup

One of my biggest faults as a cook is that while my experimentation sometimes results in something truly delicious I can rarely make that dish again. Tony says, "Write it down," and I say, "I will," and I put it off and forget what I used for ingredients and that's that! This time I will write it down! This soup is hearty, spectacular and was made from stuff in the fridge and pantry.












Ingredients:

2 cups cooked boned chicken
2 quarts water
1 large onion, diced
1 small can cooked pumpkin
3 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp five spice mix
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Mrs Dash original mix
1/2 cup smooth "natural" peanut butter
1 cup dried mixed vegetable flakes (carrots, potato, onion, celery)
1 cup brown parboiled rice
salt to taste

Method:

Bring water to the boil, add boned chicken, bay leaves and diced onion. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, add pumpkin, spices, vegetable flakes and peanut butter. Simmer for a further 10 minutes, add rice and stir. Stir occasionally and cook until rice is done.

A perfect dinner for a wet, chilly November evening.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This Island Earth

Jonathan Edwards has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters for many years, and this is one of his beautiful and moving songs. Now in his mid-60s he can still stand up on a stage and sing live without a band, no lip sync, no electronic manipulation needed. And like most of his songs it leaves you thinking.

After seeing a video of a right-wing politician standing up in a congressional hearing in the USA to claim a verse in Genesis as proof that we need not give a damn about how we abuse or misuse the earth, because only God can destroy it, I sort of needed to hear this.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12 Nov 2010


While the rest of the country has been walloped with floods and blizzards we still haven't had our first frost, although the hills above us have been brushed with snow and the breeze has a knife's edge. Nonetheless it was sunny this morning and while the moment lasted I went out with the camera to capture the late fall flowers.

The flowers around our Kanji lantern are still working hard. Only the top emerges from the chaos of greenery. The crystal palace lobelia is intensely purple-blue against the silver lamb's ear. The white roses are outdoing themselves, the sedums are stilll going strong, and behind them the tall stalks of toad lilies are frilled with dozens of delicate spotted blossoms. The peach-coloured mini roses and the candy striped red-and white climbers are blooming again after a late summer rest.

The hydrangeas in Ruth's garden next door are breathtaking. These blossoms have been on since mid-summer and are now sun-bleached. The leaves have turned a spectacular marbling of golds, bronzes and greens.




Along the fence the strawberries have dressed themselves in brilliant autumn colours. Even better they are still producing berries, and somewhat optimistically - blossoms! The leaves are almost as beautiful as flowers and on a grey day are like fireworks just outside the window.



Nestled down in the leaves tiny blue blossoms barely 1/4 of an inch across push up looking for a little sun. I'm not sure what these are, blue bacopia maybe - They probably escaped from a summer basket and have set up housekeeping along the fence. They look a bit like forget-me-nots but are a lovely ground cover.


Down the street Del's eight foot high rose bush is laden with a hundred blossoms and even more buds. This is another of those spectacular constant-bloomers which has been laden with flowers since July. The three inch wide roses are white, just barely tinged with pink.

Surely makes a morning walk enjoyable.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

KIVA Loan for November




While we usually loan to women, our 19th KIVA loan goes to a man, 40 year-old Santiago Llauce De La Cruz of Peru, a married man with five children. Santiago lives with his family in the San Carlos neighbourhood of the Arbolsol village, a rural area in the Morrope district, an hour and a half from the city of Chiclayo. The principle work here is farming and raising animals.

Santiago has raised and sold animals for ten years. He raises goats, pigs and poultry in pens installed outside his home. He sells his animals to buyers from the area and he also also sells them in the Morrope market. This business is the only source of income for his family so he works hard to make it as productive as possible.

Santiago has had a previous loan from Kiva. With that money, he was able to buy animal feed and his animals benefitted with better health and quicker growth, allowing them to be sold at a better price. He will use this loan to buy more young animals and animal feed and improve his business. He is very happy and thankful for the people that have collaborated with him through Kiva and he faces his future with optimism and energy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

That Breeze is Chilly


Above us, snow on the hills. Here, leaves tumbling off trees and piling up in layers of colour on the grass, and (like sheep dressed in lamb) on the flowers in the garden.

Sal and I walk in the morning. I shiver in my coat and hat. The wind ruffles Sal's fur but he's immune to the cold. He stops to sniff every blade of grass, surveys the landscape with the narrowed eye of the artist, paints great swaths of invisible comment with the magnificent tail.

If he spies Blue he is instantly quivering anticipation.

Can we play can we play?

Yes! Blue gets on the other side of the chain link fence. The two of them run side by side, stop, switch directions, dance a bit, run some more. Blue comes across the fence and drops on the grass. Sal drops, watches, trembles.

Can we play can we play?

Blue spooks and makes a run, Sal is after him, but stays well back. Blue vaults the two foot high fence into Ruth and Art's yard. Sal stands up and looks over. Blue comes back to the fence. They lay almost nose to nose, separated by the safety barrier of a fence Sal could be over in a heart beat. Cats respect territorial boundaries.

The flowers continue to be spectacular. Roses expend the last of their season's colour and fragrance in an almost frenzied display. The compound flower heads of the sedum look like burgundy velvet broccoli. The lobelia is an almost painfully intense blue among the silver lamb's ears. The nasturiums have crawled up into the deck, the spiky-smelling yellow blossoms poke up and smile from underneath the stairs.

I look at it all and wonder how long it will be fresh in my memory? How long will I recall the tart smell of fallen leaves, keep the indigo colour on the lake safely locked inside, remember how a golden burst of leaves contrasts with the dark and brooding hills behind them?

I need to remember this day well, there will never be another just like it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life Edited


'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

~ Shaker Hymn

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oh, Just think about it!


You can't have everything. Where would you put it? ~ Steven Wright

Friday, October 22, 2010

Green Side Up


I finally got to town yesterday. I would not have gone but the fridge echoed when you opened it. We were down to choosing between a spoonful of Mango Chutney or half a dozen garlic stuffed green olives for breakfast.

I had not been to town for errands or shopping in ten days, and there were several stops required. Pharmacy, post office, health food store, bank, grocer's. In that order. Between the health food store and the bank I stopped to have lunch. I needed to sit.

I guess I haven't said that three weeks back I had a round of food poisoning that has left me collywobbled. If I am on my feet for too long my blood pressure drops and things get a bit unpredictable. I'm still only good for short stints of activity, a "short stint" being about five minutes sandwiched between hour long rests. And there were several longer stints in there yesterday with very short rests.

By the time I had finished at the grocer's I was seeing grey clouds flicker across my field of vision and feeling like I might just flop onto the floor. The store found someone to load my groceries into the truck. I sat and waited until I had my breath (and blood pressure) back before I tried to drive.

But I started the great expedition at the pharmacy. I was standing at the pharmacy check-out and the conversation went like this:

Scene: L-shaped counter, little old man of 85+ buying lottery tickets on the L to my right. I am facing the clerk, my purchases on the counter. I am sort of clutching the counter to keep from falling.

She says: "That will be $18.00 please."

I look at her goggle-eyed. She hasn't yet rung me through so I am confused.

She looks at me, waiting for me to coff up the dough. She gives a jump, says, "Sorry! That's for this gentleman's lotto tickets! Some days I don't know whether I'm coming or going!"

He says, "That's nothing! Some days I don't know if I'm dead or alive!"

I say: "Any day on the green side of the grass is a gift."

She looks at me thoughtfully and says: "That's an attitude held only by people who face a lot of challenges."

Today I pay for yesterday's excursion. Three-minute stints and two hour rests. Not very productive. The grass is short, but I'm still looking at it from the green side. Life is a challenge at times but it's still a great gift.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Garden Update 2010


Now that the garden beds are cleaned out it's time to take stock and think about what went well, what flopped and what we have learned.

We have learned:

1) An eight foot row of rainbow chard can make you the neighbourhood pariah. After X many bunches of chard the neighbours hide behind the curtains when they see you coming down the road. Plant a four foot row next year.

2) No one in their right mind needs 30 tomato plants. Except this year, when some produced one tomato (or none at all). Next year; six tomato plants and no more. Either pull or transplant the volunteers or they take over (and smother) everything around them.

3) Red potatoes are a great crop. I planted four potatoes cut into quarters 79 cents worth of seed potatoes) and dug out over five pounds worth. I'll plant more next year. We like red taters.

4) Beets are a pain. I grew nice ones, but have not enough dexterity and strength to process them. Skip next year.

5) The onions did well, the little red sets I bought made nice red bulbs.

6) The burgundy pole beans were fantastic. Too bad only five or six beans, of the 50 or so I planted, germinated. Even so those five or six plants kept us in beans for weeks. I'll plant more next year, as we could happily have eaten more.

7) Squash is a waste of time here. I don't have a spot with all day sun, and in partial sun they grow slowly, bear sparsely and are mostly mildew vectors. Another skip, after three years I've learned my lesson.

8) Our early salads and Asian greens were fabulous. I will go out and plant salad, Asian greens and kale in a few days, as the volunteer seeds which survived the winter last year to sprout in early spring were most appreciated and were weeks ahead of the stuff I planted in spring.

Besides planning on planting my salad greens, Asian greens and kale in a few days, I tried something else - experimentation being the fuel that drives my wee engine.

At the edge of my 4 x 4 in the back a large bunch of mushrooms had grown up in the past few days. Zak was here and did the major part of clearing the garden for me, bless him. When we had the ground cleared I pulled the mushrooms, broke them into small pieces and scattered them all over the surface of the garden. We covered the broken up 'shrooms with a light covering of soil and watered the area down.

My reasoning?



See, I'm saving the planet. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

For my brother

Hall Wayland Cavel - 14 June 1929 - 9 October 2010

Wild Grapes by Robert Frost

What tree may not the fig be gathered from?
The grape may not be gathered from the birch?
It's all you know the grape, or know the birch.
As a girl gathered from the birch myself
Equally with my weight in grapes, one autumn,
I ought to know what tree the grape is fruit of.
I was born, I suppose, like anyone,
And grew to be a little boyish girl
My brother could not always leave at home.
But that beginning was wiped out in fear
The day I swung suspended with the grapes,
And was come after like Eurydice
And brought down safely from the upper regions;
And the life I live now's an extra life
I can waste as I please on whom I please.
So if you see me celebrate two birthdays,
And give myself out of two different ages,
One of them five years younger than I look-

One day my brother led me to a glade
Where a white birch he knew of stood alone,
Wearing a thin head-dress of pointed leaves,
And heavy on her heavy hair behind,
Against her neck, an ornament of grapes.
Grapes, I knew grapes from having seen them last year.
One bunch of them, and there began to be
Bunches all round me growing in white birches,
The way they grew round Leif the Lucky's German;
Mostly as much beyond my lifted hands, though,
As the moon used to seem when I was younger,
And only freely to be had for climbing.
My brother did the climbing; and at first
Threw me down grapes to miss and scatter
And have to hunt for in sweet fern and hardhack;
Which gave him some time to himself to eat,
But not so much, perhaps, as a boy needed.
So then, to make me wholly self-supporting,
He climbed still higher and bent the tree to earth
And put it in my hands to pick my own grapes.
"Here, take a tree-top, I'll get down another.
Hold on with all your might when I let go."
I said I had the tree. It wasn't true.
The opposite was true. The tree had me.
The minute it was left with me alone
It caught me up as if I were the fish
And it the fishpole. So I was translated
To loud cries from my brother of "Let go!
Don't you know anything, you girl? Let go!"
But I, with something of the baby grip
Acquired ancestrally in just such trees
When wilder mothers than our wildest now
Hung babies out on branches by the hands
To dry or wash or tan, I don't know which,
(You'll have to ask an evolutionist)-
I held on uncomplainingly for life.
My brother tried to make me laugh to help me.
"What are you doing up there in those grapes?
Don't be afraid. A few of them won't hurt you.
I mean, they won't pick you if you don't them."
Much danger of my picking anything!
By that time I was pretty well reduced
To a philosophy of hang-and-let-hang.
"Now you know how it feels," my brother said,
"To be a bunch of fox-grapes, as they call them,
That when it thinks it has escaped the fox
By growing where it shouldn't-on a birch,
Where a fox wouldn't think to look for it-
And if he looked and found it, couldn't reach it-
Just then come you and I to gather it.
Only you have the advantage of the grapes
In one way: you have one more stem to cling by,
And promise more resistance to the picker."

One by one I lost off my hat and shoes,
And still I clung. I let my head fall back,
And shut my eyes against the sun, my ears
Against my brother's nonsense; "Drop," he said,
"I'll catch you in my arms. It isn't far."
(Stated in lengths of him it might not be.)
"Drop or I'll shake the tree and shake you down."
Grim silence on my part as I sank lower,
My small wrists stretching till they showed the banjo strings.
"Why, if she isn't serious about it!
Hold tight awhile till I think what to do.
I'll bend the tree down and let you down by it."
I don't know much about the letting down;
But once I felt ground with my stocking feet
And the world came revolving back to me,
I know I looked long at my curled-up fingers,
Before I straightened them and brushed the bark off.
My brother said: "Don't you weigh anything?
Try to weigh something next time, so you won't
Be run off with by birch trees into space."

It wasn't my not weighing anything
So much as my not knowing anything-
My brother had been nearer right before.
I had not taken the first step in knowledge;
I had not learned to let go with the hands,
As still I have not learned to with the heart,
And have no wish to with the heart-nor need,
That I can see. The mind-is not the heart.
I may yet live, as I know others live,
To wish in vain to let go with the mind-
Of cares, at night, to sleep; but nothing tells me
That I need learn to let go with the heart.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

KIVA Loan for October



Our October KIVA loan goes to a Peruvian woman, Asunta Inca De Cusi. Asunta is 63 years old, married, and has 3 children. She belongs to the communal bank, Nueva Victoria – Chinchero in the province of Urubamba and the department of Cusco, located 45 minutes from the city.


Asunta has a grocery store and will use her loan to set up her store and purchase items for resale at wholesale price. She is requesting the loan to purchase rice, oil, and milk, among other products. She appreciates the loan and promises to make her payments on time. 


This is our 18th loan through KIVA, and all our active loans are being repaid on time. To this point we've never had a borrower default on a loan. KIVA makes it easy to make a positive difference in someone else's life.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Good Day to Fly



We've been hearing a Great Horned Owl frequently the past week, sitting in the big willow tree behind our place. I haven't seen them in several weeks but, as avid birders, today we had the chance to spend a most interesting and rewarding hour with a pair of GH owls.

SORCO (The South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls) released two GH owls in the riparian area adjacent to our park this afternoon. These were young owls which had come into its care in March of this year. One had been blown from the nest at a young age, the other was a fledging who'd gotten tangled up in barbed wire and stripped all the feathers and skin off one wing, and required medical care and rehab before release.

Both youngsters have done well, have learned how to hunt catch mice and rats and are now at a point where they should be able to fend for themselves. Since the Trout Creek neighbourhood down the way, with its mega-million-$-mansions, is in the middle of a rat invasion, the folks at SORCO thought it a perfect habitat to release the young and hungry owls into.

The birds arrived in dog crates in the back of an SUV, and appeared to be very unimpressed with our gawking and their status as film stars. There was a long line-up for a chance to take photos of the caged birds. The one was too dark, but this one was better.

The release was scheduled for 2:00 pm. By 1:30 a sizable crowd was beginning to gather, and by 2:00 there must have been about 75 people there to witness the release.

We gathered in a large circle to watch Ken Fujino, SORCO's Executive Director, as he took the first owl from its crate and told us about the work SORCO does to rehabilitate birds of prey, including BC's 14 Owl species. Of the 16 species of owl in Canada, 14 are found in BC, and most of those are also found in the Okanagan.

Ken also said that it takes an average of $900 a bird to care for the injured and ill raptors which come through the clinic doors, and that they care for about 60 birds a year. They have an impressive 98% survival rate rearing baby birds, and about a 50% survival rate with older, injured or ill birds. And government funding dropped by 18% this year, leaving them in a tight financial spot. They had a donation box. At the end people were shoving $10s and 20s and even bigger donations in. It's a good cause. They rescue all the different types of injured and ill birds of prey found in the Okanagan; eagles, ospreys, hawks, falcons, vultures and owls.

Ken took the owl out of the box and held it by the ankles. It didn't panic, but you could tell it wasn't mentally composing fan mail to the SORCO director either, even though his knowledge of owls is extensive. It's apparently hard to impress an owl, who (judging by its expression) is so impressed by itself that humans are of about as much interest as the nearest fencepost.

As Ken talked the owl alternated between attempts at escape, giving Ken the stink eye and pretending it was somewhere else. But after five minutes, and lots of opportunity for photos, Ken lifted the bird and tossed it aloft. The crowd burst into applause. The bird soared beyond the line of huge trees which grow along the lakeshore, and we lost sight of it.

The second owl was much the same. It flapped a lot, and I came home with an incredibly delicate fluff of down it shed as it beat its wings. Again lots of time for photos and Ken set the owl free. I got a picture of it against the bright blue autumn sky. It lit in a nearby tree and turned its back to us, perhaps to gaze at the open expanse of water before it.

We have a resident Great Horned Owl who raises a brood here every spring. I have seen her several times from quite close (20-30 feet) and she is huge. Her wing span must equal my arm span. Great Horned Owls mate in Jan, chicks hatch in March, and by May and June the mother has them out of the nest and in the trees around us, fattening them on any mouse or vole foolish enough to poke head above ground when an owl is hunting.

The sight of a Great Horned Owl soaring in absolute silence is awe-inspiring. SORCO is dedicated to making sure that's a sight today's children will still be able to see when they are adults.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get Out of My Way!


Ever had food poisoning? Then you know what I mean. It is very much like being possessed by aliens. I will not linger on the gruesome details, just say it's been an unpleasant four days and leave it at that.

A visit to the doctor this afternoon, and the antibiotic she prescribed, will hopefully have me feeling about 75% better by this time tomorrow.

In the midst of this, Ian arrived and (bless him) winterized the deck, cooked for his Dad, cleaned and shopped. Where would we be without our wonderful children? He also brought me an early Christmas/birthday gift, a new digital camera.

I have sorely missed being able to take decent pictures of my garden this summer after my camera died. The FLIP video camera I bought takes nice video but the only way to get a "still" picture is to freeze a frame and do a screen capture. Furry, blurry, weird colour shifts. Anyway the FLIP goes off to live with Ian, and I have a new digital camera.

As proof, a badly focused photo of my sedum "Autumn Joy" which is blooming so beautifully right now. (It's hard to take a good picture when you are fighting the urge to throw up.)

More (and nicer) pictures later, when the aliens have granted me control of my digestive tract again.

Monday, September 06, 2010

KIVA Loans for September



The first week of each month brings the pleasurable task of choosing our KIVA entrepreneurs. And while this month we have donated to relief efforts in Pakistan, our KIVA commitment is on-going and always a joy. Each month we receive a progress report from each of our borrowers. We see that our modest loan has helped them secure a better future, for themselves and their families. It's a good feeling. We have much to be thankful for and it's so good to be able to give back in a small measure.

This month we have made two loans. The first is to a young married woman named Amina Okombe in Tumaini, Kenya. Amina has two children. One attends school and the other is still too young for school. Her husband is a businessman who works and contributes to the support of the family. The family rents a house with electricity but have no running water. Their greatest monthly expense is food. Amina's goal is to ensure the family has enough income to educate their two children.

To accomplish this goal Amina started a business seven months ago. She goes door-to-door selling second-hand clothing for adults. Now, with the money she has made selling clothing and her KIVA loan she wants to purchase a sack of green vegetables and fruit and set up a small vegetable stall.

Our second loan of the month is to the Dembagnouma Ii Group, in Wobougou, Mali. The group is composed of 10 married women with an average age of 29, and an average of 3 children. They live in traditional polygamous families.

In this Group: Assan Traora, Hawa Niamana, Yaye Diallo, Kadidia Diarra, Maramou Dembele, Djelika Dembele, Sitan Soumaïla Dembele, Baoumou Issa Dembele, Matou Issa Dembele, Mama Fomba.

This is the group's second loan. Their previous loan was repaid in full. They are borrowing money in order to better organize their rainy season activities. They grow, among other crops, rice, pearl millet, peanuts, and beans.

With this new loan, group leader Maramou Dembele has plans typical for this group of women. She plans on buying fertilizer and small farming implements. She grows peanuts and will pay someone to help her maintain her approximately four acre plot. The harvested crop is sold in nearby market towns. She hopes to make a profit of $145.00 by the end of the season.

Consider becoming a KIVA partner and extending a small loan to a hard-working business person who has little or no access to working capital through KIVA.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Moving Toward Hope



As we ponder ways to reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions, creating local, sustainable agriculture, using permaculture methods, provides us with a solution.

The video is the length of an hour's TV show with commercials removed (i.e. 48 minutes) so put your feet up, grab a cup of Joe, and enjoy the show.

Cat's Play



Our Great Ginger Hunter caught in a rare moment of relaxation.

A couple of hours ago Sal came in through the cat door warbling like a lark. He was talking with a mouthful of mouse. The great ginger hunter he is not. He has killed one mouse in his life and that was by accident and he nearly scared himself to death when he did it.

He didn't have that problem this time, because not only was this mouse still alive, it didn't even appear to have its fur ruffled. He set it on the floor and it took off like a bullet. He chased it all over the house. He has picked it up and carried it around, he has patted it, he has leapt in wild and crazy circles around it as it ran. It has hidden in inaccessible spots several times, and then ventured out to become a very unwilling participant in this game of cat and mouse. At one point Sal temporarily lost the mouse when it ran under him and took refuge under his belly. And once he sat down on it (poor thing! I told you Sal is not a hunter.)

And two hours later, while I have driven myself to distraction trying to catch it so I can take it outside, the little mouse is still as frisky and agile as ever. (I think it's hiding under my chair at the moment.) The bleeding useless cat is poking around in the corners, trying to figure out where his mouse has hidden this time.

Cats are supposed to keep the house mouse-free. Sal didn't read the contract, or he misunderstood the principle. The cat is not supposed to bring the mouse to the house.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Cat Flap


One of my few faithful readers remarked that I don't post very often any more, and it's true. After four years I have posted about everything I have to say about day-to-day life in a travel trailer, and I am about to change gears. Oh, I'm sure the odd day will hold a bit of trailer life excitement; yesterday we began the somewhat arduous task of installing a cat flap for the four-footer that rules our lives. This was no picnic and we only got half way done. I feel like someone took a cudgel to me this morning. In a few days we hope to proceed with the second half of the project and then I'll have something to report.

It's a small flap rated for a 1-12 pound cat. If I reverse the 2 and 1 I get the number our boy weighs, i.e. 21 lbs. He is a bit of a chunk. But we confirmed that, while the flap is a snug fit, he can scrunch himself through this itty-bitty flap pretty easily. I made him slide through it several times just to make sure. I would have been gutted if I'd done all this work and he wasn't able to stuff himself through the flap.

We now have an opening framed in which is only slightly larger than the cat flap will be when it's installed. He grumbled a bit last night when we refused to open the big door for him (it was really cool and breezy outside). He finally started going in and out of the opening for the flap, but not without telling us how he felt about it, which was not very impressed.

It will probably be easier for him once the actual cat flap is installed in the opening, since it has smooth sides, and right now he's climbing through a tunnel of pink foam and coroplast, which pulls his hair. (He says to tell my readers that we try his patience at times.)

And here I started saying I had nothing to say, and now I've said it and will get up and turn the potato pancakes I'm making for brunch.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Don't Pick on the Big Boy


There was a big fight at our house this morning; no not us, well that's not quite true, it was one of us, and one of the neighbours.

That young upstart of a mouser, Mr. Blue, who lives next door, has the very bad habit of taunting Salvador. Just out of reach, he walks on Salvador's pathway, sharpens his nails on Salvador's favorite log in the garden, climbs Salvador's tree, and strolls leisurely across the clear roof of our deck, driving Salvador absolutely around the bend. In this photo Sal watches Blue walk across the deck roof.

Our evening walks have become little more than searches for Blue, and when Sal sees his furry nemesis the walk turns into something very like keeping a giant sailfish or marlin on the hook, after it's taken your bait.

Sal can swivel sideways, slip his harness, and be gone, in an eyeblink. To prevent that from happening you must keep the leash taut enough so that he cannot turn sideways. If you relax for an instant he's off.

So far, any time he's managed to slip the leash Blue has made it to safety before Sal caught him. One time Sal leapt up and smacked Blue on the bottom as he was sleeping on the covered BBQ grill standing near the fence next door. No claws, just one mighty thwack! He was mighty pleased with himself.

This morning I headed for the community garden to pick tomatoes, and Tony said he'd follow so we could water. I was happily picking tomatoes when our neighbour on that side called to me and said, "There's a big cat fight going on out there in front of my place!"

I hurried around but by the time I got there nothing was happening at all, other than Tony chatting with the neighbours. But I learned that Sal had rushed out between Tony's feet as he opened the door. Blue was lying in the grass not six feet from our deck. Sal had been standing up on his back feet, watching Blue enjoy that nice cool patch of his grass. And he'd been grousing about it. Cats and people - very territorial.

Blue may have been asleep, at any rate Sal landed on top of him and began cuffing him and swearing in Catanese. Tony said you couldn't actually see Blue, buried under Salvador's bulk, but you could hear him shrieking like he was being killed.

Tony grabbed Sal, who did not resist, and carried him back in the house. Blue headed out for territories yet undiscovered. Sal huffed around the house for a while, then had a snack and laid down for a nap. He was too tightly wound to be examined for injuries, but didn't have anything obvious. Art has since said they've gone over Blue carefully and he doesn't have a scratch on him, so 21-pound Sal must have been cuffing five pound Blue with a soft-paw as he read him the riot act.

I have an idea that Blue may be more respectful from now on. Just a theory. Last year Elvis kept hissing at Sal, when Sal was trying to be friends, until Sal finally walked up to Elvis, hauled off and slapped him. Then Elvis rolled over on his back, showed Sal his belly and said, "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's be buddies. You can be boss!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Love Before Lunch


Not many x-rated stories begin with the words, "I was out walking the cat," but this one does.

We were walking up the gravel path between our place and the next door neighbours when Sal stopped to sniff what I took to be a bit of rusted metal hanging from the wall.

Whaaaat? I went for a closer look, and discovered that what I had taken for a spiral of rusty steel of unknown origins was actually a pair of "Limax Maximus", or Giant Leopard Slugs, entwined around each other in a spiral.

They were whoppers, about four or five inches in length, and they were quite busily engaged in exchanging genetic information, so that my garden could be blessed with hundreds of gigantic, voracious slugs next season.

They were hanging by a four foot strand of substantial slime but were suspended over a long stretch of sharp, dry gravel. The chances of survival would be slim once they fell on that. So, being the kind-hearted slugatarian that I am, I picked them up by the strand and moved them around to shaded spot in the garden, into a thick stand of spearmint. I'm sure being dropped on their heads ruined the mood, but they should have had the good sense not to make whoopee in such an exposed location.

Should you be in the mood for a bit of slug porn you may watch the following clip narrated by sir David Attenbourough which shows a pair of leopard slugs doing precisely what my slugs were doing this morning, in far less photogenic surroundings.

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It's obvious the British Leopard slug is high class and hangs out in posh and mossy English gardens while the BC Leopard slug hangs out in trailer courts and quite possibly smokes cigars and drinks Red Bull. Maybe this pair watched the Attenborough, "Leopard Slugs in Love" movie before falling on each other in the throes of passion. Whatever inspired their romance I can't for the life of me figure out how they came to be hanging on the side of my trailer on an August day in the middle of a desert.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

We Love the Mosaic That Forms...


This beautiful country, which opens its arms and hearts to good people from all over the world; and they all seem to land at our doorstep.

Over the summer campers from all over the world become our neighbours. Right now we have a large family of Kurdish Turks camping across from us. They've been dancing for the last hour, and if anyone has worked out a more exuberant expression of the joy and love of life you'd have to look to find it.



I grabbed my video camera and began filming. Other campers had been drawn by the music and laughter. As you can see some had already joined the dance; others brought cameras but dropped them as we were all invited to join the dance, yours truly included.

"It's our exercise, and shows our joy in our family," the man in the white shirt and rolled up trousers told me as I puffed after five minutes of jumping and kicking to the beat of some highly intoxicating music.

No wonder they are slim! They've been at this for the last hour or more, and I can tell you it's a workout. If Health Canada could get all of us dancing like this we'd be 100% better off!

Friday, August 06, 2010

KIVA Loan for August


These ladies are the recipients of our KIVA loan for August. I've developed a bit of a soft spot for these groups of women from Mali, maybe because their lives are so different from mine, but also because almost all are comprised of extended family groups. You note than all of these women bear two surnames, Dembele or Coulibaly, and since they live in traditional families, where plural marriages are the norm, they are probably all not only related but wives of a group of two to four brothers.

In this Group:

Soumba Dembele, Tabi Dembele , Mamou Moussa Dembele, Kanouya Dembele , Bougougnon Coulibaly, Dagnere Dembele , Batoma Dioko Dembele, Gnire Coulibaly , Sitan Baba Coulibaly, Mamou Amadou Coulibaly.

The members of Wolale V Group are married women living in Cinzara, a village in the prefecture of San in the region of Segou Mali. On average, they are 39 years old and have at least six children.

They grow groundnuts, fonio and sesame. In order to ensure that their agricultural investments are profitable, the members of Wolale I Group decided two years ago to participate in the loan program of Soro Yiriwaso, the agency which extends Microfinance in Mali. After having properly repaid their previous loans, they have now applied for their first farming loan.

Tabi Dembele wants to use her loan to buy a large enough quantity of fonio and groundnut seeds to seed her fields, and to buy small equipment and farming supplies at the larger market in San.

After the rainy season, Tabi's harvest will be warehoused long enough for its value to increase, before it is sold at the large market in Dah and at the nearby markets, retail (or wholesale) to cash customers who mostly come from big towns. After their produce is sold, the group members expect to make a profit of about $36.00 each, which they will use to repay the loan and contribute to ongoing family expenses.

In a group loan, each member of the group receives an individual loan but is part of a group of individuals bound by a group guarantee. Under this arrangement, each member of the group supports one another and is responsible for paying back the loans of their fellow group members if someone is delinquent or defaults.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Road Less Traveled


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost - Mountain Interval - 1916

I belong to a small house forum, where there's been a lively discussion going on, sparked by one man's insistence that we have no choice but to continue with our present levels of resource consumption. He can see no other options.

Despite numerous members (including yours truly) telling him that we had already altered our patterns of consumption quite successfully he refuses to believe it can be done.

Quote from Robert Fritz

Maybe those of us who strive to live low on the resource totem pole are the "Uber-Liberal greenie eco-freaks" he called us in derision; but in my eyes we (personally) are not yet green or freaky enough.

To my distress a life of simplicity (such as we live it) still requires a heck of a lot of stuff and the exchange of a great deal of money. There's rent, the power bill, the propane, the cell phone, the interwebs, groceries, clothes, expensive medications which the provincial plan doesn't cover, all things we cannot live safely or comfortably without unless we move ourselves right along to the shopping cart/refrigerator-box-under-a- bridge-domicile. How do you simplify what has become inherently and almost inescapably complex?

While I keep talking about reducing the amount of stuff we own, so far my ambition has outweighed action. We have cleared out two drawers this week, which is better than nothing, but not a lot better. This is not a problem of reluctance to let go, but one of the strength and energy to sort through the stuff and move it along.

When I get despondent about our slow and bumpy road toward simplicity I pop over and spend time with Peace Pilgrim, who reassures me that; "... progress is [never] over. ... it's as though the central figure of the jigsaw puzzle of your life is complete and clear and unchanging, and around the edges other pieces keep fitting in. There is always a growing edge, but the progress is harmonious."

The central figure of this jigsaw puzzle is an intention to live more lightly, and there is a continuing but ever so glacial progress toward an ever more light state. (Trust my jigsaw puzzle to be one which has 5000 pieces.) But it just feels weird. We have followed the road less traveled, to be sure, but we have ended up in never-never land - with too much stuff to fit in with the 100 Things crowd, and far too little to look anything like "normal" to the village householder with his 2500 sq ft house, three cars, power boat and snowmobiles for each member of the family.

I guess I just have to admit that we are not normal in any sense of the word and probably never have been. But we are what we are, and there's no point pretending otherwise. As Frost wrote, the road we chose to follow is the grassy one, and there's not a lot of company.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Early Bird Gets the Bird


This it the part of summer when we sleep like campers. The wonderful thing about a travel trailer is that it's a travel trailer! With a large window to either side of the bedroom, a five-foot wide window at the head of the bed and an operable skylight vent in the ceiling it's almost like sleeping outside.

It always cools off here in the evening, even when it's been a blistering 40 C (104 F) during the day. The breeze is fantastic. Nighttime temperatures drop into the 50s and it's heaven for sleeping.

But I have exceptionally acute hearing, and with all the windows open I hear everything, from the toenails of a dog walking past on the road, to the mice that gnawed on my vegies (last year) to what woke me at 5:00 am today.

It was daylight, though the sun was still an hour or more from coming over the horizon. Above, in the tree adjacent to our bedroom, the birds were flapping and screaming in terror. My first thought was that the neighbour's cat was up there bugging them, but it soon became apparent that our resident red-tailed hawks had brought their newly fledged youngsters over for breakfast.

I've seen the hawks flush game, and seen them terrorize small birds in trees, so it takes no stretch of the imagination to believe they may have herded the great number of smaller birds into this one tree. It was a teaching moment.

The youngsters sat in the mock cherry - two of them by the sounds of it, and whistled that wild cry of theirs. The blackbirds, warblers, orioles, finches and sparrows shrieked and clattered and screamed. The tree was full of the fluttering of wings. The parents circled over head, their whistles coming from higher, moving in a constant circle.

All the hawks had to do was dive bomb the tree and pick off the smaller birds that panicked and flew. The hawks are teaching their young to kill, so they must have been catching the small birds with a soft hand, not the usual (merciful) killing blow of a talon. You heard the small snared birds panicked squealing above all the others.

The young hawks' whistles grew excited, the small birds screamed as they were torn apart, the young hawks called and gobbled, as young birds do everywhere, as parent stuffs food down the yawning beaks.

As my neighbour says, "Nature is nature." Hawks have to eat too, and there are hundreds of small birds, but I doubt that was much consolation to the small birds as they became the young hawks' breakfast, nor was it to me, hearing their fear and pain.

After a ten minute frenzy the hawks rose and flew away. The trees, and the morning itself, grew quiet. I went back to sleep and dreamed of flying. The sun rose over the eastern ridge and touched the ripples on the lake. At the edge of the garden the birds chattered as they picked up the seed we'd thrown out for them at sunset. They are better Buddhists than I, they have already forgotten 5:00 am.

Friday, July 16, 2010

And the Answer is....


Yesterday's post ended with a question; "Does the Municipal District have a clue?" The question is how do they actually have a viable plan to reduce greenhouse gases to 33% of 2007 levels by 2020, and 80% of 2007 levels by 2050?

The answer is.... drrrrumrrrroll.... apparently not.

The very pleasant young lady at the door asked if we were willing to cut our energy usage 30% by 2020? I told her we'd already cut it, to about 12-15% of the average US energy usage.

She asked how we did it. I told her we'd moved into a 250 sq foot house. Her jaw dropped. Her next question was, 'Had we built that house?' I told her no, building code doesn't allow a dwelling that small, so to reduce our footprint we'd moved into an RV and retrofitted it with extra insulation and energy efficient appliances.

Her next question was, 'Building codes won't let you build a 250 sq ft house?' I told her no, not in BC (or most other jurisdictions for that matter). I went on to tell her about the Tiny Home movement, based on two premises, environmental consciousness and voluntary simplicity. And that it was a movement primarily fueled by young professionals, not by the un-housed, under-housed or the poverty-stricken.

I went on and walked around the room, looking at the posters. One excellent initiative suggested was to require that all new homes be built to seamlessly incorporate solar water heaters, should the home owners decide to add one. The additional cost at the time of construction would be about $800. That seemed like a positive step which was sensible and concrete, not wishful thinking that people will drive less in a rural community spread over a huge area, or that power usage will magically drop if we set a goal.

Two men came in. By this time I was at the far end of the room, sitting at table, filling in a form. I heard the young lady ask them, "Why can't you build a small house in BC?"

"There's no minimum size for homes in BC," one said. "Build as small as you like."

"250 sq ft?" she asked?

"Well, there are minimum sizes for the ROOMS!" he said incredulously, "a bedroom has to be 10 x 12 ... and there has to be another room of at least..." He had suddenly lost volume and I couldn't hear what he said. But I distinctly heard him say "Huts for the homeless." And then he laughed.

I completed my form, and came home. Once I'd calmed down I wrote a note to the pleasant young organizer, and sent her some links:

The Small House Society.

The so-called Pocket Neighbourhoods of small "jewel-box" homes which have quickly become not only ecological but community showpieces. 

And to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and Jay Shafer's lovely little homes.

Is there no way to show town and city governments that increasing density by grouping several small energy-efficient homes on one or two lots is a viable option for improving the carbon footprint and creating richer environments where people can thrive? Or is it only the dollar that speaks any more?

Take a look at a video of Jay Shafer's 100 sq ft home.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Little Brochure


Came in the mail. Summerland's Climate Action Project, Progress Report July 2010.

So I am readying myself to go the Open House, to see what they have in mind. Their goals are modest, a 33% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050. I'll be pushing up daisies by then but with any luck I'll still be around in 10 years to see if they make their goal of 30%. Of course we need much more drastic cuts, but a start is a start.

Summerland has a problem, and I'm part of it. Walk down the street and the majority of the people you pass are 60, 70, 80. Walkers, wheelchairs and scooters are everywhere. It looks like a scooter parking lot in front of the most popular hang-out, the pharmacy! This town desperately needs to attract the young and the educated, and not just as to fill service industry jobs for the old and dying.

Second problem. Population density here is average 3.1 per hectare. A hectare has 2.39 acres in it for the Yanks among us. Even the BC municipal average is 7.1. Now some of this is because Summerland has the cone of an extinct volcano poking right up in the middle of town, taking up a lot of acreage, and part of it is because the municipality also includes a lot of agricultural property, orchards and vineyards, landscapers and tree nurseries etc. But less than half?

The point of this is that one end of "town" is miles from the other end. There's not enough population to make a bus system viable, and biking on most of the narrow, twisting roads leading into the town centre is suicidal, since they are constantly traversed by heavily-loaded logging trucks, which are the clear winner in any bike-truck confrontation.

Third problem: Water water everywhere - there's a 100 mile long lake out there - but n'er a drop to drink. We're on a boil water notice and will be until October.

The town's potable water comes from snow melt in the mountain valleys above us. Warmer winters, less snow, and the Okanagan already has 30% less rain and snow fall than fell in the 1950s. And the population booms, and everyone wants a great big green lawn and a great big water feature and a great big sprinkler going night and day all summer long.

What to do? Does the Municipal district have a clue? That's what I am going to find out this afternoon.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a ...

I inhaled as as I straightened up from pulling a weed last evening, and (too late) saw the small triangular moth as it disappeared into my mouth, and felt it as it fluttered down my windpipe. The song, "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly..." came to mind. Thankfully it was not a fly, and it was not swallowed, but I choked and spit and coughed up moth bits for an hour. My advise to you, dear reader, is - keep your mouth shut in the garden!

I have been preoccupied with that garden, which has fed the neighbourhood with chard and greens all spring. I need to go clear out the last feed of chard and allow the tomatoes a turn. But I have both flower and vegetable gardens. The flowers are going crazy, and the vegetables are flowering. The tomatoes are heavily laden with pea-sized tomatoes and hundreds of blossoms, the squash are putting on buds, the beans are lifting buds, the potatoes are blooming, and everywhere you look is abundance and sheer abandon.

But I haven't talked about the house in ages, and I should. Work on the wee abode creeps along at a snail's pace. I'd love to have everything I envision done in a massive week-long swoop, but at this rate five years, maybe ten, is a more realistic goal. sigh

The "Tiny House" crowd is generally dismissive of the RV as a dwelling, but with a bit of retrofitting they make comfortable and efficient housing for people who are happy in a small space. Our RV is cozy, if a bit chaotic. The structural changes are complete and what remains to do is largely cosmetic; painting, new flooring in the kitchen/entry, some resurfacing of new construction.

Unlike most "Tiny Homer's" we are retired, so our place functions as a full-time home. It's heated 24/7 in the winter and cooled appropriately in the summer. We prepare and eat our meals, shower, sleep and do our laundry here.

We have already talked at length about installing the washer/drier combo unit, and insulating, but more recently we built a platform for the drop-leaf desk we had shoved awkwardly into the living room corner. It's elevated by nine inches to clear the wheel well on the outside wall, thus creating some storage underneath, and allowing us to push the desk back against the back wall. Much better.

As you can see, the platform still needs finishing, the shelf to the left still needs a bit of finishing, the desk is in line for a repainting, and I could have tidied. I'm still thinking about window coverings. Venetian blinds are nice for controlling light, but these are old (metal) and somewhat the worse for wear. They conduct cold like crazy, so we'd like something a little more insulative. Any suggestions that don't involve yours truly sewing, which is definitely not my thing?

We replaced the broken down sofa with the eye-popping zebra patterned one, the only one I could find which would fit into the truncated space. But then I found the perfect wall unit to drop into place in the five inch space at the end, giving us room to display a couple of treasured mementos, and a bit of protection for my curio shelf filled with the collected miniatures from four generations of family members.

These are the things that say home to me, paintings we've hung, little gifts crafted by loving hands of mother, grandmother, husband, child. Touches that are priceless in any setting, small or large, humble or palatial.

Ian tore out the banquette bench seats and table, and built a shelving unit against the kitchen wall. Very handy. On the top shelf a few of the cups and saucers passed down from Tony's Grandmother, the teapot given to me by my late friend Audrey, tea caddy and flower bowls. On another shelf, the family altar. Below, storage for canned goods, pots and pans, crock pot. Oh the joy of not having to climb a ladder to get to these daily items!

The small table and chairs suit us much more than the difficult banquette ever did. We still need to change the flooring, but all in good time. Little by little it's taking on less of a "factory-installed" look and more of our personality.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Our KIVA Loan for July

Ahon Sa Hirap, Inc. is the oldest existing micro-credit organization in the Philippines. In the Native language of the Philippines Ahon Sa Hirap means “to rise above poverty.” With more than a third of the nation’s 90 million Filipinos living below the poverty line, ASHI was established with the vision of helping to alleviate poverty in the Philippines.

Dedicating to empowering women, ASHI lends only to women and specifically those in the lowest 50% of household income, so to the “poorest of the poor.” In addition to general business loans, ASHI also offers educational loans, house repair loans, savings funds, and social development programs for its members. ASHI is committed to translating its social mission into practice.

Evelyn Sandajan is 46 years old and lives in Hamtic, Antique, Philippines. She is a very humble woman who enjoys her life to the fullest despite her poverty.

When she became a mother, she was motivated to find a way to help support the family and educate the children so they could escape the poverty the family lives in. Her motivation has intensified and their eldest child is now in college, and the second has entered high school.

Through a field partnership with KIVA we joined with several other investors to lend Evelyn $400 which she will use to expand her business. She will repay the loan over time and we will reinvest the money as she repays it.

With determination to see her children graduate from college and improve their standard of living, Evelyn joined ASHI in 2003. The first loan she received was used to finance and grow a vegetable business. This kind of livelihood activity is the most common source of income of the many families in the village where Evelyn and her family live. Every day they go to different municipalities to market their products.

Evelyn works hard with her husband to bring home money to support the needs of their children. Given the opportunity to have larger amount of capital, Evelyn and her husband hope to make their business more stable and profitable. Through this, they will be able to educate their children until they are capable of living lives free from poverty.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Try to keep up...


I know, I know. It's madness. I'm as mute as a fish for weeks on end and then write three posts in two days. What can I say? The tide comes in, the tide goes out.

We caught another chapter in the never-ending story that is the BP Blowout on the news tonight, Gulf States July 4th tourist visits down by 80% as the beaches slowly disappear under a layer of sludge. Dying fish, corals, plankton, shellfish, birds, marine mammals, estuaries, marshes, reptiles... the Gulf is suffocating in a toxic stew of oil and methane gas.

British Petroleum shares have lost half their value on the stock market, their assets have plummeted as they struggle to contain and clean up their mess, and look forward to years of damage control and horrendous image problems.

You know what? Concern for the environment is not just felt by economically naive tree-huggers. Environmentally responsible policies are good for both the bottom line and the planet. BP might have spent a couple of million dollars more putting the wellhead in to begin with, but they wouldn't be in this mess now if they'd have done it.

As it is the impact of this disaster will probably be felt for the next 100 years. Birds species will make their way south this fall for the last time, never to return. Turtles which have paddled our oceans for millions of years will vanish forever. The next four generations will live with the consequences of BP's economic decision to make a penny more profit a barrel by not installing an emergency excluder valve which would shut the flow off should there be an explosion. The penny difference per barrel was important enough to them that they were willing to risk the health, safety and livelihood of every man, woman and child living along the Gulf coast and beyond.

This in itself reveals exactly why business cannot be left "unfettered", because corporations will always choose profit over the public good, and are indeed compelled to do so, for their only definition of "immorality" is to fail to return a profit to the stockholder. Corporations must be constrained by law from harming the environment and the public, because they are by nature self-serving. Like a two-year-old who will run into a busy street and cause a 10 car pileup, corporations need a parental government, to protect themselves, and others, from their own risky behaviour.

Companies need only look to BP's example to see that the corporation who places itself in a risky position to obtain profit may lose everything if a single thing goes wrong. BP may never recover from this. They may well go down in well-deserved flames before this is done with. Unfortunately it will take many an investor and family business with it, and a once productive and beautiful area of the USA may become a shadow of its former self.


Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will you find you cannot eat money
-- Cree Saying

Eat Local!

The flier for the annual Summerland Fall Fair arrived a few days ago and I was excited to see that this year their focus is on supporting the 100 mile diet.

Each year they have a spectacular dinner which is always sold out long before the date. This year the menu is made up of entirely locally grown foods. We live in a garden of plenty, yet we don't see much of the local bounty, as much of it is shipped to other markets, while we eat food brought in from Chile, New Zealand, Mexico and California.

It's time to change. Anthropologists can look at a 1000 year old skeleton and determine where that person lived. The minerals from the food they ate were incorporated into their very bones and teeth. When Natives said, "We are this land," they knew what they were talking about. But it was true of most people.

Local eating is becoming more than a "crank's" way of eating. More and more people are putting some thought into how they eat, and choosing to be Locavores.

I fell off the wagon and bought nectarines from California last week. I knew I shouldn't have but I was so hungry for some fresh fruit beyond the apple. What a disappointment. They were nectarines only in name. In the same way growing up in a citrus orchard spoiled me for eating oranges picked green and shipped 2,000 miles, eating nectarines picked fresh and ripe for the past three summers has spoiled me for eating sour nectarines with the texture of cheese. I'll buy no more until they are offered fresh from the tree here in my own backyard.

Pete's Greens: at the heart of the locavore movement from lovetomorrowtoday on Vimeo.


This is an interesting video. Local production of vegetables providing jobs and rescuing depressed economy. Who would have known that the family farm was the answer all along?

Do you hear what I hear?


The flowers in the garden are so thick and vigorous they are crawling over each other trying to escape the bed. Surrounded as we are by the astonishing wealth of nature, it's easy to become almost blind to it, but you really have to be deaf not to hear all that's going on around us.

Just now the neighbourhood pack of coyotes broke into one of their bloodcurdling choruses. I can't say it's a song I particularly like, unless I hear it from very very far away, and this was pretty close.

The last few nights I've been hearing the raspy "reeeeeekkkks" of a family of what sounds like three juvenile great horned owl chicks, begging for food. She brings the kids up and parks them in the trees while she hunts for the fat moths, and maybe the occasional bat, swarming under the streetlights on the street.

Three or four nights ago one of the owlets was parked on our next door neighbour's roof. Every so often the reeeek would turn into a gargling ruggleekruugreeeekkk as Mama Owl stuffed something into the demanding youngster's screaming and insatiable maw.

I heard the cries of a baby bird today and looked out the window to catch a flash of bright orange on the path in the garden. Closer inspection revealed that it was a male Bullock's Oriole feeding a very small chick which had managed to fall from the nest.

Knowing that a chick on the ground has absolutely no chance of surviving our resident mouser and bad cat (read opportunistic birder) I went out and caught the little oriole. It was the size of a small hen's egg, and while it could flap and glide, it could not yet fly. I put it as high as possible in the big willow, then thought, That was stupid! The cat will have it in a minute. I should have put it on a limb too small for the cat to climb on.

But it was too late. The chick was climbing up the bark and was well out of reach. I left it to its fate and came back to my housework. An hour later I went to find our Park Groundsman and who should come flying out of the tree and land at my feet but Baby Oriole. This time I was smarter. I carried him around and put him on a small branch which was inaccessible to the demon cat. It was sheltered by overhanging leaves high above. He held on and started calling his parents. ("He" could be a "her" for all I know, but I have to call it something and it just looked male to me.)

After two or three minutes of full-throttle screaming the Daddy Oriole appeared and shoved food down the gaping beak. Thirty seconds later Mother Oriole repeated the process. They must just have the one chick left because they fed it all afternoon except for a brief 20 minute break about 5:00 pm when I figure they must have collapsed in a heap and gobbled some dinner for themselves. Baby seems to have taken a nap, as he said not a word during that time.

All this time he was on the little branch but after dinner break the parents began a tag team effort to get him higher in the tree. One would bring food but lure the chick six or eight inches higher before feeding it. The other would stay at the chick's side flapping and encouraging the it to hop up. Once it was up the second parent would feed it.

In this way they had moved the chick into the higher branches before dark, to a place much less accessible to the cat. Now they just have to keep him warm for the night. I don't know if they have lost the nest, or if the chick left it too soon, and they were trying to lure it back. I hope they have a nest and can get it back in and all get a good night's rest. If anyone deserves it they certainly do.

The owls are reeeeeeking ever so often. They are closer than they've been all night. The crickets seem to have been sensible and gone to sleep. It's closing in on 3:00 am, and soon the dawn chorus will begin with a single trill. Time for an old insomniac to try once more for a few hours of sleep.

3 July Edit: Little Oriole survived a chilly night and is yelling his head off for food, which the parents are providing in 30 second shifts. I am ever so pleased. Ruth next door says it's okay to let a stranded baby bird die because, "It's nature." But I can't. I'm such a sucker. I'm the only person I know who rescues ants from the water in the sink. I take spiders and bugs outside, and even shoo flies out. Everything loves its own life. Even an ant.

4 July edit: 8:43 pm. Baby Oriole is still happily screaming for food, and still being stuffed by two obliging parents. He should be the size of a young turkey by now. Nature and nurture collide. I do hope he's not too fat to fly by the time he grows flight feathers. :)