Monday, May 17, 2010

The Canary-Colored Dream House

I have watched rain advance steadily toward us, across the lake, over the fields and orchards, and as a peal of thunder rolls over us, the first drops splatter against the roof. The scent of ozone and raindrops arrives. The blackbirds eating seed outside scatter briefly as the shower becomes a downpour, but a very determined and obviously weather-proof quail continues to peck his fill.

As always, when I can't get outside to work I busy myself in other ways. For example I surf the "tiny homes" blogs and forums. I have an on-going fascination with very small houses, which explains the RV, but while practical, a travel trailer lacks the charm of a Jay Shafer Tumbleweed tiny house.

Sadly, even the larger Tumbleweed homes lack room for the amenities we depend on, like the washer/drier, the dishwasher, hot showers, a functional kitchen and a bed on the main floor. But like an overweight 15-year-old with braces who secretly hopes the captain of the football team will somehow fall madly in love with her, I still yearn for a tiny house with Victorian gingerbread and Dutch doors. We couldn't even live in one, but dreams are rarely practical. :)

My dream home is the wish of a child, a fantasy fueled by a favorite book. All through high school, as I read my way through Will and Ariel Durant's 11 volume Story of Civilization a little green book would reach off the shelf and pluck at my sleeve. I always pulled away, I was a serious student and The Wind in the Willows was obviously a children's book.

But on our weekend honeymoon Tony and I wandered into a book shop in Park Ridge Illinois and bought our first book together, that book that had silently called to me for so long, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. As we read it together we were caught in its spell. It was our book, the book I read to our boys as they lay nursing and as they grew. Never mind that it had no bright pictures, its pictures were painted with words.

As the book's characters Rat and Mole row out onto the river on a summer's evening you read:
"The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces -- meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognised again under it."

As usual my posts wander as aimlessly as a six-year-old on a summer morning, but I was talking about my dream house and it is in Wind in the Willows that we find it.

[Toad] led the way to the stable-yard accordingly, the Rat following with a most mistrustful expression; and there, drawn out of the coach house into the open, they saw a gipsy caravan, shining with newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red wheels.

    'There you are!' cried the Toad, straddling and expanding himself. 'There's real life for you, embodied in that little cart. ... Come inside and look at the arrangements. Planned 'em all myself, I did!'  ... It was indeed very compact and comfortable. Little sleeping bunks - a little table that folded up against the wall - a cooking-stove, lockers, bookshelves, a bird-cage with a bird in it; and pots, pans, jugs and kettles of every size and variety.

And so you see, in this rather long-winded and rambling fashion I have come around to saying my "tiny home longing" was not only forged by living in a small mobile home from the age of 10-18 but also by a Toad's salesmanship. The Dream Home is a Canary-colored cart.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New Birds on the Life List!

Okay, this might not be all that exciting to you, but this week two birds I'd never seen before landed in my garden.

The first was a male blackpoll warbler. He came and sat on the clear roof of the deck, giving me a close look at his delightful little self. The blackpoll winters in South America migrating north to Northern Canada or Alaska. It migrates farthest of all warblers.

We have several different warblers. They are tiny birds, very active. They remind me of bees as they flit around in the trees.

The other one I saw was a magnificent big boy. We'd been hearing him all day, without recognizing the bird, but I was delighted when I saw him. Larger by third than our Brewer's blackbirds, I had seen the Yellow Headed Blackbird in books, but never in the feather. He sat quite happily eating the seeds I put out for a good five minutes while we had a good long look at him.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Special Mother's Day Gift!

Ian knows how to make his Modder happy. He sent her a KIVA gift certificate for Mother's Day. Never one to let money burn a hole in my pocket, I immediately lent it to the six women of the Demim Group, in the village of Kamalen Sirakoko, Mali.

Pictured are: Sali Kone, Awa Koita, Aïcha Kone, Djeneba Diakite, Mamou Diarra, Fanta Sylla.

The members of group Demin are married women with an average age of 35 years old and 4 children each. They are on their third loan, having repaid their previous loans. The members of the group sell different foods in the market, like smoked fish, ginger, fruits and vegetables. Their loan will enable them to buy in enough quantity to purchase their products at a wholesale price, enabling them to increase their profits.

Group member Sali Kone intends to buy 50 kg of smoked fish for resale with her part of the loan. She buys her supplies in the big market in Sikasso town, retails in the village market in Kamalen Sirakoro and also sells to women customers from her home.

She hopes to make a monthly profit of the equivalent of $50 USD which she will use to meet the needs of her family, add to her savings, and continue to invest in her business.

And, from a mother in Canada, the very best wishes to six mothers in Mali. May your lives be peaceful and full of joy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

KIVA Loan for May 2010

This month our KIVA loan goes to a group of six women living in Mali, Africa. This is loan number 11 for us, and we have now reached a point where the repayments coming back from each person we have lent to underwrites the entire new loan. KIVA loans enable even those of limited means to reach out and have a positive impact on the world. With a $25 dollar loan you can help lift a whole group of hard-working people out of poverty. Our $25 is not much, but when combined with $25 from 10 to 50 other people it makes a big difference to the mothers in Africa, enabling them to improve their family's diet, send their children to school, and provide them a more secure future.

The Women are: Dado Bouaré , Awa Traoré , Bah Traoré , Mariam Traoré, Tété Diallo and Oumou Coulibaly.

The Tientigui group is made up of six married women who live in monogamous families. They average 39 years of age and have an average of five children each. They all live in the Darsalam district of Ségou, Mali and met through neighbours and marriage.

The members of this group trade in fodder (food for livestock), tomatoes, children's clothing and calabashes (vines which can be dried out to be used as bottles or utensils). They work well together as a borrowing group, and this is their fourth group loan.

In the picture you see Mrs. Mariam Traoré holding one of her decorative calabashes. Mrs. Traoré buys and sells decorative articles, and is planning to use her loan to buy 200 calabashes. She gets her supply of calabashes in Tona and Konodimini.

She peels the calabashes and engraves them with small figures or designs, in the traditional method of her community. The finished calabashes are resold to order to newly married couples, and sometimes on a door-to-door basis to both men and women in the various neighborhoods. Mrs. Traoré hopes, along with the other members of the group, to make an average monthly profit equal to about $54.00 USD, part of which will be invested in their businesses, part will go for savings, and part of which will be used to repay their loan.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Those Yellow Pansies HAVE to Go!

When we last left our heroine she had just written a cheque to the neighbour down the street in exchange for his help with the garden.

The next morning she went out, and with some assistance from next door neighbour Art, turned a couple of bushels of compost into the 4 x 4 raised bed in back. Then, between downpours, she planted the following; red onion sets, red Holland onion seeds, early wonder beets, bok choi and rainbow chard.

Afterwards of course she realized that used her valuable sunny garden space for plants which would happily grow in part shade. Nothing like being organized.

Well, nothing will perk up a disgruntled gardener faster than a plant-buying expedition. I had a list. I wanted: foamflower, cranesbill "Blue Buxton", lamb's ears and perennial forget-me-nots. Three nurseries later I had ONE plant on my list. I managed to find and buy two nice oakleaf foamflowers (see photo), which are shade-tolerant and have been planted about 1/3rd of the way down the black tunnel that is the middle section of my garden.

The only cranesbills I found were a lurid pinky-purple. There were no forget-me-nots, and no lamb's ears. I comforted myself with perennial violas in both white and deep velvety purple, and some fabulous hen and chicks (I have a weakness there) and with a half dozen miniature rose bushes. I love the dainty flowers of the mini rose. I got two with white blossoms blushed with pink. These grow about on 12" tall. I got two peachy pink ones which get about 24" tall and two climbers, one deep pink and the other a spectacular red stripe on a pale pink background. Roses didn't thrive in Calgary. Here (or so I'm told) they grow like weeds. I've always wanted climbing roses.

I managed three or four dozen annuals, deep blue lobelias, a couple of dark (but not black) leaved begonias with gorgeous white camellia-like blossoms, alyssums and the usual suspects one covers the garden floor with early in the season while you are waiting for the more serious growth to begin.

Sadly it's turned even colder and wetter than before. Our high today was a grey, damp and very windy 11 C (51 F). The tomatoes, peppers and other teenies in the greenhouse are shivering, even with a lightbulb to keep them warm. They would very much like a sunny day or two, but we are promised nothing of the sort. When it should have been cold and raining it wasn't and now we are crossing our fingers that frost doesn't get the annuals we've already planted out.

Speaking of things planted out. I put pansies in the new flower bed as soon as I had soil in it. I sincerely regret it now. Every time I look out the window, that yellow pansy, with its 10 huge blossoms is like a needle in the eye. I had to go to town for groceries and to run errands today, but hopefully tomorrow it will be dry enough for me to go dig out that yellow pansy and a couple of its more lurid neigbours and move them somewhere else. The colour balance is all wrong. I even had nightmares about it last night. But such are the nightmares of spring. Yellow pansies in a bed of blue-green.