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.