Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life With A Gang

A gang of ferrets that is. After the loss of Freya I went on an spending spree and took in several ferrets in need of a good home. The first one was, ostensibly, to find a companion for the now lonely Bucky Boy. The next two were a pair that we took in because they needed a good home with good care and food. The last was a baby I purchased from a local pet store.

In each case I justified the acquisition by saying we were doing them a favour and taking them into a caring and loving home. And, we were. In one case in particular we took a pair from a home that was feeding them dry cat food and their health was suffering for it. But I must admit that in reality I was looking for another Freya. A sweet personality, playful spirit, and lots of love to give. And, in a way I have found her, though it has taken me five little furlings to do it.

First we have Bucky Boy, or Buckaroo as I call him. He is a lovely sable with dark markings, and a small white line from his chin to his chest. He is a sweet little thing who loves socks, especially if they are already on your feet. He also likes to chew of toes and dive head first into sweaty boots. He was Freya's companion for a couple of months before we lost her and he missed her terribly after she died.

Next we have Grimnr Long Tooth, a white with dark eyes little boy who love to play. He loves to run up behind me and tackle my calf then bounce away laughing, especially if I can't quite catch him. He is a very petite little boy and full of mischief. He also loves playing tag in the snow, though I was finally able to catch him.

Then we have the twins, who are twins no more. Riff Raff and Fafnr were an identical sable pair when we got them and very hard to tell apart. They were underweight and their hair was falling out due to a poor diet. A few months of good food and lots of love and they are both doing well. Their weight is up, their hair has grown back, and I couldn't ask for sweeter little boys.

Riff Raff, called Raff most often has developed the softest fur you can imagine and his face has turned all white. He is very mellow and doesn't mind being kissed on the nose and snuggled for a few minutes. Fafnr, nicknamed Faf, is very sweet and will give me a most angelic look when he wants a treat. Fafnr has a dark brown mask across the eyes, and reddish brown undertones to his body fur.

And finally, we have Svinn Pooftail the Pirate, called Poofers for short. He was only 14 weeks old when we purchased him from the pet store. He is a grey undertoned sable and seems to be developing a white mask on his face. He is very skittish, and easily spooked by loud noises or unexpected movement. He is a pirate because he loves to steal things, especially TV and Cable box remotes. We are still looking for the TV remote from the last hoarding.

Poofers had an adventure a few weeks ago. He managed to sneak out of the house and was missing for two weeks. Luckily one of our neighbours knows we have ferrets and when they saw him eating with the feral cats on their porch they caught him and brought him home. He has calmed down some since that trauma and is, knock on wood, less prone to charging the front door. He even lets me pick him up and kiss his nose every once in a while.

So there you have it. The chaos monkeys. The snake rats. The furbits. The Gang of Five. Who knew Freya had such large shoes to fill in my heart?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

SCA Personal Device

After much frustration, redrawing, and redrawing again I finally have my personal device within the SCA. It isn't quite official yet. I have to submit the device again with a wider border, but I think it will actually pass and be registered this time.

Per Bend Or and Vert, a Fox Saliant Proper to Sinister, within a Bordure Embattled Argent."

In modern English that is a field split diagonal lower left to upper right. Yellow on top and green on the bottom. A fox leaping to the left, coloured natural. All surrounded by a crenellated white border.

Of course, me being me, my shields are painted differently. The fox is in a pounce position and the white border only exists if I have put rawhide on the edge of my shield. Ether way it should be a fairly easy to recognize device even from afar.

I will be using this device on my personal banner, with the border, and as my Coat of Arms on the heavy armoured combat field. If you see it, and me, then stop and say hello.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Surviving the End of the World

The frost covered leaves cracked under her thinly soled shoes, the slight wind whisking away any warmth that her thin shirt provided. The grey sky provided no comfort in the harsh, froze, landscape.

The beginning of a new post apocalyptic novel? No, though it probably would have made an interesting introduction. No this is what happened to me this week when, on the coldest day so far this fall, I managed to lock myself out of the house when I went out to feed and water the chickens at noon.

I had on a pair of rubber soled, non insulated boots, with no socks; an old pair of sweat pants; and an old, and very thin, short sleeved T-shirt. No sweater, no hat, and no mittens. Who knew I would need them for a set of chores that usually takes me less than 5 minutes.

My first reaction was to try to break into the house through the various ground level windows. Unfortunately, we have always made it a habit to keep the first floor windows locked if they are closed. Even when I was able to remove the screen, with much frustration and some swearing, I wasn't able to lift the glass part of any of the windows. Rattling the front and back doors really hard did me no good either, though it may have helped keep me warm.

Being noon, no one was home and even if they had been I couldn't remember PeterC's number at work. I could have walked the 5 km to the hardware store in the village but I would have been even more exposed than I was just sitting in the back yard. Since PeterC wasn't due to be home for more than 3 hours I figured I better find a semi warm, semi-protected area to wait it out. The only place I could think of was under the chicken coop.

Two sides of the under-coop are protected with straw bails, one with glass, and the other is mostly protected from the elements by a plastic car port. The ground is covered with a thick layer of dry straw and there is a light on during the day to give the chickens, and me, an above freezing area to hang out on cold, windy days.

It was uncomfortable, dusty, and not as warm as I had hoped. After an hour I just had to crawl out and stretch my legs a bit. But this point I had stopped shivering and concentrated on trying to start a fire in the fire pit. That turned out to be more difficult than I had hoped.

Usually PeterC has matches and paper stashed near his forge. On this day all I could find was a very thin section of newspaper. Then I remembered that our BBQ has an lighter button on it. I hooked up the gas tank, and pushed the button. Low and Behold we had fire in the BBQ.

Now to get it from the BBQ over to the fire pit, that was 20 feet away. First I used the skimpy selection of paper to make a core, surrounded by dead fall I collected from the fern bed out back. All well and good, until it came time to get the flame to the paper. I would get a stick lit but before i could take 3 steps the breeze would blow it out. After several failed attempts and some singed fingers and arm hair, I did manage to get flame to the paper and I had fire. For the few seconds anyway.

The paper burned so fast that only the driest pieces of deadfall caught fire but the breeze was strong enough to blow them out very quickly. No flame in the fire pit and no more paper to start a fire. Back to square one, I collected some of the really dry straw from under the coop, placed it carefully in the centre of the pit, and tried to restart the flames by blowing on the small embers at the ends of the few sticks that ha burned. With no luck of course.

So back to the BBQ I went for several more aborted efforts to get flame from point A to point B. In the end it was the old dried up stalk from the rhubarb plant that saved the day. Not only was it big and dry, but it was hollow which allowed the fire to stay lit as I threaded the short distance back to the fire pit.

I danced with joy as the straw caught fire and burned merrily. I carefully fed the tiny fire dry sticks, and finally even a largish branch. It all caught fire and even the strongest breeze wasn't able to blow it out. Once there was enough wood to keep the fire burning for a bit I collected a tarp from the pile of firewood, wrapped myself in it leaving the front open, and sat as close the the pit as my chair would allow me to get.

I sat, huddle under the tarp, letting the small fire slowly start to warm up the metal of the fire pit which in turn slowly started to radiate heat into my little personal wind break, for a grand total of 20 minutes. That's right. The entire afternoon was wasted away while I tried to get the fire started, and just as the heat was starting to flow PeterC arrived home from work.

But it was not a wasted effort. I now know that in a winter survival situation I can, given the right materials, start a fire. And fire is the single most important thing you need in the winter to begin the survival process. Thankfully, PeterC wasn't out of town or I would have been in a deeper bit of trouble and the chickens would have had a new roommate for the night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Busy Month

November has been a very busy month so far. Actually this fall has been very busy for me. We had to create some items for our persons and to be gifted as part of our Baronial Taxes. I've been working on my entries for Kingdom A & S, not only the items themselves but I had to try to document them as well.

Last weekend was Feast of the Hare, hosted by Caltdrithig. It was the event we presented Baronial Taxes but it was also the event I authorized with Sword and Shield. The person I am fighting is Queen Dagmar, a battle queen who has competed to win the position of queen in past tourneys. This year her King won the tourney but it does not reduce her prowess as a fighter in any way.

Besides doing the tourney I received an Award of Arms from their Majesties. This was in recognition of my tendency to jump in feet first into new projects and to give it my all. This includes getting my fighting kit together, helping other people get their kits together, helping people with arts and sciences, and helping out at Summer Siege. I can now title myself Lady, with the SCA, should I chose to.

This weekend was Kingdom A&S. We had to drive to Greyfells for the event which meant an early morning start to the day. I entered 7 items; a pair of Thorsbjerg Pants, a 6 panel cap, a tablet woven band, a wooden box, an embroidered belt, a pair of nalbound mittens, and the banners I painted for PeterC and myself for last weekend.

The banners were a last minute entry and I received no feedback during the judging for them. The other entries did garner much feedback, all of it rather positive and some of it very useful. I also received honourable mention from the Baroness of Ramshaven on four of my entries, and Baron's Choice from Ramshaven on my tablet woven band. I received an honourable mention from my own Baroness on my tablet woven band, as well as a Fleur-de-Lis token from an unknown admirer. Each of these items will be added to a treasure necklace I plan to create over the next little while.

Now I hope to spend some time working on a Christmas gift for our Canton Christmas exchange, working on some more garb for myself, as well as a piece commissioned by a shield sister, and thinking about what I want to enter into next years Kingdom A&S, and possibly the Kingdom A&S Pentathlon. Of course I also want to spend some time playing with the furlings and relaxing with PeterC. I'm not sure if he will know what to do if I don't have a new project on the go.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Halloween and Spirit Boats

Years ago I saw a documentary on Japan featuring the releasing of "spirit boats", brightly lit paper lantern boats, into the local rivers. The entire village would participate and the river was lit with hundreds of these little lights. Each boat was for the spirit of a loved one who had passed away. The ceremony was part remembrance and part showing the spirits how to pass over to the next world.

For some reason that image, and its simple beauty, really struck a chord with me and I decided to adopt the tradition. So on or near Halloween I build a simple, square boat of paper and use a tea candle. I then take the boat or boats to moving water and release it after dark. I always sit and watch the boat as it travels on it's way, and in a few instances had to run along the shore to push it back out into the current when it got stuck.

Usually I have one or two boats but as luck would have it I didn't have any to release since moving to Ontario. Until this year, that is. This year I had three to release. One for Freya, my lovely, little, lady ferret who died. One for Cassie, my fat little space money (i.e. cat), who I had to make the hard decision of putting her down. And the final one was for my Grandmother, who's body gave out long before her spirit did.

PeterC and I invited everyone in our SCA fight group to join us last Sunday to release the spirit boats. Two other did join us and between the four of us we had nine lovely boats on the St Lawrence river. It took a little extra effort to get them into the current without falling in ourselves, but once the there they moved further out quickly.

We sat and watched the boats for a half an hour, sometimes in silence watching them bob along while other times we talked about our dearly departed loved ones. At some point a couple came out onto the wharf and watched in silence with us, until we started to leave. Then they were curious about the lights on the water. We explained the ceremony to them and they seemed to understand and agreed that it was a very lovely way to say goodbye to someone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aurora Borealis

If you come from a part of the world where the aurora is never seen, the first time you see it can be breath taking and rather magickal. For some people, like me, it is breath taking no matter how many times you see it. That was the case on Monday night for sure.

We were leaving a friends house around 9:3o pm EST when we looked up and saw the beginning of a green ribbon. PeterC fetched the others from inside and we watched as the sky lit up from horizon to horizon with greens, yellows, and the most intense reds I've ever seen in my life. At one point we saw a starburst pattern right over head that indicated we were standing under the exact centre of one of the magnetic bursts and were seeing it spread out from the centre.

Spaceweather.com has all kinds of interesting information on this particular event and if you are a space geek at all you will find this site very informative. The movie of the coronal explosion responsible for the light show on Monday night is both interesting and a little frightening, especially when you realize just how big that solar flare was.

Since moving to Ontario I have seen no aurora, being far to south for it to be visible most of the time. Monday was once of those rare occasions when the aurora could be seen here. In fact, if the Internet is to be trusted, this particular magnetic storm was visible as far south as Alabama. Extremely rare in my experience. It was well worth the wait.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall and The First Fire

There is something wonderful and comforting about the first fire, in the wood stove, of the season. Maybe it is the dry heat radiating into the room, taking the chill and damp from the fall air. Maybe it is the smell of the wood burning each time the door is opened to rearrange the logs.

Maybe, just maybe, it is the knowledge that the circle has turned once more and we are again coming into he long, slow down of the year. For us the arrival of Fall means a last flurry of activity before a time of rest and relaxation. We access our stores of food and wood and rest safe in the knowledge that we have harvested and put away all we need for the winter.

Fall is my favourite time of year. The trees and plants put on a heck of a colour show. The lawnmowers are quiet, and the snow blowers are still in hibernation. The world takes a deep breath and starts to slow down and get ready for the deep snows and cold of Winter. We can sit outside on dry weekends and have a nice bonfire, enjoying peace a quiet for a change.

Fall air is clear and crisp, making breathing and star viewing more amazing than any other time of the year. A blanket or jacket and we are ready to sit outside and enjoy the view. And when it is all over and we have seen enough of the night sky for a while we put out the bonfire and trundle back inside to drink hot tea and snuggle with our furry, feline room mates.

Soon enough the world will be asleep under a blanket of white and we will doze in front of our fires, venturing out only to take care of chores. We will turn our minds and hands to more sedate activities, creating or repairing items for the following Spring.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Thanksgiving

It is once again Thanksgiving in Canada.

A turkey is roasting away in the oven, while I try to make breadcrumbs for dressing. The weather is clear and warm, warm enough to have the windows open. The cats have all found sunbeams to sleep in, and the ferrets have all snuggled under the easy chair for their afternoon naps. With the exception of chest colds PeterC and I are both healthy, healthier than we have been in years. Sales at my etsy store have been very good these last two months.

I smile each day now, if only for a few minutes while the ferrets or cats do something silly. I have begun to dance again, if only in the quiet afternoons while PeterC is away. My creativity is flowing again, which means even more product to stock my store with. I have made friends in the local SCA group and am truly enjoying myself. It may not seem like important stuff but I am thankful for each and every one of these simple things. I'm even more thankful that I have reached a stage in my life where I can see and appreciate the simple things again.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall is Here

Fall has arrived at Sparrow Haven. The official first day of fall was September 22 this year and it was warm and humid. But, the week before saw fall arrive with a shout of surprise as the temperatures dropped down to single digits at night and highs of less than 20º C in the day.

OF course it was no surprise to those who pay attention to the world around them. The goldenrod started blooming in August this year. It started out in small patches scattered over the area on August 15th but by the end of August it was in full bloom every where. If you know the old wives tale then you know that means frost 6 weeks from the first blooming of the goldenrod.

The geese started flocking up not long after the goldenrod was in full bloom. We hear small V's of them going over in the evenings and mornings as they come and go from the river. Over the next two weeks the flocks will get bigger and bigger then they will all head South for the winter. It is always an impressive sight to see flocks of thousands take the the air and head out for the winter feeding grounds, but it also means the snow will fly soon.

The garden is still going. The green beans are winding down but the root vegetables, beets and carrots, are still going strong. I did get a fall planting of green peas in back in August. The plants are not about a foot tall and seem to be enjoying the weather, though they would probably prefer more water as it has been rather dry so far this month.

Soon, maybe another two or three weeks, it will be time to wrap the bottom of the chicken coop with plastic and insulate it with straw bales. This year we're going to add a second heat lamp under the coop so the chickens can sit in the sun coming through the clear plastic on the front of the coop and have some extra warmth during the day and early evenings. I'm not sure how cold it will be this winter but I'm hoping this new setup will help prevent frostbite on the chickens combs this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

R.I.P. Freya

Owning and caring for animals, whose life spans are so much shorter than ours, can be a rewarding and heartbreaking experience. Freya was one of those. She brought me great joy and has now brought me great heartache.

Last Tuesday Freya disappeared and I thought she had managed to get out the backdoor when I when I went to collect eggs. We searched and called all all evening and all day the next day. Finally we put poster up all over the neighbourhood and called all the vets in case someone had found her.

Last night we found her inside the house. She had fallen in behind a heavy cabinet that we didn't even know she could climb. Our best guess is she broke her neck in the fall, but I feel terrible. Finding her in the house almost a week to the day that she disappeared and not knowing for sure is killing me.

We buried her in the back flower bed last night, burned some incense, and left a pile of her favourite treats for her spirit. We said some prayers, asked for forgiveness, and cried ourselves to sleep. She will never be forgotten.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Northern Outpost Fall Frolic

We just got home from the day trip down to Potsdam for the official unofficial weekend event. We had a great deal of fun, good company, and great food. It was a fine day and the site was lovely. It was a small event with only 30 attendees counting the land owners, with 14 of those being heavy fighters and about the same for fencing.

It was tedious crossing the border with a 30 minute line up and the guard asking to see our "swords". We told him sporting equipment for a Medieval event and he insisted on seeing the equipment and asked specifically about seeing the swords. Once he was convinced we weren't hiding real steel inside the duck tape he asked us a few standard questions and let go on our merry little way.

The site was the back field of a members farm which is absolutely beautiful. Plenty of room for camping, archery, heavy fighting, rapier fighting A&S classes, and even some children's fall faire type games. There was also a large wooded area but due to the recent wind storms and rain it was unsuitable for battling, though the plans are to have a woods battle next year. Apparently there is also plans afoot to bribe, blackmail, or otherwise convince the owners to build a small palisade or crenellated tower for future fights.

The event was by donation to help pay for the port-a-lou, which I was very appreciative of and donated accordingly. The day board was potluck and was open from the time we arrived which was close to 11 am. The selection of foods was wonderful and who ever makes the bread down there is fabulous. There was Icelandic chicken, a new treat for me, several potato salads, quinoa salad, pickles, cheeses, pasta salads, breads, a delicious honey butter, apple butter, pickled eggs, venison pottage, spicy sausage, pulled pork, and another meat dish which I think was also venison.

The fighting began around 12:30 with 14 participants, including PeterC and myself. It was a double list bear pit that lasted an hour. It was also the Northern Outpost's championship battle. At the start of the fighting there was a 3-5 minute wait between bouts, 5 -8 minutes if 4 of the more experienced players were in the lists. Towards the end of the hour, as more and more people took breaks or dropped out completely, the wait was 1-2 minutes with the occasional walk off the field, to report to the Mistress of the Lists, and back onto the field.

PeterC lasted most of the hour and won 3 or 4 bouts, against some of the long time fighters.I am proud to say I lasted most of the hour with my last 4 bouts being turn arounds, off and immediately back onto the field. I even managed to win a bout with a lucky thrust.

I also had some tremendous trips. Once landing flat on my face, without a blow being swung. I'm blaming the terrain and maybe the sun for that one. Another resulted in my being flat on my back after taking a blow (which resulted in the winner "insuring" the kill with some playful stabbing). The last, and most impressive, was a stumble, tuck and roll, and arrival in a defensive position on my knees in one swift, and completely unplanned, move. I have to figure out how I did that one cause it looked spectacular.

After the fighting we ate lunch and sat in the shade chatting and listening to war stories from Pensic, current and past. We were also invited to attend an upcoming event in October, which we think is a wonderful idea and will be great fun. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures. I remembered to bring the camera this time but I was so busy listening and fighting that I simply forgot to use it. Maybe I'll get pictures at the next event.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Search Begins

I'm sure I have mentioned several times that PeterC and I look forward to the day when we can own a large parcel of land where we can build a homestead. A place where there is plenty of room for horses, dogs, cats, chickens, goats, sheep, and maybe even a cow. A place where we can build a modest home and still have room for workshops, a proper studio, and a garden big enough to feed us for the year. A place where we can live out our days away from a large traffic route and where we can invest in solar and wind power.

Looking at our minimum requirements we know we need 5 acres of land. That will allow us to create a comfortable home for us and the animals. Five acres would even allow us to let a small portion of the land return to brush to create a home for the many species of wildlife we hope will take up residence.

The search finally began for that homestead. We've always kept our eyes on the various real estate listing but the search began in earnest this past weekend. We spent all day Saturday and Sunday driving around the area, within a 50 km radius of Cornwall, looking at the various listings for residential and vacant land. Some of the places were planned and some were nothing more than side trips when we saw a For Sale sign.

What we have found so far is rather discouraging. All listings that included a house were being sold for $200,000 with little to no land. Any place with a house and enough land to do what we want was hovering around the half million price range. That pretty much means we will never be able to buy a piece of land with a house on site already.

Even the vacant land sales were disappointing. Ninety percent of all the listings and even private sales were for less that 5 acres of land. Most of the listings that were for 1-5 acres of land are being sold at about $10,000 per acre with a few selling for a whopping $35,000 per acre. The few listings and private sales we were able to find that were for a reasonable price were usually under power lines, swampy, or straddled a river that prevented us from doing any of the things we want., nay need.

So the search continues. Hopefully within a few months we will find a farmer with some land he wants to sell because he is getting to old to work it. With luck he will not be asking an arm and a leg, expecting to sell it as a "rural estate", but looking to sell it to someone who wishes to become stewards to the land and live out their lives there. Knock on wood, cross my fingers, and spit into the sea we'll find that place soon.





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jumping In with Two Feet

I tend to be one of those people that everyone watches, from the outside, diving into projects and hobbies with both feet and not looking back. What they do not see is the fact that I live inside my head and carefully weigh all options and possibilities before making that leap.

What got me started on this train of thought was a comment someone recently said about me jumping right into the SCA, showing up at my first event to enter an A&S competition, and having all my garb already finished. They seemed to think I went from 0 to 60 in just under 2 weeks, and were rather impressed by that it seemed.

In all truth and honesty I thought about my options well before entering the SCA at all. I researched the time periods, the costuming, the arts and crafts, and knew what I wanted to be before I had even sent off my cash. But I also hedged my bets to some degree.

Like with my first Arts and Science entry. I entered a carved box. While I had never made a box before, I had been carving on and off for several years now. The result was the appearance of a beginner entering and ranking very highly. But was a I really a beginner?

The same can be said for the costuming. I have been sewing my entire life from patterns. Once I knew what time frame I wanted to play in I looked for existing patterns for the styles of garb I wanted or something very close to what I wanted. Then I purchased the fabric and started sewing. I made plenty of mistakes but the people on the outside don't see those.

I also have plenty of doubts. I doubt my ability to build a lovely box. I doubt my ability to create period appropriate trim, hats, belts, or any other accessory. I doubt my ability to adapt a pattern for my size and shape. I doubt my ability to go out and interact with other people. I doubt my ability to put on armour and put on a good show if not actually win a bout or two. Again, no one on the outside sees those doubts. I apparently hide them very well.

I do persevere. I have to. I could easily become locked in my own head and let the fears and doubts keep me from ever doing anything. It has happened before and it took months to break out of my self imposed prison. And even more months not to lock myself back in at the slightest hit of failure and doubt.

Now, I take those fears and doubts and stomp on them mercilessly, after considering them very carefully and planning for as many contingencies as I can. Planning lets me have some measure of control over my fears of disaster and failure. I consider all my doubts and ask "what is the worst that could happen?" and make plans to deal with the worst things I can imagine.

Sometimes the doubts still interfere with my life but I am getting better at this game. I am figuring out that sometimes it is okay to fail at something. I can't improve unless I fail, and I can't fail unless I try. Perhaps one day I will have no doubts, but I doubt it. :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Movie Magic...Not So Much

I've led a relatively sheltered life in some ways. I didn't see my first movie in the theatre until I was 18 and on my first date. It was "Return of the Jedi" and needless to say I became hooked. There is something oh so magical about sitting in a dark room with a huge screen and surround sound to really and truly lose yourself, suspend your disbelief as they say, and become part of the story.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing some really great movies in the theatre. "Dragonheart", "Fifth Element", and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy being the ones that stand out in my mind. Unfortunately, I have had to displeasure of paying large sums of money to sit through a movie that was just sad. Even with all the help of the environment I just wasn't able to truly get into the movie. But I kept going back time and time again to give Hollywood another chance.

With age, and fewer really good movie ideas coming out, I found the allure of the theatre dimming. Prices for the tickets kept creeping higher, and higher, while the stories became weaker and less interesting. Occasionally a Sci-Fi or Fantasy would tempt me back to the dark, cool, loud, and large room but most of the time we just decided to wait to rent the movie.

New technology, or old technology re-imagined, was introduced to make movies more attractive to an ever more cynical viewing audience, and in the early days I guess it worked. 3-D movies were very popular with the audiences for a while but as with all things Hollywood, they overdid it. Every movie that has been released over the last year has been 3-D. It did nothing for me and I never bothered to see one. Until last night.

Having come from the above mentioned "sheltered life" I knew who "Conan the Barbarian" was but I had never had the pleasure of seeing the movie all the way through. Last night we decided to see the new "Conan the Barbarian" movie. We arrived at the theatre only to find that the movie was being shown in 3-D and we had to pay extra for that "privilege".

We already pay $10.00 to see a movie but now we had to pay an extra $4.00 for a style of filming that we could not choose yea or nay to. So we ponied up our cash, the price of which already putting a damper on our attempts to go into the theatre with open minds, received our $.30 glasses, and took our seats. We settled in, hoped for a good movie, and watched.

To be honest the movie wasn't bad. It wasn't great but I admit I have paid to see far worse movies in the theatre. The acting was okay and the story was actually kind of interesting. The 3-D effect was a waste. It tended to distract me from the actual movie. It wasn't used sparingly and in places where it would be a great addition to the movie. NO, the entire movie was filmed in 3-D and it was just annoying.

We both came out of the theatre with the firm opinion that we will not be going to the Cinema again anytime soon. We will wait for the movies to be released for rental and if it even suggests that it is filmed in 3-D we will avoid seeing it at all. It is truly a shame that Hollywood can't come up with original stories but it is even worse when they "effects them up" in an attempt to make them more interesting and ruin them instead.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blessed Rain

After weeks and weeks of hot dry weather we finally got some rain. Not just a sprinkle or two either. An honest to goodness downpour that last for several hours. There was even some thunder off in the distance, too.

It came to late to help my peas, the hot weather taking care of them weeks ago. But the beans celebrated by putting out so many flowers the entire bed looked like a flock of seagulls had passed over several times over night. If that is any indication of the upcoming crop then I'll be freezing and canning to my hearts content later this month.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

1856

When we first moved here we were told by the Real Estate agent that this was a century home. The building inspector said it was at least 1890's, and my own limited knowledge of building methods suggested late 1800's.

Like good little citizens we contact the local Heritage Society to verify whether our house was listed and what portions of the house were protected. Unlike most Heritage Societies that I am aware of, the local society only protects certain aspects of a home not the entire home. In some homes it is the staircase, others the fireplace moulding but not the fireplace, in others it is the layout, etc.

We were told our home was built in 1920 which just didn't fit with the building methods used to build her. Log floor joists on 4 foot centres, stone foundation, post and pin roof framing, posts with bark still on them for the upstairs wall studs, and thick ( 1.25 inch or more) flooring in the unfinished rooms upstairs. But the Society said she didn't fit the bill and therefore was not protected in any way, which may explain some of the renovations done over the years.

Imagine my surprise when PeterC came home from work with a link to an area map from 1856 showing the exact outline of our home on the map. Turns out one of his co-workers is really big on genealogy and family history and while doing a search for some of his relatives came across this map in the archives, and kindly passed the link on to us.

This map does not prove that the current house was built earlier than 1856 but it sure does lend some credence to the idea that it is older than 1920. The map does show a home with the exact same dimensions and location as our home, including it being right on the then existing county road line. The map also shows a carriage house and barn in exactly the same location as we have found the remains of a stone foundation, and a drive way in exactly the right place to be lined on either side by our really old double row of trees.

The only way to prove it is the same house is if we could find a newspaper with a picture of our house in it, from the period. If it includes a series of family names to link it too, that could then be searched in the county records would be even better. But, in the end it doesn't really matter if we can prove it to the Historical Society.

It is good enough to know that our home is indeed most likely as old as we thought. Now if we could find some pictures of the inside of the house, that would be perfect. Then PeterC and I could spend our money and time returning this lovely lady back to her original state, creating a beautiful home and a work of art.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

It has been brutally hot here the last week. The weather forecasters say it is because of of "bubble" of hot air extending from the midwest USA. Maybe that is the case, maybe it is just a change in our environment, or maybe it is just a really hot and dry July. Regardless it has put a damper on my willingness to go outside.

The green beans, on the other hand, seem to be loving this heat. I've been keeping them watered, every other day or so, and I was rewarded last Monday with a huge harvest. I estimate we picked 10 lbs of green and wax beans, with plenty more ripening up. If this turns into a trend then we'll have beans to last us the whole winter canned up.

The peas are not so happy. Before the heatwave hit we were getting a pound of peas a week. Since the heatwave has started the pea vines have died back and the peas that were developing have turned a sickly yellow and stopped all growth. If the weather stays hot and dry much longer I'll have to pull all my pea plants, turn the soil, and wait until August to plant a second batch in time for fall harvest.

The carrots, shallots, and beets seem to be pretty happy as long as I keep them watered. The garlic, which was doing so well when it was cooler and wetter, seems to be stalling in its growth. Even with watering every two days the garlic just doesn't seem to be all that happy.

Of course when I was in the garden yesterday I found that about half of what I thought was garlic was, in fact, an annoying look alike grass. From a couple of feet away you can't tell the different. Instead you have to look at the base of the plant. Garlic has a stalk with the leaves splitting off an inch or so above the soil. If the leaves split at the ground it is grass, and has to be pulled out of the bed.

As with every year there are successes and failures in the garden. Somehow, this year I managed to pick the right combination of vegetables to plant and I have more successes then failures, at least I did before the weather turned so bloody hot. I hope we get back to normal summer temperatures soon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baronial Muster

PeterC and I decided to attend Baronial Muster this weekend. It was a three day camping event but we drove out for the day on Saturday. It was being held at Raven's Knoll campground out past Eganville, Ontario which is a 3.5 hour drive so we left home at 5:30 am. The drive was actually very pretty especially after we entered the Bonnechere Valley.

Usually we don't attend events being held so far away but there was ulterior motive on my part. Someone from Ottawa had been very kind and picked up some black walnut branches from Scarborough and wanted to give them to me at Baronial Muster. I had been told there would be a chance to authorize in armoured combat as well so I decided we were going.

The campground was beautiful and was bordered by a slow moving river. Even with such a beautiful site it was still very hot and no one really wanted to do much other than swim. As a result there was no armoured combat except some pick up fights later in the afternoon.

Since we had time to kill and the Baronial Archery tourney was being held at 11am we borrowed a bow and some arrows and decided to give our hands to archery. The tourney started very late, there was no shade, and the sun was very hot. Needless to say my face is sunburned very badly.

However, the tourney did eventually start and we took turns using the bow to do the various competitions. PeterC is a natural and once he got his range he did very well with the target shooting. In fact he did so well that he managed to come in 2nd place overall. Pretty good for the first time he ever used a bow in his life.

After the tourney we headed up to the fight area and armoured up. The gentlemen were willing to run me through a mock authorization to get me used to the process. I almost didn't pass the equipment inspection but luckily I had received my full gauntlets in the mail and they allowed me to continue.

We took the field and fighting began. I did really well with the normal hand and shield fighting, though I forgot to call the light blows. Something I seriously need to work on. I also did well when we moved to the knee fighting. Unfortunately, I did not do so well when we moved to the off hand portion of the test, nor with the quizzing on the rules and regulations. But now I know what I need to work on and I'll try again at Feast of the Hare.

As soon as the fighting was done we headed home. We left the campground later than planned but still managed to get home by 7:30pm, much to the relief of the puppies and the ferrets who had been in their kennel all day. It was a long day and I am suffering from sunburn and sore muscles today, but overall I think it was a good day. I doubt, though, that I will attend Baronial Muster again.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Vacation Time

Vacation is here again. It started with a visit from a friend of PeterC's. They spent the day at the Biodome in Montreal and then came home for supper, some SCA sparring, and of course lots of good company.

Since then we have spent at least part of every day out in the yard working on a open sided shed. Once the shed is competed this will be PeterC's blacksmithing workshop. In the Winter we will have to install tarps on all sides to keep the weather from ruining is anvil and forge. Until then though the sides will be open, except for some trellis that will give him some privacy from the far to close neighbour on the west of the property.

We've also been getting some yard work done. The two year old pile of hedge trimmings has finally been burned off, much to the delight of the chickens who got all kinds of bugs and worms in the process. The part of the yard that never gets mowed has been trimmed with the trimmer. And, we harvested a couple litres of green beans and peas.

The evenings have been spent working on garb for myself for the SCA. I had hope to get at least two outfits completed for both of us, but things are going slower than planned. I've also managed to get my Barony token, a sign of membership in the Barony of Skraeling Althing, sewn to a belt flag. Eventually it will be embroidered with a white rabbit, the device of the Barony.

There is still a week to go and it has already been booked with things to do. The truck has to be taken to the repair shop Monday. PeterC has a riding lesson or two next week. We have to get his workshop finished. I have to get at least my tunic and trews finished before next Saturday when we will attend Baronial Muster where I will attempt to authorize in Sword, Shield, and Dagger armoured combat.

Vacations are never very relaxing for us but this year's seems even more hectic than normal. Perhaps that is because we have been so busy earlier in the year that all the little things we normally get done have been put off for another day. I guess "another day" has finally arrived.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Siege III

This past weekend was Summer Siege III. Friday we spent a good part of the day setting up hay castles, stringing barriers, and in general setting up mostly soaking wet. It was wet, wet, wet Friday. The rain came down in waves, sometimes so hard it looked like a sheet of water as it barrelled towards us.

Saturday was only marginally better. Saturday morning was very wet and we were glad we had purchased a non-period rain cover for our merchant booth. The wind was blowing in from the south so we had to set up some fabric to keep everything under the rain cover from getting wet anyway.

Saturday afternoon turned partly sunny, with spotty rain showers. Most people set up inside the farmer's market building but since we were already set up we just stayed where we were. With the afternoon clearing up I was very happy we stayed outside. There were enough people to justify setting up the booth, with sales covering our costs for the event and letting us put some money back in the bank.

I entered a painted and carved coffer into the A&S, which turned out was a people's choice competition. I won, rather surprisingly as there was some nice stuff entered. I forgot to take pictures of the box before I presented it to the Baroness who has gone out of her way to make sure PeterC and myself felt welcome and were enjoying ourselves at every event we attended.

All in all it was a good day. And, with all the things I made for the merchants booth not selling I now have a huge inventory for my Etsy store o be entered slowly over the next few days. With much luck I'll sell even more items over the coming weeks.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

It has been a very busy couple of weeks since my last post. Between working on commissions, going to fight practice and armouring nights, going with PeterC to riding lessons, and getting merchant booth stock ready for Summer Siege time has just gotten completely away from me.

It has been very hot, dry, and humid these last couple of weeks. Yesterday was the nicest day we've had for two weeks and of course we had to catch up on grocery shopping so spent the majority of it in town. Today is nice and cool but very wet, which is a relief. I've had to water the garden just to keep it from turning into a miniature dust bowl.

In the last two weeks we have adopted another ferret. A male about a year and a half old. He was quite inactive when we first got him, but plenty of space to run and another ferret to chase and wrestle with has done him a world of good. He is finally beginning to respond to the squeaky toy, comes slowly to his name being called, and even likes to curl up in my arms for the famous ferret power nap.

Just for some real cute factor, here is Freya happily napping in the dirty laundry. She is particularly fond of sleeping in PeterC's shirts after he comes home from work. She is such an angel when she is asleep but a little devil when she is awake, and when she is beating the snot out of Bucky. I'll try to upload a video on another day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spring Crown Tourney

We attended our second event since we joined the SCA in January. The Spring Crown Tourney was held in Greely, Ontario and featured a great afternoon of battle and chivalry between the competitors for the Ealdormere Crown.

Between bouts I socialized with people I knew, worked on nalbinding, visited the merchants booths, and in general tried really hard to absorb as much information as I possibly could. It is fascinating to see all the centuries, and countries, of the Dark and Middle Ages represented in costume and arm0ur.

I managed to acquire several items at the merchants booths that I have been coveting, and a couple of things I didn't even know I wanted. My most prized acquisition is a bronze penancular brooch that I have been wanting since I joined the SCA, and fits right in with my personae.

My next favourite item is the turned maple cup I purchased. A well timed purchase since my ceramic cup was broken soon after I purchased the wooden cup. I also found a stainless steel basket hilt for my next heavy combat weapon, a bearded axe, and a reprint of the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook.

Finally, as the hour grew late and my mind turned to a warm bed, I was asked by the Baroness if I was attending court. I said I would stay if I needed too. She "suggested" that my presence was a good idea. It turns out that PeterC and I were both called before the Baron and Baroness to receive our "Bunny Tails", a small piece of white rabbit fur that marks us as members of Skraeling Althing Barony.

I'm not sure if it is normal to receive the bunny tail so soon after joining but I gather from what the Baron said that it is unusual for people to be recognized quite so quickly. Apparently my entering the Blind A & S and PeterC authorizing in heavy combat at our first event made an impression with someone and the Barony decided to award us for "jumping in with to feet and never looking back".

I hope I can continue to make a good impression with the other members of the SCA, and with the leaders of our Barony and of my local Canton. It will mean that we are doing something right, and that makes me proud of all the research and effort I have put into making our garb and armour kits as accurate as possible.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blueberries at last

Some regular readers may remember that I ordered two dwarf blueberry bushes from Henry Fields Nursery last January, to be shipped last May. You may also remember that they never shipped and I was told they were out of the plants. I asked for my account to be credited with the amount I paid.

A couple months after sending me a letter saying my account would be credited I received a card saying the blueberry bushes would ship out within two weeks. The bushes never arrived but I got notification cards every month up until December 2010. After that I just forgot about it and added it to the lesson learned pile.

Last week I received an email saying my blueberries had shipped. This was of course the day before the long weekend and the day a possible mail delivery strike was to be announced. Yesterday the blueberries finally arrived, 1.5 years late, in the mail. Two little 6 inch high bushes, one of which looked half dead and severely frost damaged, wrapped in plastic and stuffed into a cardboard box designed for shipping live plants.

I planted them as soon as we got home from the post office and gave them a pep talk. I watered them well, and left it to up to mother nature. If they survive it will be two or three years before we get berries, but they are finally here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garden 2011 - Part 2

The Sparrow Haven 2011 garden is complete. The herb garden, and a few chili peppers, have been planted. Just in time, too. It has been raining several times a day since Saturday, which was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Saturday, PeterC had a riding lesson in a small town in Quebec. I tagged along with my nalbinding and sat in the shade watching him ride the halflinger gelding, Johannes. The wind was cool but the sun was very warm. Of course I managed to get sunburned, even though I was in the shade.

You're probably asking "what does that have to do with gardening?" Well, on the way home we passed through Alexandria and decided to see if the Canadian Tire there had the herbs I wanted to plant this year. They did have decent looking tarragon and rosemary plants, so I grabbed a pot of each. They also had a styro-pak of really lovely chili pepper plants. I was surprised since chili peppers are not a popular garden plant around here. I didn't plant chilies this year but I couldn't pass up the chance to get healthy plants, many already with blooms forming.

Sunday, we went to the Cornwall Canadian Tire. In the past this has been the only place to get herbs, much less healthy ones. This year was very different. The herbs had already been picked through and the ones that were left were in a fair state of, well disaster really. The only individual plants that looked okay were plants I never intended on buying. I sucked it up and purchased winter savoury, a perrenial, lemon verbena for teas, a sad little chamomile plant, and a common sage, also a perennial in our zone (zone 4a-5 depending on who you ask).

To get the basil, marjoram, and coriander I wanted I had to buy two different "kitchen planters" which included even more herbs I hadn't planned on buying. In the end I got two decent looking basil plants, 2 more sage plants including a purple one, a coriander, a curly leaf parsley, two more rosemary plants, french lavender, and a variegated marjoram.

We planted everything as soon as we got home and about two hours before the rain started falling again. We set up a blue barrel planter for the chilies in front of the house. They should get 6-8 hours of sun there and they will get watered every time it rains, along with all my other garden beds.

If all the plants survive, and do well, I will be drying even more herbs and peppers this fall. If I am really lucky all the perennials will make it through the winter and I will have only half the space next year to fill. Hopefully the nursery will have a better selection of herbs for next year.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden 2011

I've been incredibly slow in updating the blog recently. Not sure why, but I just haven't felt like writing anything. Since it is raining out I decided it was time to add a new post about the garden.

This year's weather has been up and down since February. It was actually warm enough to plant in March but I held off. It was a good decision, as April was cold and wet all month long. Even though April was on average to cold, I did manage to get my root crops - shallots, carrots, beets, and some garlic - planted one sunny afternoon. We planted in the two smaller raised beds that were covered with the windows, thus warming the soil quicker than the uncovered beds.

Last weekend we turned and planted the two beds closest to the house with beans and peas. They are no longer raised as the wood framing rotted away and we didn't buy more wood to replace them. Instead we mounded the soil in the centre of the area, removed the rotted wood, and levelled it off to create a raised planting surface with sloping sides. We then took some patio stones and surrounded the beds with a place to walk.

We even managed to plant the third and final garden bed with garlic. The bed's sides have also rotted out and need to be replaced but we couldn't turn it this year. Turns out the garlic I planted last year, that didn't grow before the snow fell, decided it was coming up this year. Works for me, I love garlic.

The only thing I have left to plant is the herb bed. We will be shopping for herb seedlings in a couple of weeks, and planting any seeds I have left over from previous years attempts at growing from seed. The chickens did a real number on my herb bed so even my tried and true perennial herbs have failed to survive the winter. I even have to replant the mint and tarragon, two herbs that can easily become weeds if not kept in check.

That leaves a possible dye garden, which I am still thinking about. I like the idea of dyeing my own yarn and maybe even fabric but the research I have done suggests it is a lot more work with noxious chemicals than it is gardening and boiling with fresh leaves. Maybe I'll just grow the plants because they are pretty rather than useful, that will be a change around here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thank God for Good Neighbours

This has been a very stressful week. Sunday we headed out the door to attend our SCA Canton meeting. Our Canton headquarters is 1 1/2 hours away and the meeting lasted for about an hour plus another hour of gabbing and visiting. All told we were gone from the house for 5 1/2 hours. It seemed like a great day until we got home to find that Freya was missing.

Since Freya couldn't get out unless we opened the door that meant she was loose for the entire afternoon. Of course we started searching. We grabbed her squeaky toy and walked the entire neighbourhood three times. My second trip around I knocked on every door that had someone home and asked if they had seen a ferret and if they would contact me if they did find her.

Just as it was getting dark, I made my last trip around the neighbourhood. PeterC drove by and told me there had been a sighting of Freya at 3:00 pm under the next door neighbour's porch to the West of us. I spent several minutes around his house and under his porch calling and squeaking to no avail so I headed one more time around the block. I was hoping that is she stayed that close until 3:00 then she wouldn't have gotten to far away.

As I was coming down the side street, on the last leg of my search for the night, I saw our eastern neighbour standing at the edge of his driveway. He said he had found her. I was relieved and asked where. About that time PeterC drove up to tell me that not only had the neighbour found her, apparently asleep under his porch, he had braved the licking of the beast to bring her home. I couldn't help it I hugged the man, probably far longer than was appropriate but I didn't care.

So now, Freya is watched very carefully when we are going in and out the doors. She is kept close to home, by staying in the home. No more going outside even if we are there to watch her. Her world grew and shrank on Sunday. She is forever more a house bound ferret. As for the neighbour, he refused to take money as a reward so he got a dozen fresh eggs and he can have as many eggs as he wants from now on...free of charge as far as I am concerned.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Plans Gone Awry

PeterC went out of town this weekend to take a 3 day metal bashing course and I planned, while he was gone, to get at least one garden bed planted and covered with the old windows. This would of course be three weeks earlier than normal. However, as the title of this post says plans went awry.

The weather, which had been holding cool and moist all last week, turned cold and wet. The temperatures have been hovering just above 0ºC since Friday. The wind has been blowing wildly, trans-locating several garbage cans in the neighbourhood. And, it has been extremely wet. So wet in fact that walking anywhere in the yard results in squishes, and in some places you are going to get your feet and lower legs wet. Needless to say the garden has once again been put on hold.

But, fear not dear readers, the time did not go to waste. Since I couldn't do much outside I decided to concentrate on getting stuff done inside. I decided it was a good time to start increasing my inventory. You see, I decided I was going to be a merchant at the SCA event that the local group is hosting in June. While that may seem like a long way away it is relatively short considering that everything I sell is handmade.

So I have been working away all weekend making pouches, brooches, nalbinding needles, and even an embroidered belt. I also worked on my chip carved box. In fact it is almost finished. Just a couple more coats of varnish and some buffing and it will be done. I did remember to take pictures this time. Better yet, I got PeterC to take the pictures when he got home last night.

It is a good thing I always have several projects on the go. Otherwise I would have been stuck looking for something to do when the weather turned and my outside plans had to be scrapped.

Monday, April 11, 2011

First SCA Competition

This past weekend I entered my first SCA Arts & Sciences competition. This competition was what they call a Blind A&S. The project could be finished or not and documentation was strongly encouraged. Each project was judged to be beginner, intermediate, or advanced. A winner from each category was then chosen.

I entered a small chip carved box, unfinished as I only found out I could enter the competition a week ago. This was not my first chip carving but it was my first ever box, made from scratch. I did complete my documentation. I felt it important to have complete documentation since the box was not going to be complete.

My project was ranked as advanced - an accomplishment in my opinion, but I did not win with my entry. I did get a special token from the Baroness who was extremely impressed with my entry.

The feedback on my project was quite good. All the judges were impressed with my documentation, especially the photos I was able to include of the extant objects and tools of the trade. The feedback on the box was very good from two of the judges and ok from the third judge, who was the technical expert in wood working.

It turns out the very things that made my project advanced were also the very things that kept me from winning. Hand cut joinery that wasn't perfect. Sides that were a tiny fraction unequal in height. Complicated chip carving that unfortunately chipped out on the narrow ends. Stuff like that. So all in all a learning experience.

I enjoyed the creation process and learned from the judging process. This will not be my only A&S competition. In fact I intend on entering a project in every upcoming competition at every event I attend, assuming of course that there is a competition held.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Latest Commission Piece

I've been really lucky recently to have gotten several commission orders. I've done nalbound hats and mittens, painted shields, and some sewing. The most recent commission was a love spoon.

The person placing the order wanted flowers and hearts, but otherwise left the design up to me. Here is the finished product. I'm quite happy with how it looks, and I hope the person purchasing it is, too. It is carved from 1/2 inc basswood and is about 11 inches long by 2.5 inches at it widest point. The flowers and the claddagh are in low relief. The finish is a gel stain to create the antique look covered with a low gloss butcher block oil and finish.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Soil

I finally got my hands dirty yesterday. It wasn't much and it wasn't for long but it felt so good to let the moist, cool, soil crumble in my hands.

We covered one of the smaller beds with some old windows we got from freecycle. These were supposed to be turned into a cold frame 2 years ago but as usual everything else takes priority over the garden, especially in the summer and fall. So last fall, after the potatoes were harvested we place the windows, wooden frames and all, across the bed to see what difference it made if any at all.

Boy, did it ever make a difference. The beds that are uncovered are still cold enough to make my knuckles hurt when I dig in them and the ground is only thawed out 6 inches down. In the covered bed, the soil was cool but not cold. There was enough moisture that it is still just a tiny bit to wet to plant, but it won't take long. Best of all, I was able to dig quite far down into the dirt without finding a hard frost area.

Of course it has me all excited and making plans to plant already. My plan is to plant some old lettuce seeds I have left over from previous attempts at growing lettuce. Usually we plant it and just as it is getting big enough to eat, it gets hot and humid and so the plants bolt. We're hoping this year will be different. By planting the seeds a month early maybe we will actually be harvesting lettuce about the same time as we are planting the rest of the garden.

Of course if this works, then I'll have to make sure to cover both of the smaller beds with extra windows. Better yet, maybe I can convince PeterC to help me set up cold frames that will be better sealed and built at an angle to make better use of the lower angle of the sun. Then we'll see what other early crops I can pull off the garden. Lettuce, radishes, and peas, oh my!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Redux

Spring is back. Mother Nature only hit the snooze button, rather than turning off the alarm and going back to sleep. The ground is squishy, the sun is warm, the birds are moving in, and the snow is melting quickly.

The Grackles, Red Wing Blackbirds, and Starlings have been here for over a week taking advantage of the extra seed I put out for the Chickadees. The first Robin showed up yesterday afternoon, sitting in the crabapple tree as if he had been here all along. Even the geese are beginning to come home.

The desire to dig in the garden is fast becoming an imperative. I've finalized our produce plans for this year and even purchased the seeds. We are planting one bed of Green Peas, one bed of Bush beans, one bed of beets, one bed of carrots, and the largest bed is going to be split between shallots and garlic. If the garden goes well I'll be doing a lot of canning this fall. I am considering planting two tomato plants in the carrot bed just for the fresh tomato slices I love so much.

The herb bed is still in the planing stages but we always buy plants from the greenhouse, rather than starting them ourselves. Basil, thyme, hot peppers, and chamomile are the most likely annual plants. Rosemary, sage, chives, oregano, tarragon, catnip, mint, lemon balm, and marjoram are the perennial herbs we maintain each year. We will of course replant any of the perennials if they have died over the winter.

Of course there are the apple trees that should be blooming this year. The high bush cranberries that will be transplanted to their permanent location this year. If possible I am going to purchase three dwarf blueberries bushes to plant this year as well. I just wish we had enough room for all the other types of fruiting plants I would love to have - pears, cherries, sea buckthorn, goji berries, saskatoon berries, and honey berries.

Oh, to win the lottery. Then I can have the garden and orchard of my dreams. Along with the goats, horses, sheep, and all the other things I dream about. You know what they say..."IF you are going to dream, dream big." Until then I will just have to satisfy myself with my small little plot of land and make the most of the space I have available.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Spring Aborted

March started out warm and very wet. We got more rain in the first two days of March than we normally get for the whole month. Every flat field, ditch, and low area was absolutely flooded. The snow was almost gone in areas where it wasn't packed down. Then that all changed.

Mother Nature called an abort of spring. Maybe she realized it was just to damn early for this part of the world to lose it's snow and cold weather. March 3rd woke with the rain still coming down but now it was coming down as snow. All the snow that had melted was back in place and more was falling, quite heavily at times, from the sky. The temperatures dipped back below freezing and have stayed there, hovering just below zero during the day and dipping down to the negative teens at night.

All those fields and low areas are still flooded but now they are solid sheets of ice instead of water. The trees look like they did 3 month ago with no sign of spring in the air. The flowers that were trying to poke their heads out of the snow are dormant again and the trees, who had just started to yawn, are now firmly asleep again. Winter dozed off but woke up just in time to wrap the world, at least my corner of it, back into the fluffy snow wrapped sleep it had started to wake from.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Depression Hurts

As silly as the title of this post sounds I can attest to its accuracy. Since the untimely death of Cassie I have found myself mired deep in depression. Deeper and darker than I have experienced in years. I find myself bursting into tears late at night, early in the mornings, and sometimes in the middle of the afternoon. My body aches, especially my neck and shoulders. I am tired all the time and I just want to sleep. I haven't reached the point where I contemplate suicide, thankfully.

I've always suffered depression. I find it gets worse and better depending on the amount of stress in my life and believe it or not the weather. I have been permanently prescribed anti-depressants, with carte blanche to adjust the number of pills by 1 a day should I feel the need to do so. I hate taking pills, especially anti-depressants, but I admit that in the last two weeks I have given serious thought to increasing my dosage by a single pill.

The pain never goes away but occasionally I can stop thinking about Cassie by working on something that requires a lot of attention. This is of course only a stop gap measure and works only so long as I can keep busy. Unfortunately, when I am like this I can sometimes take much onto my plate and that can cause stress, too. It can become, if not identified and corrected quickly enough, a never ending cycle of stress, disappointment, demoralization, and panic.

Experience, a loving spouse, and knowledge help me to identify my current situation and hopefully take steps to stop the downward spiral from getting out of hand. I know this is situational depression, like that developed by someone who has lost their spouse or life partner, and will over the next few weeks get better or at least become manageable.

Others who suffer from depression are not so lucky. If you know someone who seems to be suffering from depression, please talk to them. If they refuse then talk to your family doctor. Be supportive, kind, and if you have to, be firm as well. Sometimes just knowing someone cares can help the depressed person make that first step to getting help and getting better.

Here are some useful links if you want to learn more about depression.
Understanding Depression
Depression Canada
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Medicinenet.com
Health Canada
Public Health agency of Canada

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Hard Choice

This has been a hard week for us at Sparrow Haven. We had to make that final choice for one of our beloved cats, Cassie. Even though I know it was the right choice it has just been to painful to think about without lots of tears.

Three months ago she started sleeping a lot more than normal and hissing whenever we tried to touch her. The vet diagnosed a sore spot along her spine which we hoped was nothing more than a tight muscle. With a two week dose of anti-inflammatory she seemed to get better. About two weeks later the same thing happened, so we treated her again. She got well enough to move around but she was much more irritable than before with the other cats.

This went on until two weeks ago. Over night Cassie went completely blind. She was unhappy and kept bumping into things. She would follow me into the bathroom and then sit crying at the bathtub, trying to figure out why I wasn't talking to her. We learned to click, chirp, and call her name to help her find her way when following us. The vet upped her dosage on the anti-inflammatory and we all crossed our fingers that the swelling would go away and her eyesight would return.

Of course that was not to be, or I wouldn't be writing this post. Over the last two weeks Cassie got progressively worse. She went from blind and eating well to just laying around, eating only when coaxed, and using the litter box (we moved three upstairs in the same area so she would always be near one) all the time. The vet said it was just a side affect of the pills and cut the dosage in half.

That was last Thursday. She cried all day Saturday and slept all day Sunday, even coming downstairs to sleep in front of the wood stove her favourite place to be. Sunday night she tried to come back upstairs by herself and got lost in the kitchen. She called until I picked her up and brought her upstairs where she settled in and went back to sleep.

Monday Cassie woke up when I did and cried constantly. I managed to get her to eat a little food and the crying stopped. A little later she tried to follow me to the bathroom and stumbled and bumped her way in, only to sit and cry at the tub again. I gave her a pain pill and she went to sleep for a couple of hours. When she woke she could hardly walk and only managed to stumble a couple of steps before she would stop and cry.

She didn't want food so I picked her up and put her on my lap. She stayed there for about an hour then wanted down. She drank a little water and then just stopped moving. By the time Peter came home from work we both knew it was the end. We called the vet just to be sure and he agreed that there was obviously some kind of damage to the soft tissue areas around her spine and she was progressively getting worse. We decided to end her pain.

Cassie was only 5 years old. She was only 4 weeks old when we took her in and she was attached to me pretty quick. She was my little space monkey, all long and lankey and clingy when she was a baby. She was my little Cassanova, loving and rubbing on me from day one. She was my little teapot, her tail was the handle, after she was spayed. She was my happy little chirper when she found a mouse toy and brought it to me proudly. She was my constant lap companion. She was my friend and I miss her terribly.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

First Meeting in Garb

We attended out first meeting of the local SCA group, in garb. I've been working pretty hard to get everything done for the last month. In the end I managed to get most of Peter's outfit done, sans belt pouch and leg wraps. I had enough garb to show well but it is not complete yet and still needs linen under dress, belt, belt pouch, and light weight linen breacs (long underwear) to wear under everything.

Here is Peter, known as Cennedig of Harrowgate Heath, resplendent in a green and gold early Anglo-Saxon ensemble. The trews are cotton plaid and cut to a very early form of trousers based on this article by Viktoria Persdotter, archaeologist and craftsman.Peter says they are the most comfortable pair of pants he has ever owned in his life and has requested at least one more set for fight practice.

Peter's tunic is made from natural linen that we then dyed to this lovely gold colour. The tunic is based on the pattern in the article " Getting Started with Tunics" by Jane Stockton. Pretty good piece of research with very clear information on tunics and their construction. I say based on because I actually altered the pattern to make the sleeves at the shoulder and at the underarm fit better.

Peter's cloak is nothing more than a piece of wool we picked up at the fabric store in town. It is a very simple plaid with a dark green background and very dark orange lines. It is closed at the shoulder with a brooch I made for him from copper. It is a little more modern than I like but it actually looked pretty nice on the cloak.

Peter's belt is a strap woven from a wool blend roving. I then embroidered vines and two stags on the belt. I have pictures in a previous post. He also had on a pair of nalbound socks with a pair of turn shoes of leather over that. All in all he looks pretty snazzy.

In comparison, I was dressed very poorly. My outfit consisted of an altered Halloween costume made from flannel, a rope belt, a pair of nalbound socks and leather turn shoes, and a piece of wool kept on by a couple of copper brooches I made last night. The best thing about my outfit were the brooches.

I look forward to the next time I get to play dress-up. I hope to have the rest of my garb completed by then and maybe even a few extra pieces completed, too.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Garden is Calling

It is the end of January and the seed catalogues have started arriving on mass. That means the planting season is only three months away, unless you plant indoors first then it is only two months away. With the arrival of each catalogue I feel that stirring within to go dig in the dirt. Of course I can't dig in the dirt right now so the agitation just keeps building until I am ready to explode.

It is this built up frustration that gets me in trouble in April, when the snow first starts melting and I can actually see the dirt in the garden. I always plant to early and lose half of what I plant. I should plant indoors and transplant in May, but planting indoors is a dangerous task. With twelve cats, and now a ferret, the seeds barely get above the soil before they become snacks or worse yet the tray of dirt becomes a litter pan.

I did have a small indoor greenhouse that worked okay, until the cats figured out how to get under the plastic cover. It also took up more room that I liked, especially since we don't have a lot of extra room to begin with. But beggars can't be choosers, this has become my personal motto this year, and I will have to get the greenhouse out of the garage and try it again this year.

The longer I look at the seed catalogues the more varieties of seeds I want to plant. Of course this never works out well for the garden. You can only plant so many seeds in the small space we have but every year I squeeze the rows ever tighter in an attempt to get more out of little. You know the saying about squeezing blood from turnips? It works, with a few modifications, for the garden too. You can't squeeze twelve rows out of an eight foot garden plot. You can plant them but they sure won't work well once the plants start growing.

In the meantime I am keeping myself busy with sewing, nalbinding, and weaving the garb we need for our first meeting of the SCA. I'm also spending some time trying to create the armour I need to prevent injury, and bruises, at the weekly fight practices. While these projects and activities keep my hands occupied they do nothing to still the insistent whisper in my mind that it is almost time to plant again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Fight Practice

We attended our first SCA activity Thursday evening, armoured fight practice. While I joined the SCA to get hands on experience with my various fibre art interests, I was also intrigued with the idea of learning to fight with sword and shield. Truthfully, I am more interested in the construction of the armour than in the actual fighting, but it is something PeterC and I can do together.

Since it was our first practise we of course had no equipment, other than personal groin protection. The SCA has a very strict rule on armour and weapon construction and that is something neither PeterC nor myself know enough about to go about constructing our own gear. So, we had to borrow armour and weapons from other members. I was lucky enough to find stuff that fit, though the helmet I borrowed was very tight around the jaw. PeterC was another story.

PeterC has a very large head. It is large enough that he has to special order his hats. Needless to say no one had a helmet big enough for him to wear. He did manage to squeeze his head into a borrowed helmet but couldn't stay in it long enough to get more than one round of fight practice in. The gorget he borrowed was also a bit tight for his neck. That means the very first items we need to get, besides knee and elbow pads, is a helm and gorget that fits him.

Since I was able to squeeze into loaner equipment I actually got to fight three or four bouts. I pretty much sucked at it. I found my self very afraid to hit my opponent at first. After much coaxing, and a little yelling, I got over that fear and took several good swings. My first bout wasn't bad, but each subsequent bout was worse and worse. By the end of the night I could barely lift my shield and when I did it was to little to late. Needless to say I got hit with head shots a lot. I've had the ringing ears and headache for the last 4 days to prove it.

In the end it was good fun and both PeterC and myself are looking forward to attending upcoming fight practises. It will be more fun when we have our own equipment and don't have to rely on loaner stuff, but until we get the materials to make our own gear we are beggars. With luck a larger helm will be there next Thursday so PeterC can enjoy the fun of being hit, instead of laughing at me stumble about like a drunk.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finished Woven Belt

I finished PeterC's belt for his SCA outfit. The belt is woven from a wool blend roving. The embroidery, based on archaeological finds, is done in a heavy cotton 8/3 thread. The belt buckle is a brass rod bent into a D ring and the "rivets" are some decorative paper punches.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

New Adventures

I have a great number of hobbies that all revolve around ancient crafts, interpreted in my own unique way, and the techniques employed by the peoples of the past. I am fascinated by archaeological finds surrounding the early British and Anglo-Saxon peoples, and their artwork.

With all that in mind I made a decision on January 2nd that I was going to try something new this year. I decided to join the Society for Creative Anachronism, here after referred to as the SCA. If you don't know anything about the SCA here is the blurb from their own website.
The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our "Known World" consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Participants, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which may feature tournaments, arts exhibits, classes, workshops, dancing, feasts, and more. Our "royalty" hold courts at which they recognize and honor members for their contributions to the group.
I've known about the SCA for years, having been introduced to the concept some 20 years ago when I still lived in Tennessee, but I never pursued the matter. As my interests in the various textile crafts grew I found more and more of the information I needed already organized by members of the SCA. This of course peaked my interest even more. The Medieval Festivals also encouraged my interest in the SCA.

While doing some research online I found a link to the main page of the SCA and the rest is history, so to speak. I joined the organization on January 2nd, and have spent the last week researching my areas of interest, making costuming for PeterC and myself in our respective historical fashion, and getting to know the people of Harrowgate Heath through email. We haven't met anyone face to face yet, but they seem like a friendly bunch and I am looking forward to meeting a few of them at the next scheduled fight practice.

What I am really looking forward to is finding people who are masters of weaving, nalbinding, metal smithing, and wood carving. With any luck they can teach me no only better techniques but also the forms that fit with my areas of historical interests. Hooray for new adventures and new chances for learning.