Warm Hands Equals A Warm Heart

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As cold as we get sometimes here in the bush, it’s good to remember that there are others who get colder than us. Over the last couple of years, I’ve done some charity knitting for women’s shelters, preemies who have to start their lives in hospital, homeless folks here in the north, and for local folks struggling through chemo treatments.
Last year my charity knitting went to two groups; scarves for our local homeless and chemo caps for folks in Sault Ste. Marie.
This year, I’m going to add knitting for folks in the FAR north. Like Rankin Inlet and Resolute.

I stumbled across Warms Hands Network, a group that collects, packages, ships and distributes knitted and crocheted items that communities in the north have expressed a need for. Sweaters, socks, vests, blankets, hats, shawls, mittens and neck-warmers are just some of the items commonly made and donated. I think this is a great idea, so I’m in! Mom has decided she’s going to donate as well, I think it will be interesting to see what we can come up with between the two of us.
WHN also has a Ravelry group, which is how I found them. The group has been going for a few years now and is an inspiration with conversations about donations, photos, where the items are shipped and sometimes even responses from the receiving community.

If you knit or crochet, take a look at the Warm Hands Network website, and/or their Ravelry group and consider jumping in with us. It’s a great feeling to do something nice for our fellow human beings.

Our Regional Bird

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Life in the woods, or bush as we call it out here, is more often than not, great!
Private, beautiful scenery, clean air, and if you hear any sounds of other people it’s chainsaws or trucks driving by. If we’re really lucky, we’ll hear the occasional owl or maybe coyotes. We were fortunate enough to hear both those last week, mere hours apart.
This spring we were spared a much-dreaded flood, and it didn’t really rain much until yesterday. We live across from a beaver pond and I’m happy to see a beaver back in in it. (I was a tad concerned the beaver lodge was empty last fall when we moved here)

But there is a price to pay for watching the beaver or being able to take stunning sunrise shots with my camera.
With a beaver pond comes mosquitoes.
Hoards of them! There is a reason we northerners call them our regional bird!
They may not be very big this spring but they make up for it with sheer numbers!
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I tried to stop and take pictures this morning and got swarmed!
It was lovely…the sun slicing through the tall pine and spruce trees…sound of birdsong…Before I could even get the zoom focused, my hands were covered and the bugs were flying up my nose!
Seriously!

Usually, mosquito numbers peak like this for a couple of weeks and then drop off. We get a few days reprieve and then the black flies pick up.
I keep trying to remember the perks of living out here…
Peace…right….quiet…right…

It’s great as long as the bugs don’t carry you off!

Anatomy Socks and Why I Need To Knit More Socks

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Many of you know I like to knit, and some of my friends look at me knitting and scratch their heads. Apparently, I’m not ‘what folks think of when they think of knitting’.
Or so I’ve been told.
Good! Just goes to prove you shouldn’t judge by first impressions.

Anyway, since I know a few of my readers are also knitters, I thought I’d share a bit of my knitting passion.
I finally finished my Anatomy Socks. (See left, above) Plain tube socks that I knit while watching television or surfing the web, Mindless, easy knitting.

  I’m also pleased  to have finished the Dark Cable Socks
It was a new pattern for me, and really very easy. The socks even turned out to be the size ordered! Yay! Mens size 11.

I’m getting ready to cast on another pair of socks, this time in special sock yarn we picked up years ago, tucked away and promptly forgot about.
(More on that later)
I’ve been asked why I make so many socks, and my first answer is, why not? But once we get past the knee-jerk response, here’s the best answer in the words of the Yarn Harlot herself;

“Hand knit socks are 100% better than store bought.They feel so fabulous on your feet that there’s almost nobody who doesn’t want to only wear hand-knit socks from the first time he or she slips them on.”

Time to go smoosh some yarn. Next post, another very good reason to knit socks, the life and times of Buttercrunch lettuce and the secret life of basil.

Moose, Lettuce and Spinach, Oh My!

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I’ve written before on how relieved I am that spring is finally here, as evidenced by the warmer temperatures, more birds and the moose coming out of the bush.
Speaking of moose, a friend of mine (Sara Mealey) got some great photos of that same moose I shared with you the other day.
Apparently the moose likes paparazzi. Or should that be people-razzi?


I tell you, spring couldn’t get here fast enough for me. 
Okay, I should amend that…
I want spring, but I really don’t want it to arrive with a body slam that will flood my little town. I mean, let’s be reasonable, very few of us are ready to be cut off from our main city an hour away.
I know we aren’t.

We’ve started our plants with lettuce and spinach first. I’m very pleased with how they’re thriving in their little south-facing window.

On the left is Buttercrunch lettuce and on the right, though looking less vigorous, is spinach.


It’s not a huge start, but it is a start. This morning I started some more lettuce and spinach, because, hey, we’ll want more. I also started some basil.

So why do all this when I can get it in town? 

  • Because veggies aren’t cheap, and neither is the gas required to get them
  • Because nothing beats the taste of homegrown veggies and spices
  • Because it satisfies my green thumb and there is an undercurrent of hope in growing things yourself
What about you? Are you growing anything at home, whatever form that takes?

Spring: Not Just For The Birds! For Moose Too!

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Sometimes we forget that with the spring sunshine and birds, come the wild animals.
Like the moose.
They come out looking for food, warmth and salt. The warmth and salt they find on the roads, dangerous though it may be.

Have you ever seen a wild moose? Ever seen one up close?

They are much bigger than we think, being mostly leg, and frequently moose vs vehicle encounters have catastrophic results for both vehicles and moose.

Fortunately this one lived to wander another day.

This photo was taken by Tanner Davieaux on the Searchmont Highway (#556) near the Ranger Lake road cut-off while he was staying at a delightful local B&B, Austin’s Wilderness B&B
Our thanks to Tanner and Austin’s for the photo!

We’d love to hear about your encounters with all things wild. Tell us all about it in the comments below!

50 Birds Can’t Be Wrong

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For all the complaining I do about winter and cold and how tired I am of splitting wood, I have been lucky enough to watch our local bird population grow slowly.
This past week I’ve seen an increasing number of grosbeaks, purple finches, doves and an assortment of swallows. It helps that a neighbour a kilometer down the road has a cluster of bird feeders.
Spring is on it’s way, slowly but surely.
All those birds can’t be wrong, can they?

So Ready For Spring

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Like everyone else here in Ontario, I’m so over winter, I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrated we are.
It’s been a season of inconsistent firewood, a smoky house, beyond bone-numbing cold temperatures, a chimney fire, and now a broken chimney tile.
Last year, we had more snow than this winter but this is absolutely the winter of cold.
An acquaintance shared a theory with me yesterday at breakfast that Northern Ontario is on it’s way to becoming a miniature Arctic, and apparently there is historical evidence to back it up.
While you ponder that, I leave you with this shot after the road-grader went by our house yesterday.
Yeah, I’d say he pushed the snowbanks back fairly successfully.
Right up to our house.

In fact, if they go by again, that snowbank will end up on my side of the bed.

Spring is coming, right?

On The Needles

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I’ve not forgotten about  my promised series of posts on how to take back control of our lives, lately,I’ve been on a bit of a knitting kick.
What’s on the needles? “Dark Cable Socks”. If you’re a knitter, or just curious, the pattern and picture of the finished socks can be found here.
In all honesty, I was getting a handle on my WIPs (works in progress) when a sock order landed and I had to shift gears a little.
So now I’m working on 3 different knitting projects while planning my next post in the aforementioned series. That one will deal with sunday dinner left-overs.
It’s not as boring as it sounds.
There’s a carcass involved.
Morbid?
No…yummy.

Stay tuned!

How To Get Ahead In The Kitchen

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Back a couple of weeks ago, I stressed the importance of taking back control over our lives, and I said we could have a realistic discussion of how to do that.

I talked about eating at home more, but what if you have a busy life or you don’t want to spend hours over the stove every week?
One way to get the best of both home-cooked meals and frozen dinners is to do both!
Instead of settling for frozen cardboard meals, plan ahead, make one or two extra meals while you have the groceries and the time, and freeze them!
Label carefully and think ahead. Either write on the package what’s inside and how to cook it, or include written instructions on paper or cardstock, or whatever you have. If you have teenagers, lazy people or people that just don’t know how to cook in your home, think of them and make it as easy as possible. Or perhaps you live alone, perhaps you foresee a lifestyle change coming, just a new baby that’s due soon.
Either way, take into account what you, or the rest of your family, likes to eat. Make that.
Don’t make something no one will want to eat, because then it’ll just sit in the freezer getting old, becoming unrecognizable and in time, someone is just going to throw it out.
Nothing gained that way.

So step one is to honestly go over what you and/or your family like to eat. If it’s spaghetti, then brainstorm ways that the sauce can be made ahead and frozen or canned, or whatever preservation method works for you. If the family has a meatball lover, like we do, make some ahead of time and freeze them.
We can get up in the morning with the intent to make a dozen meatballs, but if we have no energy by 3 pm, then we’re having a meatball-less dinner.
Solution?
Plan ahead. Make the meatballs some evening when there’s nothing on television and you’re bored. (Told you this would be a realistic discussion)
You found ground beef on sale. You can afford to get twice the amount you normally do, so make those meatballs because the price of beef may go up again by the time you have the energy!

Spaghetti and meatballs with sauce is just one example. Feel free to substitute whatever dish strikes your fancy.

The point is to think ahead, plan and execute the plan.

Be realistic. Plan for laziness or power failures or heaven-forbid the illness of your family’s cook.

Survey your situation.
Plan.
Execute that plan, one step at a time.
Rinse. Repeat.

Oh look, you’re one step ahead of where you were last friday.
Good for you!

Next time, de-mystifying the art of the homemade bread loaf.

Retail Is Crumbling And Our Future

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The world around us can be an inspiring place or a frightening one.
These past few months it has become an increasingly scary place to live.
Mass kidnappings, a wavering economy on a good day, mass lay-offs, terrorist shootings, rising grocery costs, beheadings and the ever present unemployment numbers.
As if all that weren’t enough, the economies of other countries impact our own in a world economy. Just last night I read about how the faltering U.S economy can spell trouble for many, even if they aren’t in the retail field. The post is worth a read.
Then get yourself something to drink and read it again.

Ponder your future and use this new year to change your future.
I am.

How To Stop Being A Sheeple. Seriously!

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I’ve gone on record before and said that we all need to take a little more control of our lives, prepare for whatever life throws at us and not be victims.
My next few blog posts will be addressing exactly how we can do this.
Now, for anyone new to my blog, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, I’m not going around hollering that the world will end.
But I do believe things have changed a whole lot from when we were kids, and it’s not going back to the ‘good old days’, folks.

We hear a lot of people talk about how things were simpler when they were younger. I think nostalgia is one part hazy memory and one part wishful thinking.
Things weren’t simpler, they were different.
Some of us were kids. We didn’t have to worry about money for payments, rent, groceries, how we would stay warm and so on. Someone one did that for us.
We didn’t have to worry about how we were going to get from point A to point B.
Someone else did that for us.
We didn’t have to worry about what we were going to eat.
Someone else figured it out, got the food and made it into meals for us.
Welcome to adult-hood.

Now all that is up to us. And some days, it’s bloody terrifying figuring all that out for ourselves, and in some cases, being responsible for others.
Our dollars don’t stretch as far as we need them to, no matter where we live.
Some of us have examined going out to eat less and learned how to cook more often at home. I’ve been on both sides of this line.
I remember when I was a kid, we ate out a lot. But I also remember the pies my mother made. Sometimes three at a time. I remember she made bread by hand, back before bread machines.
Now that I am an adult with a family of my own, I’m fortunate enough to say that we eat at home more often than out. Because my partner enjoys cooking, because I enjoy cooking (most of the time) and because we live out in the bush where restaurants are scarce.
But even when we lived in a city, we ate at home more often than not.

There are folks who will tell you this is more expensive than eating out. There is no way that a home-made roast chicken dinner with vegetables and rolls is more expensive than Swiss Chalet! Eating at home with your family, even one night a week for busy families, has more benefits than many spare a thought for.
Increased connections with your family. Increased opportunities to talk. Better food that is prepared, we hope, with a good heart, instead of with thoughts of money. A better understanding of food itself. If you buy ground beef/chicken/turkey/pork and make patties for burgers, you will know what’s in your burger won’t you? The same cannot be said for burgers from a fast food place that really isn’t all that fast. If we were to make up a pro/con list for eating at home more often, you might be surprised when the pro list ends up being longer than the con list.
Then again, perhaps you already know this.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about taking back control over our lives. It can start with as simple a step as cooking more often at home. We’ll talk about how you can change your grocery shopping habits to start developing even a small safety net in case you want to eat more often at home but find yourself out of time, the grocery store short of something, or heaven forbid, if you suddenly find you have no choice. (I once had to pawn some jewelry to make sure my kids had food, so I understand being desperate.)
We’ll talk about emergencies and what might happen where you are, and who to come through them as comfortably as possible.
We’ll talk about how we can be ready if life throws curve balls at us, and how to   prepare our families for hard times ahead.
We’ll talk…realistically and with common sense.

I hope you’ll join me in this discussion.

With Change Comes Growth

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“Holding on to something that is good for you now, may be the very reason you don’t have something better.”
C. JoyBell C.

It’s Christmas Eve here, and more than likely my last post of the year. Although that’s not set in stone either.
I know that sounds a bit vague, but, honestly it’s not like I post regularly.
I’d like to change that in the new year.

Anyway, it’s been a hell of a year.
We nearly lost my mother to a heart attack, and even after she spent a month in a hospital over 3 hours away, it was a long road back for her.  Although we had moved from Southern Ontario to live with and take care of my parents, sometimes the Universe has other ideas. (I type this as I sit in our own home, albeit rented, on the other side of our little community.) But it has been positive. My mother is now recovered from her heart issues, is now stronger I think, has lost more weight than even she was expecting and looks firmly engaged in life once more.
Now if I could only engage her in the community again, I’d be happy.

Our eldest son has decided he might like being a grown-up, pursued college and a local part-time job at the ski resort. Our youngest son has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and that’s a good thing too, but a whole ‘nother post entirely.

Our old-man dog has recovered his health as well. Last year at this time, neither my partner or I thought he would be with us this Christmas. Since moving, he has gained weight, walks more, limps less, actually tries to play with us and his step-brother and is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Not bad for a 13 year old Chihuahua!

My writing has moved along as well with the writing and publication of two more short stories. I wish I could say it was more, but on the bright side, two is better than none.

There’s been a lot of positives over the past year. A lot of growth, self-reflection  and forward movement by those around me.
I like to think I’ve grown too. I’m certainly older, and feeling it.

Another Christmas is upon us, and I hope the past year has been a good one for you. Or at the very least, not too painful.
I hope you’ve grown in some way.

Look upon the next year as one filled with potential. Make a list of what you might like to do, and start considering which look the most likely.
It’s time for me to do the same. In my writing, knitting and personally.

Merry Christmas, my friends.
Until next time…

Caught By The Christmas Build-Up

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Christmas is just around the corner, and of course I’m not ready.
Every year, I swear I’ll be more organized next year…and the next Christmas season still sneaks up on me and catches me flatfooted.
Sigh.
We always hear that Christmas isn’t about gifts, it’s supposed to be about friends, family…those we hold dear to us.
After nearly losing Mom earlier this year…I can finally say I understand it better than ever.

This week, I’ll be digging out the decorations, the miniature village, the wreath and all the stuff for the tree. And the snowshoes.
This year, we get to trek through the snowy woods for a real tree.
I better borrow the neighbour’s saw.

Speaking of Christmas trees, here’s a cool little article about a family owned and operated tree farm.
Gotta love when a family turns convention on it’s head.

Of Mice and Other Fears

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Few things inspire such fear in people as mice.

Sure, there’s  “standard” fears; heights, snakes, bugs, spiders, dark places, tight places and so on. None of these are to be made light of, but as a person who is afraid of mice, let me tell you that there is, sometimes, no rationale to fear. Let’s take mice.
Please, take them all.
My eldest son tells me, mice have fear too. Personally, I don’t believe this for a second. But many will tell us that they are more afraid of us than we are of them.
I don’t care!

Apologies to my eldest son, and others who think mice make cute pets.

The little bastards have no place being in homes. They belong outside, not in my house.
Living out in the bush, I can tell you that mouse fertility comes in waves. It doesn’t take a mouse long to get pregnant, carry and give birth to more  vermin. The gestation period of the common house mouse is just under a month, and they can give birth to a litter anywhere from 3-14 young. Mother Nature has pretty much ensured the continuation of  the house mouse with a range that covers North America. It’s not like they’re a threatened species!

My fear is not unfounded. The common house mouse can carry deadly diseases. Leptospirosis, Murine  Typhus, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis, Bubonic Plague, and the list goes on.

I don’t really care if they live outdoors and remain part of the food chain, but I do not want them in my house.
To that end, we have lifted every vent cover and inserted common window screen, then replaced the vent cover. We did this because a couple of us have spotted mice coming up from the basement this way, then returning to it’s dark sanctuary the same way.
I have scattered mothballs throughout the basement because it’s said that mice don’t like mothballs.
(I can understand that, those things reek!) We’ve also invested in sonic rodent repellers for every room, and while the house was empty, they seemed to work.

So of course, after doing all that to keep the mice out, wouldn’t you know, we got a mouse just the other night.
Sigh.
We had gone three or four nights without seeing one, but then Betty and I heard one in the walls of the back porch late one night. With a growing sense of dread, I knew it was only a matter of time.

We have mouse traps in the kitchen and back porch, but when Eldest Son saw it, it was quite happily exploring the kitchen. Eldest Son talked to it while I tried not to have a melt down and secretly prayed the mouse would bolt for a peanut butter baited trap and die quickly.
Of course not. That would make my life simple!

In the end, Eldest Son was able to capture Micky with a peanut butter baited bowl, flashlight and a piece of cardboard. Mouse was taken down the road (not far enough for my liking, but Son was in his pajamas) and released!

I respect my son’s mouse-whisperer gifts, but I subscribe to the “the only good mouse is a dead mouse” belief. I know I am not alone in this, lots of folks are afraid of mice. But we can fill all the holes we see, keep our homes as clean as possible and yet still have to deal with them!
On behalf of all the mouse-haters, we do not apologize for our fear any more than someone who is afraid of heights can.
All we ask is that you bear with us.
And clean up those crumbs!

How do you feel about rodents?

Mice, Minimalising and Mojo!

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Change is never-ending.
We never really get used to it, no matter how many times it hits us in the ass.
Our circumstances here have changed yet again, and all of the lessons I learned the last time we moved are nearly useless.

I say ‘nearly’ because the only lessons that apply this time are
-change always comes again
-this too shall pass

So what lessons did we learn this time?

We have too much stuff!

I se now the benefit of “realistic minimalism”

We are a family of four people and two dogs. Two of us are teenagers, two of us are crafters.
We have stuff.

So now we embark on the interesting journey of downsizing. Do I need ten favourite coffee cups? Not really, no. Do I need twenty t-shirts? Nope. The challenge will be in getting the family, as a unit, on board with the downsizing.

We are fortunate this time to have a wood/oil furnace.
The prepper in me likes this, because now we have a choice in how we stay warm, not to mention the simple matter of control over this issue.

I can also use the firebox to help stay on top of garbage.
Whatever trash we generate that is flammable goes into a separate bag and used for fire-starter. Wood heat is a more thoroughly-warming kind of heat, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you our senior Chihuahua appreciates the heat!
Although it took me a little while to find my fire-making mojo again, I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of keeping a fire going by the time the snow flies.

Either that or we’ll be chilly!

How is autumn progressing where you live?

Next time, the war of the mice!

No Sheeple Here

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Where does a “prepper” end and self sufficiency begin?
When one realizes that prepping is all well and good, but unless you have the incredible fortune to have 5 years worth of supplies squirreled away, you’re going to have to learn how to be self sufficient.
In fact, many advocates of self-sufficiency started  on the path to prepping.

When I say “prepping”, I’m not talking about tinfoil-hat-wearing-rifle-toting-live-underground types.
Generally, I’m talking about the folks who put food and basic supplies aside in times of just-in-case.
Just-in-case could be shortage of work, extended power outages, store shortages, road closures, natural disasters, and the list goes on depending on geography, financial climate, etc.

Digital Journal explains it like this;
“The heart of the prepper message: No power, no stores open. No stores open, no food. During the Los Angeles riots, truckers refused to deliver to supermarkets because it was too dangerous. People living day-to-day who have consumed the limited amount of food they have begin to get desperate, and, in the case of a massive or multiple disasters, government assistance may or may not be forthcoming. Indeed, the government itself may be the problem.”

It’s an easy stroll from a “prepper” mindset to one of self sufficiency.
For example, one day I can be thinking about buying freeze-dried fruit online and three days later I’m planting my own strawberry beds so that I won’t have to buy strawberries online next year. The money I save not buying the fruit online can be diverted into a dehydrator.
See? No message of doom and gloom, but rather, think ahead.

It’s an engaging, a creative use of the grey-matter between our ears. One that takes responsibility for ourselves. One that says we can think for ourselves, no sheeple here, thank you very much.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/doomsday-prepping-comes-of-age-reaches-cities-affluent/article/384096#ixzz34og7c5uA

Rough Beauty

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There is a kind of rough beauty out here. The kind that can kill you, or cure you, depending on how you step, how you breathe and how your heart beats.
One step can either break a leg or take your breath away with rapture.
That’s how it is out here.
The trees can whisper wisdom to you if you only stop and listen.
Of course you must stop yourself first.
Stop the mind-chatter, the ego, the judging, the “tapes” that lecture on your inadequacies….stop it all and just listen.

To the wind, the water, to the birds and to the voice of the Divine in everything around you.

If you can do that, you will leave this place a different person.

A better, less-fractured, universe-touched person.

Cold Weather Planning In Your Vehicle

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For most of us in Northern Ontario this winter, these past few months have been crazy. It has been snowing, cold, windy, sometimes freezing rain and occasionally sunny. While we have been lucky enough to not have any freezing rain up here, I know folks who have. As I said, the weather here in Ontario is crazy this winter.
Because of all this, the boys have had a lot of snow days lately. In the midst of a conversation about traveling conditions for a school bus, it occurred to one of my parents that the van had no emergency kit should anything happen  during one of the trips to and/or from town. We live an hour away from town, by vehicle, and -30 is not the time to be stranded along a road! So it has been decided that the van needs some kind of emergency kit.

Top of the list, for winter, is a wool blanket or two, which can be easily found at a thrift shop. Barring wool, a fleece blanket will serve, but wool is the fiber of choice up here! Candles and a way to light them are of equal importance. A couple of small tea candles could keep the interior of a vehicle above freezing. Not as comfortable as home, but enough to keep us alive. Of equal importance, water. Bottles of water would need to be circulated and obviously NOT kept outside. There’s no point in having 6 water bottles in the back of the van if they’ve all frozen and split, only to soak everything when the ice inside thaws. To my mind, this would require a small backpack that would need to be taken out and brought in before and after every trip. Yes, it takes a little more effort, but you can survive for weeks on only water. Not true with food.
Because one of the parents is diabetic, we will need some kind of food in the kit to keep those blood sugar levels up.

I’m thinking too that one of those signs that go in the windshield “Call Police” might be a good idea too. Especially since we, and by extension our cell phone, don’t always travel with the folks.

Of course this is not a proper or complete list by any means…merely a jumping off point.

What about you? Do you have an emergency kit? Do you need to build one? What would go into, or is already, in yours?

To Make A Farm

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Indie films are an interesting breed unto themselves, but I find them most fascinating when they examine a topic very few others have looked at. In this age of mass-produced entertainment, films that make us think are gems indeed. I’m excited to share this with you, an indie film that follows five farmers on three Canadian farms as they try to make a profit. Farming is difficult enough these days with all kinds of challenges, but up here in Canada it is even more so. Not many people in these modern times are connected to their food, although that number is growing, and even fewer understand the person that lives a way of life that was largely abandoned for decades. So I invite you to follow the link to a fascinating article. Make the effort to find the film and watch with an open mind.
It’s worth it.
Best of all, you might just come away with a better understanding of those that are doing what they can to reconnect with their food and the land.
You can find the interview at Scratch magazine.

Empty Lots, Grand Visions

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So what’s more important? 75 units of housing for people that are going to make more than $150,000 a year, or a park that will benefit AIDS sufferers, the elderly that may never see wild spaces again and youngsters.
It’s a conundrum. Housing, or a green space that helps people in ways difficult to quantify? The units won’t even serve as many middle income families as the city needs because the rules for affordable housing there are far removed from what folks need.
The complete story can be found here

Pigeons From Hell

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Strangely enough, I enjoy horrifying fiction, scary stories and other frightening things that make my mind race in the dark. I can’t watch horror movies though. There was once a commercial that aired on tv for some horror movie, The Ring I think it might have been. The commercial gave me nightmares, I just kept seeing the same image over and over again. When I was working night shift, I would be walking a mile home in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rose with only a flashlight and my imagination for company.
Let me tell you, an overactive imagination in a weary mind is a traitor at 4:30 in the morning. Every rustle in the woods becomes a starving, rabid wolf. Every snap of a branch becomes a Sasquatch waiting to commit horrible atrocities.
Even though I knew every inch of the road, every pot-hole of the bridge, some mornings I saw our door and I could almost taste my relief.

And yet I seek out horror stories. I have my own in the works.
I can’t explain it. Perhaps my imagination enjoys being terrified, but my muse does not want readily made images, but would rather conjure its own? To that end, I found this story this morning, by Robert E. Howard.
Pigeons From Hell.
It should be a classic, if it is not already. It has all the best markings of a Twilight Zone episode, or perhaps The Outer Limits.

It is frightening and horrifying in its implications, descriptions and quest for its own truth. Here’s a snippet;

‘He blinked his eyes. The beam of moonlight fell across the stair just as he had dreamed it did; but no figure lurked there. Yet his flesh still crawled from the fear the dream or vision had roused in him; his legs felt as if they had been plunged in ice-water. He made an involuntary movement to awaken his companion, when a sudden sound paralyzed him.

It was the sound of whistling on the floor above. Eery and sweet it rose, not carrying any tune, but piping shrill and melodious. Such a sound in a supposedly deserted house was alarming enough; but it was more than the fear of a physical invader that held Griswell frozen. He could not himself have defined the horror that gripped him. But Branner’s blankets rustled, and Griswell saw he was sitting upright. His figure bulked dimly in the soft darkness, the head turned toward the stair as if the man were listening intently. More sweetly and more subtly evil rose that weird whistling.

“John!” whispered Griswell from dry lips. He had meant to shout — to tell Branner that there was somebody upstairs, somebody who could mean them no good; that they must leave the house at once. But his voice died dryly in his throat.

Branner had risen. His boots clumped on the floor as he moved toward the door. He stalked leisurely into the hall and made for the lower landing, merging with the shadows that clustered black about the stair.

Griswell lay incapable of movement, his mind a whirl of bewilderment. Who was that whistling upstairs? Why was Branner going up those stairs? Griswell saw him pass the spot where the moonlight rested, saw his head tilted back as if he were looking at something Griswell could not see, above and beyond the stair. But his face was like that of a sleepwalker. He moved across the bar of moonlight and vanished from Griswell’s view, even as the latter tried to shout to him to come back. A ghastly whisper was the only result of his effort.

The whistling sank to a lower note, died out. Griswell heard the stairs creaking under Branner’s measured tread. Now he had reached the hallway above, for Griswell heard the clump of his feet moving along it. Suddenly the footfalls halted, and the whole night seemed to hold its breath. Then an awful scream split the stillness, and Griswell started up, echoing the cry.

The strange paralysis that had held him was broken. He took a step toward the door, then checked himself. The footfalls were resumed. Branner was coming back. He was not running. The tread was even more deliberate and measured than before. Now the stairs began to creak again. A groping hand, moving along the balustrade, came into the bar of moonlight; then another, and a ghastly thrill went through Griswell as he saw that the other hand gripped a hatchet — a hatchet which dripped blackly. Was that Branner who was coming down that stair?

Yes! The figure had moved into the bar of moonlight now, and Griswell recognized it. Then he saw Branner’s face, and a shriek burst from Griswell’s lips. Branner’s face was bloodless, corpse-like; gouts of blood dripped darkly down it; his eyes were glassy and set, and blood oozed from the great gash which cleft the crown of his head!’

I’d love to know if you followed the link and read the whole thing. If you did, what do you think? How do you feel about horror fiction? Sound off in the comments section!
(Royalty free pigeon photo found at dreamstime)

A Bit of Spook For You!

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Today, I’d like to do something different and share an excerpt of a new piece of fiction that I’m working on.
Be warned, it’s horror. Mild right now, but it’ll get freaky later.
It doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m open to suggestions. Suggest something in the comments section. When it sees publication, if I use your suggestion, you’ll get a shout-out in the acknowledgements! You could be famous…
Anyway, here’s the excerpt, please let me know what you think!

****

They say I’m mad, the people here. But I’m not. Not really. They just don’t understand because they’ve never been face to face with the evil that I have.
You asked what I saw? It wasn’t just what I saw, but what I heard and smelled. Hell, the whole thing.

Have you heard of Christina Mine? No? I’m not surprised, it’s not much now. Back in its prime it was a small village of maybe 60 buildings; a store, some homes, a train station, outbuildings for the mine, a hotel and a mill that took in logs from the surrounding woods and prepped them for the train trip south. By the time I saw the area a hundred years later all that was left was the skeleton of the mill, the train station and a boarded up entrance to the mine. The closest collection of people was ten miles away. I thought it was going to be a peaceful summer, the real estate agent never said a word about anything hinky going on before I bought the place. I thought it was just a sad, neglected train station.

I replaced the windows and doors before I ever stayed overnight. A couple of times I thought I heard kids playing in the hall, but of course, when I went to look they had left. I replaced the locks after that. The day after I replaced the locks, I was out in the front yard having a smoke and happened to glance up at the second story. When I saw someone’s face looking back at me from the corner of the window, I ran inside, grabbed my gun and charged up the stairs, mad as hell. It was my place, you know? I didn’t want kids coming back in, ruining what I’d done to fix the old place up. It never occurred to me that the closest kids would have lived ten miles away.  Of course I found no one else besides myself. I double checked the locks and kept my gun close by. It never really bothered me then.

The next time something weird happened, I was up a ladder, painting the outside of the building. I had picked up a few gallons of simple white on a trip to town and only had to wait for the right day. Well, the day finally came. The bugs were scarce, there was a slight breeze and it was as bright a day as I’d ever seen. So I set my stuff up, leaned the ladder against the building and took my tray and roller up the ladder. I had been painting for a couple of hours when I heard someone laugh, kind of a chuckle, right beside me. Like anyone else would, I looked. Of course there was no one there, I was twenty-something feet off the ground! I shrugged to myself and kept painting. When I heard the chuckle again, it came from my other side. Yeah, I looked again. Nope, no one there either. This time though, I got goose bumps up and down my arms. I got off that ladder as fast as my feet could carry me.

TBC

Brilliant Achievements Take Planning

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“If there is no dull and determined effort, there will be no brilliant achievement.”
Hsun-Tzu

When I read these words the other day, I felt my blood chill. Honestly! I used to think that line “their blood ran cold” was a load of crap. I found out otherwise.
Anyway, I spent the rest of the day thinking about that quote. I think it can apply to a lot in life, and I think every procrastinator like me can take it to heart. It can apply to writing, to becoming more self-sufficient, to crafts like knitting or clay-work, homework or…anything really.

I’ve been reading “The Shy Writer Re-Born” by C. Hope Clark, and I’ve found her inspiring as well. She gives solid advice, and because she is an introvert like me, I tend to pay more attention when she assures me that I really can lay down a plan for success in my writing. If she can do it, so can I.

If I can do it, brave ahead despite my self doubt and negative crap, you can do it too. Doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s something you believe in, you can do it.
I’m talking reasonable dreams here.
Ask yourself these things:

  • What do I want to be doing six months from now? A year? Two years?
  • What needs to happen to achieve my six month goal?
  • Do I need someone else’s help? How do I get that? Where do I have to go?
  • What can I do today or tomorrow to be one step closer to that goal?
I remember years ago, someone I trusted asked me what I wanted to be doing in five years time. I answered her with “I want to be a writer.”  She asked me, “What do you need to have that happen?”
Well, I don’t remember my answer all these years later, but whatever plan I came up with didn’t stick. At the time, I was distracted by a custody case, family court and an ever-tumultuous life. I wish now I could have stuck with it, but I wasn’t ready. So I came to my goal late, but I did eventually acquire my goal. I got a book published, my life settled down, I got a couple of articles published, I won custody of my boys, I wrote stories about a young dragon that I loved, and so did my boys.
My point here is that whatever it is, you can do it.
If J.K Rowling can write about a world of wizards, Hippogriffs, magical plants and evil magic while on a fixed income with a baby … you can figure out what you want from life and work out a plan to get it!