Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In With A Bang

The calendar might say the New Year starts on January 1, but a calendar is a soulless being. It's never opened a new box of crayons, put on a new "starting school" outfit, or tried to keep from using a new eraser so it wouldn't get marred by pencil lead. I might be long past my childhood days of starting school right after Labour Day, and a few years past the start of a new homeschool year with my own children, but the sense of the the proper New Year starting at the beginning of September has lingered.

This year the first day of September rolled in with a bang. Quite literally. Early in the morning as I was sitting at my computer, cup of tea in hand, there was a huge thud. A bird had hit the French doors leading onto our patio, and judging by the sound it was going at full speed. I went over to the doors, almost afraid to look. There was no way a bird could have hit with that much force and still be alive. At first glance it seemed as if my worst fears were confirmed.


The little bird was splayed, with one wing sticking out at a funny angle and its legs stuck straight out. It was also struggling for breath. Almost sadder than seeing the little bird suffering like that, was seeing its mom sitting there waiting for it to get up and fly off with her.

I stayed inside, watching and hoping and despairing. There was no way the baby bird was going to make it, and I wondered if I should do the kind thing and put it out of its misery, but knowing that deep down I was too big of a coward to actually carry through with it. Then something amazing happened. The little bird sat up.


A few minutes later the mom flew off, leaving the baby bird stranded on our patio. She must have thought it would follow her, but it just sat there, looking quite lost. I decided to go out and see if I could encourage it, but it didn't help. That's when I noticed the Purple Poop. These birds had clearly been snacking in one of the nearby patches of blackberries. 


I thought it was a good sign that the bird's digestive system was working, and sure enough, a few minutes later it flew away and joined its mom. After hitting the glass so hard, I'm sure this little bird will never be the brightest one in the flock. I'm also sure we will never get the stains out of our deck. 

As long as I'm on the subject of birds, I might as well show you the swallows that have taken up residence in the rafters above the garbage dumpsters. Every time I go there I'm greeted by the sounds of their gentle chirping. I especially love how they all sit tightly bunched together, like best friends having a visit. 

Happy September!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five on Friday

I liked Amy's Five on Friday post over at Love Made My Home, so thought I would do my own version.

1.  I thought I should clear up any misunderstanding about the free drink I was consuming at that open house we crashed at the hop farm. It was an ice cold bottled water, not a beer. I am not a beer drinker. I am a cider drinker. But not a committed enough cider drinker to try that foul mixture at the lavender farm.

2. I have finished another pair of fingerless mitts. These are for the friend I went to visit in early July, the friend who is quite unwell. I noticed when I was there that she seemed to be chilled even though it was a very hot day. Her birthday is tomorrow, and I thought these mitts might help keep her warm.


3.  I saw this and thought it summed up my state of mind quite nicely. What I would like to know is what to do about the remaining 13 problems. My theory is if I worry about the 86 imaginary problems I won't have any time left to focus on the real ones.




4.  The season is slowing shifting away from summer here at our cottage. I have stressed my chillies to the point of it bordering on being chilli abuse, and I'm happy to report they are now extremely hot. The next problem is what the heck am I going to do with a couple dozen hot Thai chillies? I'm open to suggestions. The communist garden plot is winding down, but the sweet peas are going strong.


And just when they have taken down the bear warning sign at Teapot Hill, this one has gone up here at The Cottages.


It is posted at the gate between the cottages and Frost Creek, about a hundred metres from our house. Unfortunately it also happens to be the area where dogs can go off leash. I haven't stopped walking Fergus there, but for now will keep him on the leash Just In Case.

5.  I've been in a breakfast rut for months. Homemade granola and fruit, more homemade granola and fruit, and then, when I'm tired of that, I have fruit and homemade granola. I was so happy when I saw this post over at the Really Pretty Useful blog. When Kath and I were in London a few years ago, every morning we would go to the nearby Pret A Manger for breakfast. And every morning I would get a fruit cup and a granola breakfast cup. (Okay, maybe I've been stuck in this breakfast rut for more than just a few months.)


Now I can make my own version! I used a combination of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries out of my freezer, and it made a very delicious fruit compote. I think it looks quite authentic, layered in my Weck Jar.


How's your Friday?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lavender, Hops, and Uninvited Guests

Jay's sister Lynn was here over the weekend. On Saturday we decided to drive out to the local lavender farm. It's just down the road about ten kilometres, and I had been wanting to see what it was like. In terms of beauty it did not disappoint. The rows of lavender stretched out under the summer blue sky were breathtaking.


The farmer also had apple cider trees, plum trees and a huge vegetable garden, not to mention his winter's supply of wood stacked neatly nearby. There was apple cider for sale.


I'm not sure how much he was charging for this bottle. It looked a bit sketchy, so I wasn't interested in buying any. But I did note the price of the small bundles of lavender. $35!!!


However, not everything cost money. One item in particular was being given out for free, and in very large quantities. Medical advice. Lynn asked the farmer what one of the vegetables in his garden was, and he launched into a lecture on how we don't eat enough bitters any more, and "if people ate more bitters there wouldn't be all these diseases we see nowadays." That's where he lost Jay and me. We headed back to the car. In a straight line and at a rapid pace. Lynn, who has never encountered a conversation she didn't want to participate in, stayed on. She was told the vegetable was chicory, and it was good for diabetics because it contained insulin. Seriously. The guy actually said this. He must have been confusing insulin and inulin. Bottom line: don't count on your local aging hippie lavender farmer for medical advice. Google is a much better bet.

After the lavender farm we decided to keep going and see where the road would lead. We were quite surprised when we came across a hop farm, with a sign at the bottom saying there was an open house.  I'm still a farm girl at heart, so I turned into the field and parked. We were surprised to see so many people mingling about. Here are Jay and Lynn making their way to the tents.


These fields were spectacular! Row after row of hops, with the mountains as a backdrop - it was as beautiful as it was surprising. I had no idea this hop farm was just a few minutes down the road from where we live.


I love the cloud formation in this picture. It looks like someone took a paint brush and quickly swiped it across the sky.


Here's a close-up view of the hops themselves.


While I was busy taking pictures Jay and Lynn were talking to the growers. They learned quite a bit about hops and the brewing process, but probably the most interesting piece of information they managed to pick up was the fact that the open house was for brewers from around the province, and not for local residents. This left me feeling extremely guilty about the "free drink" I was holding in my hand, but not guilty enough to be sorry we had stopped. The vision of those rows of hops, the deep blue sky, and the mountains in the background will stay with me for a very long time.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hidden Gussets, Hidden Thorns

Blueberry season has finally come to an end. I'm sure you're all sick to death of pictures from our local blueberry patch. I promise no more. Well, at least not until next year. Now we're in the thick of blackberry season.

I have mixed feelings about these berries. How can something that tastes so good be so wicked to pick? Plus I've noticed that not all blackberry patches are created equally. Some have yummy berries, and others have bitter things that are reminiscent of a nasty medicine I had to take for tonsillitis when I was a child. There's a patch along the highway right by where we live, but they are awful things. This deer doesn't seem to think so though. He was standing there munching away when I drove to town this morning.


Yesterday I drove to Ladner, a small community just outside Vancouver, to visit my friend Ellen. On our list of things to do was to go pick blackberries at a local park. This sounded like a good idea. After all, Ellen knew the berries there were tasty. And the price was right, since they were free for the taking. Plus the setting was very pretty. It reminds me a bit of Scotland.


Ellen, being an experienced blackberry picker, wore a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. I, being a rookie, had on shorts. Not a good idea. For every berry I picked Ellen must have picked ten. This was partly due to the fact that no matter how careful I tried to be, hidden thorns would attack me. (If you don't think it's possible for thorns to attack, I say you've never been to a blackberry patch!)


The other reason Ellen outpicked me (spell check is stroking out over this word, but I'm sticking with it) is because I quickly discovered it was more fun to take pictures than to pick.


The main lesson I learned picking blackberries was the larger bucket of picked berries will inevitably be the one that gets knocked over. An extension of this lesson was discovering that in spite of the strength of the thorny branches they come from, blackberries are actually quite fragile and will not withstand the trauma of being dumped all over the floor of one's vehicle.

Also on the agenda for my visit was to give Ellen her birthday present. Ellen is a knitter, and we usually end up exchanging yarn or fibre. But this time I decided to actually make her something. I know how much I appreciate getting handknit items, as it's something that doesn't happen very often when you happen to be a knitter yourself.

When the latest issue of Knitty came out I knew right away I would be knitting the Hidden Gusset mitts.


I've never knit a "travelling pattern" before, and found I really enjoyed it.


These fingerless mitts should be perfect for the cool autumn days that are just around the corner.


Hopefully they make up for the bucket of spilled berries, too!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Wee Visitor

My house is very quiet. Too quiet. There are no giggles or sounds of wooden spoons banging on pans. There is no excited intake of breath every time the stuffed owl is spotted on top of the bookcase. Fergus and Jenny no longer have a miraculous source of food falling to the floor every time a meal is served. And I no longer have an early morning companion. (Lucy and I seem to be on the same internal clock, one that isn't appreciated by other members of our family.) It was a wonderful visit, but over far too soon. Here's a little glimpse of our time together.

There was a visit to the blueberry farm.


It was a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Lucy loves blueberries, but they have to be just right or she won't eat them. Not too ripe and not too green. Nothing but perfectly blue would do. Doesn't she look like a little farm girl in those overalls? They belonged to her dad when he was a toddler.



The dogs adored her. She was like manna from heaven. It didn't take them long to realize the best spot in the house was to be stationed directly under her chair. But they were interested in her even when she wasn't eating. I think Jenny viewed her as a puppy without any hair, while Fergus thought of her more as an interactive doggie toy.


I introduced her to whipped cream.


We spent time on the porch.


More than anything else though we played chase. As in, "quick, grab her before she falls or gets hurt!"


The stairs were her favourite place to play. This would have been fine if she had any sense of danger, but unfortunately she's not quite to that stage yet.


Now that she's gone you can see why things are so quiet here at our cottage.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bits and Bobs

I think it really is true that as you get older time goes by more quickly. I blinked my eyes and the two wonderful weeks with Rebekah visiting had come to an end and I found myself driving her and Anton back down to Bellingham for their flight home. (Yes, Anton's plane made it the week before, and was even on time. I'm still never flying Allegiant, even if they are giving away free tickets.) Then I checked the calendar this morning and realized August is almost halfway gone. We still have several more rounds of guests coming to stay at our Free B&B before the summer is over, but today is an "in between guests" day, so I thought I better take advantage and do a catch-up post.

Hiking

Last weekend Rebekah, Anton and I hiked to Lindeman Lake. It might sound like I'm exaggerating, but this picture doesn't even begin to do justice to the colour of the water in this lake.


Here's a close-up view of the mountains you can glimpse in the background.


There is a walk in campsite near the lake, and they had the best bear warning sign I've ever seen.


Garden

My garden is making slow but steady progress. The tomatoes are starting to ripen.


 Rudbeckia is in abundance, both at our cottage and in the common areas.


And then there are my peppers. The good news is my Thai chili plant is prolific. There are over two dozen peppers growing on it! The not so good news is they aren't hot. I did some Googling, and have discovered that peppers need to be "stressed" in order to become hot. I had no idea. I thought I was doing them a favour by watering them, but apparently not. I'm now waiting until the leaves look slightly parched before I give the plant a small drink. Hopefully all is not lost, and they will eventually become the hot peppers they were meant to be.


Knitting

Of course there is always knitting happening. I've just cast on something in this gorgeous shade of sky blue. More on this project in a future post.


I'm also working on a Tea With Jam and Bread sweater. This is the project that helped keep me warm that horrible night in Bellingham a few weeks ago when I was waiting for Rebekah's plane. The problem is, the warmth that was much appreciated during that long, cold night, isn't so great a feature on hot summer days. However, the evenings are cooler now, and I have plans to pick it up again this week.


I think that has me caught up with the happenings at the Hammond Cottage. This week Karsten, Diana and Lucy will be here, so I probably won't have a chance to post again until next weekend, but promise lots of great pictures from their visit when I do. How is summer treating you?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Let's Talk Bunnies

When I was a kid I belonged to an organization called Camp Fire Girls. It was sort of like Girl Guides/Scouts, except we didn't earn neat badges when we did projects. Instead, we got coloured beads. I'm not sure who came up with that idea, but I don't think it was a particularly good one.

I was always a little jealous of my cousin Kath, who got to be in Girl Scouts. However, when it came time for summer camp all jealous thoughts disappeared. The reason? We had Camp Sweyolakan, and it was truly a magical place. At least it seemed that way when I was a young girl. The camp was just for Camp Fire Girls. No Scouts were allowed, no matter how many neat badges they had earned during the year.

I jokingly said to Rebekah a couple days ago that our time together has felt a bit like being at summer camp. No summer camp would be complete without some craft time, so when Rebekah asked if I might have some yarn in my stash for her to make some Bunny Nuggets for Lucy I said I thought I might possibly be able to find some. (Please note this would be the observational equivalent of the captain of the Titanic saying he thought they would just stop off the coast of Newfoundland for a while.) Rebekah chose some colours and set to work.


The trio of bunnies is now sitting on my dresser, waiting for Lucy's arrival next week.

Rebekah's bunnies were cute, quick, and will no doubt be played with and enjoyed by Lucy. My rabbit project looks like insanity next to hers. Instead of stash busting for materials, I sent away for a kit. As far as being quick, well, all I can say is "if only." I ordered the Maggie Rabbit kit over a year ago, fully intending to have it done for Lucy for Christmas. That goal got downgraded to her birthday, which I am embarrassed to admit has now come and gone. The craziest thing about my rabbit is it isn't even something Lucy can play with. It's meant to be a decoration, not a stuffed animal a child can sleep or play with.

The process of making the rabbits (I decided making one wasn't going to be painful enough, so had ordered two kits) was excruciating. I don't care for hand sewing, which is how these rabbits are put together. In the spring I finally got some momentum and finished the blanket stitch around the body and the limbs. Then I did something no crafter should ever do. I stopped. Instead of stuffing the bits, sewing them together, and making the boots, I shoved it all into a bag and lied to myself. You know the one - "I'll work on it again in a few days." When I pulled it back out last week, a full three months later, this is what I had to work with.


I wish I could tell you the rest of the project went smoothly, but that would be an even bigger lie than me telling myself I was going to pull it out and work on it again right away. I got rid of almost all of my sewing stuff before I moved, and only had two embroidery needles left. As I sat on the porch stuffing and stitching I looked down at the wood floor planks and had the thought, "If I drop the needle it's going to fall through the cracks and be lost forever." Not more than three seconds later something happened (I'm still not sure what), and the needle flipped out of my hand and went directly through the very crack I had been looking at.

Then there were the limbs. I got the arms on with very little trouble, but the legs were a different story. They didn't want to stay in place while I stitched them, which made me want to say bad words. Many bad words. Then, after holding the first rabbit up to admire it, and seeing I had managed to sew one leg on the wrong way, I did say bad words. Many bad words.

After reading this you may be wondering why I chose a project I was ill-equipped to make, and that is ill-suited for the recipient. It's simple. The cute factor outweighs everything I just wrote about. I love these rabbits! One is for Lucy, and the other is going to stay on my fireplace mantle.


The most difficult thing to make turned out to also be my favourite: the boots.


So Lucy, I'm sorry your first birthday present is going to be late and, from the perspective of a one year old, completely useless. I wish I could promise you that this is going to be the only late and useless gift you get from your Nana. But that would be another lie.

Happy Birthday Lucy!