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The Plan

Even before the Canadian federal election was called, the leader of the Conservative party sent each of us in our household a separate letter outlining his recovery plan to fix everything that is wrong with Canada (except, it seems, our relationships with Indigenous peoples, the climate and the electoral system, my top three issues this election). Three more letters arrived this week. Waste of resources, waste of beautiful trees.

Thought I’d at least mine this dreck for art, so here are three found poems. I did try to construct a jolly sounding poem, but it wasn’t possible from the doom and gloom bricks I was given.

Mr. Vivian
Holding Heavily
Economic Vision

Hot enough to fry an egg

Finding our hens panting in their nesting boxes on this sweltering day reminded me I was going to make a screen door for the henhouse. Kind of late to start today, so found this mysterious screen from heaven-knows-what and stuck it in the door with clamps.

The henhouse started life as a smelt shack about 60 years ago and was my playhouse from about 1968 until I was probably far too old to be playing. It has been a henhouse for the past four years. It is in remarkably good shape for something that was basically ignored for three decades, with only a tiny bit of rot in one corner that I easily fixed with my basic carpentry skills. It could use a fresh coat of paint. And it still needs a screen door.

Kindness just happens

Last week I noticed something odd with the wood trim around our kitchen window. Our guest bedroom is above our kitchen, and on inspection I found some damp, warped hardwood floor and mould in the corner hidden behind a bedside table, sign of a radiator leak that had probably been going on for weeks, if not months.

All the gory details of how this is going to be fixed are not entirely clear or important. As the nice fellow from the disaster restoration company reminded me, there aren’t any problems with a house that can’t be fixed with time and money. We are all alive and healthy, and that is what is most important.

One of the tools I have gained from reading about Stoicism is the idea of practising how to deal with difficult people or situations. I try to remind myself each morning that I might encounter things through the day that will challenge and even upset me, and while I can’t control those things or people, I can control my reaction to them and attempt to remain calm and even-tempered, which is much better for me and those around me.

Sounds great, and sometimes I achieve that equilibrium during upsetting situations, but I got overwhelmed at one point this week and complained to Steven it was unfair and too much, that I try to be a good person and deserve better than having to deal with this complicated emergency renovation. He replied with something very helpful and profound: “This isn’t happening to you; it is just happening.”

That instantly put everything back into context, calmed me down, helped me step back and observe. These problems aren’t divine retribution, it’s just water being drawn earthward by gravity through our walls and flooring. Not ideal, but just the way water works on this planet!

While there is nothing much fun about having large chunks of walls and hardwood flooring ripped up, I am touched by how kind everyone has been, from the insurance company adjustor to the remediation company staff, building supply folks, our plumber arriving on a day off to repair the radiator, everyone helpful, gentle, good humoured, considerate. Not promising the world, not saying it is going to be easy, but saying it will all be fixed, and, most importantly, saying they will help. Kindness upon kindness.

Steven and I drove to Charlottetown yesterday to run a quick errand and escape the loud rattling dehumidifiers. We had so many pleasant interactions throughout the day, gifts literal and figurative, of time and talent and presence. It is when things aren’t going well that the kindness of others shines most brightly, and connects most deeply.

As we made our way home, we dropped into one of my favourite spots in Summerside, Samuel’s Coffee House. I was so happy to see A. behind the counter, a kind reader of this blog and an excellent writer herself. I ordered a cortado (now that I know I can!) and referencing my recent post on the matter, A. offered to make it in a glass. It was perfection, a gift just for me, made with kindness and caring. It tipped the world in my favour. Everything will be all right.

The best cortado.

It’s the little things

I searched the Miele Canada website for a replacement part for our S7000 upright vacuum cleaner. They didn’t what I needed, but they do have 3D4U, a series of 3D printing files that anyone can download from Thingiverse. These are accessories rather than spare parts: an attachment to vacuum dust while you drill a hole, smaller-than-normal nozzle attachments for cleaning, a coffee bag clip that lets you add a pouring nozzle to your bag of beans, even an attachment to help you blow soap bubbles with your vacuum!

Miele say they are the first domestic appliance manufacturer to offer 3D printing accessories. That’s a great first step, and here’s hoping Miele and all other manufacturers of everything start making free 3D printing files of their spare parts available, especially for people like me who prefer to fix things when I can to keep as much as possible out the waste stream.

It’s impossible for companies to keep every part of every machine they have ever made in stock, but they could easily make the 3D printing files available. How many small appliances get tossed every year because a knob breaks or a little part cracks? I had to toss a stick blender last year only because a cheap plastic gear stripped after a few years of occasional use. I don’t own a 3D printer, but our public library system has some available, and perhaps printing kiosks could be a small business in future (if they aren’t already).

Zip ties to the rescue

Precious Plastic and Fixing#Fashion

Great episode of BBC World Service’s People Fixing The World podcast about the Precious Plastic movement. It’s been interesting watching founder Dave Hakkens create this international open source community, then step back recently to allow others to take the reins. When I think of open source, I think more of computer code than management styles, but there would be no way for Hakkens to have created this open community and then tried to control it from above. He is letting it evolve beyond him.

Precious Plastic is now under the umbrella of One Army, which includes their new initiative to fix fast fashion waste called, sensibly, Fixing Fashion. Their website is full of information on how to mend, care for, and repurpose your clothing, with the aim to have us think of old clothes as a resource and not waste, just as Precious Plastic did.

I have been mending my clothes again of late, so this comes at the perfect time to help me advance my skills. I have a 1970s sewing machine, but have been patching by hand: holes in jeans, the elbow of a hoodie, sewing up ripped seams on t-shirts. I’m using the thread I have on hand, and am not worrying about it all looking nice or matching. I can darn socks because my mother has always knit them and I watched her keep them wearable forever by mending holes toes and heels.

My only tip to pass on is to patch or mend before a hole emerges, when the fibres are just starting to look thin, then you are reinforcing what is already there and that is much easier. This requires examining your clothes regularly as you launder them, so having fewer clothes helps.

In two generations my family went from having a closet that was just a couple of hooks behind the door to a big walk-in room. Who do we think we are, and what would the ancestors think of who we have become?

April 30

20 years ago tonight I was spending my last evening at 257 Pacific Avenue in the High Park area of Toronto. I had quit my job of seven years at the Daily Bread Food Bank and was heading to PEI with my partner (now husband), Steven. We had been together for 18 months. Soon into our relationship we talked about moving out of Toronto, probably somewhere in rural Ontario, but we changed course after a trip to PEI in August, 2000.

Being the only child of older parents (both turned 79 in 2001, my father on that April 30th), I felt a great pull to return to PEI and help them. My father was in the beginning stages of what turned into dementia, and my mother was taking on more and more responsibility, but finding it a challenge, though she was and is remarkable for her age. I was 34 and had been away from PEI for 17 years, but it was time to go home. Steven was game, so that was that.

We gave away tons of stuff before we moved, much of it to a centre in the east end of Toronto who helped people transition from homeless shelters to apartments. Friends took bits and pieces, then the movers came on April 29 and gathered up what was left. I arranged with the woman who was taking over the apartment for her to move her stuff in on April 30, as long as we could sleep there (on the floor, we were so youngish!) that night in the bedroom with our two cats, Emma and Digby.

I left the apartment in the afternoon while the new gal moved her stuff in, and went to say goodbye to friends. When I returned, the cats were freaked out by being locked in the bedroom, so we had a tense, meowy evening. I tried to get some sleep as I was going to drive us straight through to PEI (Steven has never driven). Steven was out with some pals for a goodbye dinner and he got back rather late.

After a little bit of uncomfortable dozing, we got up on May 1 at 4 a.m., shoved the cats into a carrier in the back of my red VW Golf, pointed the car east, and drove away. If you haven’t driven 1,700 km in one day with 2 yowling cats, you are missing the trip of a lifetime. By the time we reached Quebec City in the afternoon, the cats had collapsed into eternal despair and mercifully slept for a bit.

We arrived in Foxley River around 12:30 a.m. May 2, and collapsed at our family cottage where we would live that summer. My mother had left supper in the fridge, but for possibly the first and last time in my life, I was too tired to eat. Our neighbour called us at 8 a.m. the next morning to ask if we had seen their dog, and so it began on PEI, just as if I had never left.

Who wants to go for a drive? Emma giving me a warning look, while Digby remains in a coma. Gotta love the 2001 lo-fi digital camera look!

Oh brother

One of our chickens, Rosie, just swallowed a dead mouse whole. Apparently this is normal, but as its my first time seeing this, it also feels like the end times are nigh. Rosie had a terrible encounter with a rooster before she arrived here in January, so she looks like a Frankenchicken, with a patch around her head that is just bare skin. She’s an oddball, runs everywhere and annoys the other hens, but is very affectionate, except when doing pest control, and then she’s a killer. Whatever Rosie wants, Rosie gets, or else!

Out and about

Spring is here, and everyone is feeling fine. Agnetha survived the night and seems mightily improved, keeping up with the five other hens and soaking up the sun. She ate well, seemed alert, and although her crop looks rather enlarged in the photo below, it is much reduced and not full of the disgusting smelly liquid that gives sour crop its name.

Agnetha (Fältskog) leading the afternoon chicken parade, with Prue (Leith) right behind, and Clemmie (Churchill) bringing up the rear.

A plaintive meow as I was taking that photo alerted me to the fact that Sally, our tabby, was on the roof of our outbuilding. She walked back and forth, cleaned her paws, looking over the side pretending she didn’t know how she would ever make it back to earth. When she had had enough dramatics, she hopped onto the pine tree branch that hangs over the roof (and needs to be removed), and was soon scrambling down the tree trunk. Not bad for a 14-year-old moggy.

Help me!