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My top 10 Spring Break activities that actually happened

So I’ve been writing this post in my head over the past few days, while weeding the strawberries of nettles (I am, by no means, against the nettle plant.  I am, however, against all sharp and spiny and stingy [not stingy as in miserly, but sting-y, as in nettle-y] plants interspersed with my berries or my flowers.  NOT FAIR.), or while formatting pictures for this poster I had to do for school, or while driving up and down that island beside this island.  So I have ideas about this post, but they’re all pretty meandering.  I would not be surprised if the post is the same, even if it makes a claim to be a list.  Just thought you should know.

Climbing rose

Climbing rose

Kerri’s top 10 Spring break activities that actually happened

10.  Finishing my poster.  I had to do this poster for my Master’s.  It took way longer than I thought it would.  I finished it.  It was pretty.  It felt good.  Now I have this poster that I spent 2 days making and I don’t know what to do with it.  I guess there is always the woodstove.

Baby asparagus.  Only 2 more years!

Baby asparagus. Only 2 more years!

9. I got my haircut.  I’ve been wanting to cut my hair for a long time.  My mom told me not to shave any parts of it.  Then she said that I shouldn’t listen to her.  So I didn’t.

8.  Weeding the strawberries of nettles.  Also the blueberries of wild blackberry.  While I, for the most part, enjoy weeding, I especially enjoy weeding when the roots are really long and tangly, and the ground is pretty soft, and the weeds themselves are pretty big.  I like getting a big pile of weeds without a lot of work, especially when a significant part of that pile is root mass.  I get enjoyment out of it similar to the enjoyment I get when I pop an awesome pimple.  You should try it sometime.  The weeding part I mean.  We have lots of blackberries you can try it on, anytime.

Tractor sign.

Tractor sign.

7.  Beer on a patio.  In the sun.  A whole lot of years (6?  7?  I don’t remember) Jer and I went on our first date on Easter weekend.  We had beers on a patio in the sunshine.  A seagull shat in my beer.  Friends joined us and things got raucous.  It was an amazing day.  This was not that, but it was beers, on a patio, in the sun, with friends.  In April.  Win.

Jeremy made me alder buttons for my sweater.  I win.

Jeremy made me alder buttons for my sweater. I win.

6.  Fancy cocktails with friendfamily in the city.  I like fancy cocktails.  I like beer too, but fancy cocktails are special, and when we were in Calgary we went out with my cousin to a hip place and got to pretend that we weren’t bumpkins for a few hours, and there was a painting of a turtle in a suit, and we drank cocktails with names like “The Dirty Pigeon” (with tamarind and a salty cucumber!) and “The Meat Hook” and “Corn and Oil” and it was a lot of fun.  It made me feel young.

I made me a sweater.  It's orange.  It has handmade, homegrown buttons on it.  Seriously.  I win.

I made me a sweater. It’s orange. It has handmade, homegrown buttons on it. Seriously. I win.

5.  Rock and stick throwing parties.  When we got our land stumped last year, a bunch of rocks came to the surface.  Some sticks too.  Then Jer bought a tractor.  Rocks and tractors don’t get along so well, so I decided to have a rock and stick throwing party.  I thought friends would figure that I wanted them to work for me for free.  They didn’t.  One of them even googled “rock and stick throwing party” before deciding that it was probably a weird Denman Island thing, and hoped that it wasn’t going to be too competitive… I think it’s awesome that my friends trust me enough that I can host a work party with an unclear name and they’ll come and work… before going to the beach and drinking beer in the sun.

See?  Homemade sweater, homegrown buttons.  Orange.  WIN.

See? Homemade sweater, homegrown buttons. Orange. WIN.

4.  Planting all of the flowers.  Well, not ALL of the flowers.  But lots of trays of the flowers, and 2 50-foot rows of the flowers, and there are still all of the flowers coming in the mail.  My lilies are dividing and conquering and growing tall, and my starts are starting and they’re coming.  It’s going to happen!  Be ready for all of the flowers!

"Goats, eating fire-starter".  Almost "Goats, on a fire."

“Goats, eating fire-starter”. Almost “Goats, on a fire.”

3.  No diggity by a campfire.  In harmony.  On an acoustic guitar.  That is all.

2.  Hiking in the mountains.  In the sunshine.  On Vancouver Island with a friend and in Canmore with my mom.  To lakes.  In the sunshine.

The rhubarb is growing!

The rhubarb is growing!

1.  Not working, and especially not commuting.  Do you know how much time I would have in my life if I didn’t spend 5 days a week going to work?  I could ACTUALLY plant all of the flowers.  The blackberries would be exiled to the fences.  The nettles to beyond the fences.  I would knit all of the sweaters and blankets and shawls and hats and socks.  I would hike all of the mountains.  I would drink all of the cocktails and sleep in for all of the mornings.  Until at least 7.  I would miss my job, as I do (a little) right now, especially after drinking all of the cocktails and buying all of the yarn for all of the sweaters.  I would miss my job, but one of the best things about having a job is the days you don’t have to go.

This carrot top was haunted.  Naturally.  As in we didn't carve that face.

This carrot top was haunted. Naturally. As in we didn’t carve that face.

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The lack of fingernail dirt

I knew when I started my Masters that I would be giving some things up… namely the month of July and the joy of dirty fingers and toes, music festivals and late nights and lake swims and beach fires that month entails.  I knew that I would be living in Nanaimo for the month of July, completing two courses, and I knew it would be hard. Of course I knew that the schoolyear part of the year was going to be hard too.  Life already seemed full before I went back to school… being a farmer and a full-time teacher was a lot.  2 and a half hours of commuting every day takes a sizable chunk out of my waking hours… I was busy last year.  I remember being busy.  At least I think I remember being busy. This year I’m busy.  Like officially seriously busy.  Like I don’t write a blog anymore busy.  Like there has been a serious lack of dirt under my nails busy.  I don’t take many pictures either.  I don’t walk my dog enough and I certainly don’t do enough dishes… although I have done them twice in the past 10 days (and Jeremy didn’t even have to rewash them), so that must count for something, right?  I do still knit.  Every day.  I don’t know how busy I would have to get in order for that to stop.  I don’t actually know if it’s possible – I would probably just sleep less.  I think I already am sleeping less.  Hrm… Things are good.  I’m not going to tell you what things, or how good, but they are.  Spring break is coming up and Jeremy is planning a trip and I don’t have to and my dog is coming with us and that makes me happy.  I’ve (almost) finished 2 out of 5 chapters of my thesis, and that also makes me happy.  I just finished knitting an orange cardigan and it’s the prettiest thing and Jeremy’s going to make me alder wood buttons and, well… orange cardigan with handmade buttons?  And then there’s the flowers… my hyacinths are blooming and I think they have the prettiest smell in the universe, and my lilies are all poking their heads out of the ground, and so are all of these other plants that I remember planting but didn’t label (because I’m like that), and we have trays and trays of seeds in the windows (including 3 of flowers) and they’re all sprouting and my fingernails are still clean and I should probably go do something about that 2nd chapter that’s (almost) finished, because soon almost won’t be enough, but not before I give you some pictures. I’ll try to come back soon.

The gift of laundry

I’m tired.  Almost flattened kind of tired.  We had a whole lot of lovely friends show up yesterday, and it was awesome, but after the holidays (which were amazing, and super easy, but still exhausting… you know what opening presents and eating rich foods is like, and if you don’t at this time of year, you should invite yourself to my house and I’ll show you) it was… well, tiring.  There is a chance that I’m mostly tired because I carried a three year old friend up the big hill from the beach, but I’m going to blame it on the holidays.

Dapper explorers on the beach

One of my favourite parts of the holidays was giving Jeremy’s brother a sweater I had knit for him.  He asked me to knit him one 2 summers ago, so last year for Christmas I gave him yarn, and then this year I gave him the sweater.  It’s the EXACT same sweater that I knit for Jer a couple of years ago, and taking photos of the two of them at the beach was awesome.

Matching sweaters

One of my other favourite parts of the holidays was the ridiculous dog bone that our neighbour got Mia.  Smoked cow knuckle.  She devoured it in a morning and didn’t poop right for 2 days.  She’s (almost) back on track.  That may have been too much information.  Sorry.

Cow knuckle

Jer’s brother also got a chainsaw mill for Christmas.  He came over and used it with Jer’s chainsaw.  Now Jeremy is ogling one of his own on the internet.  I got a new laundry rack on pulleys that attaches to the ceiling.  It’s really cool.  I did laundry on Christmas day to try it out.  I’m not guaranteeing how long THAT’S going to last, and it certainly didn’t convince me to put the laundry away… I don’t know what kind of gift that would take.   Chainsaw mill

The things that are awesome and the things that aren’t

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s rained a lot over here on the west coast as of late.  We got over 300 mm of rain in 36 hoursMaple tree coming down last week, and another rain warning came in yesterday.  300 mm of rain is enough to make a big mess. Our neighbours’ driveway washed out, a bunch of trees came down because the ground was just too saturated with water, and the town of Courtenay declared a state of emergency.  Thank goodness we had just had the big maple that kept dropping branches on our driveway taken down, because I wonder whether it woThen the whole thing came downuld have fallen (on our house) in the storm.  I kept waiting for school to be cancelled, but it wasn’t.  Anyways, after all of that rain, a day of sunshine seemed like an incredible miracle.  That was today.  It was sunny.  It was miraculous.  We went for a walk.  In the sunshine.  With our friends.  Being on vacation is awesome.

The branches came off first

A very full pond

Things that aren’t awesome are dick roosters who attack people who are here visiting, and then attack me on the bottom of my foot so I step on them and then feel trapped with this angry rooster under my foot until Jeremy comes to save me.  I don’t know who won that fight.  I think most spectators would say that the rooster won, even though I was the one stepping on him.  When we’re eating him for dinner, maybe then I’ll have won.

Tree down on the fence

Another thing that isn’t awesome is a hawk eating our chickens.  After the dick rooster incident we found a pile of feathers.  Then we found a half-eaten chicken.  Damn.

Driveway disappeared

The seasonal ditch became a river

Other things that are awesome include everything.  Jeremy let me get the Christmas tree I wantedWet woods this year, and it’s so tall that, after we cut a foot off the bottom, it extends into our skylight.  It’s amazing.  Plus,          I have an amazing job, an amazing partner, an amazing dog (she did NOT eat this chicken.  This isn’t one of those “we think it’s a hawk but really it’s our dog” chicken deaths), an amazing family, amazing friends, and am just pretty darn lucky all the time.  And then the sun came out

The plight of the summer squash

There’s a jokGarden camp-oute that goes around our island (I must have heard it over a dozen times now, from over a dozen different people), and probably every other place where most people are growing at least some of their own food – that the only time of year you have to lock your car is in the height of summer, and it’s not to keep your loose change or smelly gumboots or bag of dried fruit that’s been baked every day in the hot sun safe.  It’s to keep your neighbours, near or far, from gifting you their surplus summer squash.  I experienced this first hand growing up in the suburbs of Calgary, as we had a small garden plot on the south wall of our house.  I Strawflowers and cornflowers, hanging from my ceiling to dryremember growing rhubarb and strawberries and beets.  I remember growing zucchini, and I remember my father giving them to me and asking me to go knock on our neighbours’ doors to profer them up.  I think he may have been afraid to go himself, as he would have come home with his arms full… it’s harder to say no to a cute little redheaded girl than to a full-grown man with a zucchini the size of his arm.

I’ve known about the ferocious growthCornflowers of zucchini and it’s kin since I was a child.  I’ve known about it’s reputation, but our zucchini didn’t grow that well last summer, and one of our farmer friends happened to tell us that his most financially productive crop, when the amount of time spent weeding and pruning and tending and babying and harvesting is taken into account, is summer squash.  So when Jeremy planted out his first tray this year, and asked me whether he needed to plant any more, I said “Sure!  We’ll just pick them small!  They’re delicious!  I love zucchini!”

Remember.  It was March.  I hadn’t had a summer squash in going on 8 months.  Remember.  Our squash had a terrible year last year.  Remember.  I didn’t grow up on a farm.  I only ever had 2 or 3 plants as a child.

I didn’t remember all of the warnings I’d been given.  I didn’t remember wandering the block as a child, gifting these edible clubs away.  Leek flower, going to seed I think Jer ended up planting close to 40 plants.  You should SEE the zucchini we have.  And only 2/3 of the plants are producing.  We are going to be eating zucchini in everything.  Our chickens are going to be eating zucchini.  Our neighbourhood chickens are going to be eating our zucchini.  Our dog is going to be eating zucchini.  Our fellow islanders had better be locking their car doors or they will be eating (or composting) our zucchini too.

It’s not actually that bad.  Yet.  I still love zucchini.  I’m still willing to eat it every day – grilled, stir-fried, on pizza, grated, in cake… but I am a little worried about when we miss a picking or two.

Summer sunflower, complete with beeOn a completely separate note, my flowers are ROCKING and they make me happier than even I thought was possible.  I’ve been perusing these flower blogs, and I read something interesting on one of them… it talked about how we need to change the concept of flowers as being something indulgent.  The world needs flowers.  We all need flowers.  The joy I get out of walking by my sweet pea patch or smelling them on my backsplash, washing the dishes is incalculable.  Every time I see the explosion of colour from my zinniaZinnias I feel the urge (and often succumb to it) to call Jeremy over to show him.  I had no idea how happy my flowers would make me.  I had no idea how much of a difference it would make to my kitchen to have a bouquet in it every week that came from seeds or bulbs I (or my mother-in-law) planted.  Flowers are no longer an indulgence to me, no more than coffee is (Jeremy says that he thinks of coffee as a pretty sweet indulgence… I think he’s crazy, because indulgences aren’t for the everyday… but we’ll just disagree on that point) – they’ve become part of my everyday… and one of the parts that makes me happiest.

Pattern - All About Love Yarn - Handmaiden Casbah in Amber

Pattern – All About Love
Yarn – Handmaiden Casbah in Amber

Report cards for brunch

It’s taken longer than I expected to get to this place… the place where I’m ready to share.  June was hard.  Harder than Junes normally are, and I didn’t even have to write “real” report cards.  “Real” report cards make everything hard, even spring, with its flowers and salads and colours and birds and long, long days.  This June eclipsed any report card.  This June ate report cards for brunch – the kind of hungover brunch that happens after a wedding, hours later than you should be eating, with terrible coffee and gross food and screaming children… not a nice brunch.  Not a nice June.

I was really hopeful that July was going to be better.  And don’t get me wrong.  There were parts of July that were awesome.  There are going to be more parts of July that are going to be even more awesome.  There are just other parts of July that are stupid and dumb and that are no better than a shitty June.

BC teachers are still on strike.  Doesn’t look like this is going to change any time soon.  I still don’t have a job.  Doesn’t look like that’s going to change either.  There you go.  June sucked, July sucks, let’s get on with all of those other things.

We had WWOOFERS.  They were awesome.  Jer and I wrote a list, like we often do, but this list was not a normal list.  Almost every single item on this list got crossed off.  That was astonishing.

I drank beer in the shade of a beautiful porch with a great friend.  I had coffee on a sunny patio with another friend.  I’m selling flowers, and we’re selling vegetables, and I’m knitting all of the things.  My gladiolas are blooming, my sunflowers are blooming, my sweet peas are going NUTS (if only you could smell them).  We’re eating garlic and potatoes and zucchini is starting to come out of our ears.  I have brown-eyed susans and broad beans and beets and kohlrabi.  My neighbour has raspberries and she lets me pick them.  Then she lets me eat them.  I’ve given up showering and my feet are filthy (these are both highlights, not lowlights, for all of you “city” folk).  The hammock is up and I had a beer in it this afternoon reading a summer book.  Our baby chickens are getting bigger and we built them a run.  We’ve gone canoeing, and we’ve gone swimming.  I’m going to Hornby tomorrow with friends and Jer and my dog and I’m going to swim in the ocean.  I spend time watching soccer and I only feel small amounts of guilt.  I cracked so many hazelnuts I got a blister.

I think I just wrote all of those things to prove that July really isn’t so bad.  There were just a few bad moments, and they’re hard to forget.  From here on out though, it’s all the good type of brunch.  More pictures soon.

They're 3 weeks bigger now...

They’re 3 weeks bigger now…

First carrots!

Chicken run

It’s hard to weed with your eyes closed

I was lying in bed early this morning, wishing that I was sleeping, trying really hard not to think about how I don’t have a job for next year and failing miserably.  I decided, as I have many times in similar situations, that I really need to start meditating again.  I remembered the place I was in in the spring of 2008 and how 10 days of silence, attempting to clear my mind and feel everything in equanimity changed that place.  I remembered the peace and the feeling of satisfaction that spread through me.  So I sat up and spent 10 minutes trying to find that place… then I heard the coffee percolating downstairs and whatever clarity I was muddling towards vanished and was replaced with the fog that precedes my morning coffee.  So I got up and drank my coffee and forgot about meditating, and about not having a job for that matter.

I ended up in the garden, and wandered around aimlessly for a bit.  Jer was gone for the morning, and as I haven’t been around a lot lately, physically or mentally, I am not sure of the priorities.  I know that blueberries are to be dug, I know that everything is to be watered, I know that lots of things are to be seeded or transplanted, but I don’t know what or where or how to do it so that it doesn’t have to be done again.  So I sat down to weed the onions.  I pulled grass and buttercup and thistles and bindweed, and I did it slowly and peacefully (if one can call causing the death of many living plants peaceful).  I got dirt under my fingernails and between my toes and it made me feel better.  Not all better better, but some better.

I went to get a massage recently because my carpal tunnel, caused by treeplanting, compounded by knitting, revigorated by gardening has flared.  My massage therapist asked me what it feels like when I stop knitting and stop gardening.  I looked at her questioningly… stopped knitting?  Stopped?  Like took a break?  I knit when I read, when I play cards, when I’m sitting on the ferry.  Sometimes I knit at red lights.  Stop?  It made me think about whether I glorify the act of being busy, but I don’t think I do.  I choose to do slow things, like knitting and growing organic food.  I choose to sit on my bum and weed onions by hand.  I choose to do lots of things that keep me busy, but they’re meditative for me.  I don’t know if actual meditation – the kind I did in Bolivia, sitting still for an hour to clear my mind – is what I need.  I think I just need to get dirt under my fingernails every day.

Here’s some pictures.

The pictures pretty much tell the story of our lives lately – it’s been hot, so Jer jumped in the pond.  Some plants are doing well, but it’s hot and dry, so lots of others are struggling through.  The kale’s not so juicy, and the salad greens are confused.  We had our first farmer’s market of the year, but for a long variety of reasons we didn’t have many vegetables… so we made jam.  Frogs are filling up the pond, and that’s about all of the exciting details!