Sunday, August 28, 2011

In other news...

Waiting to see how bad it will be, so far nothing special.

Hurricane Irene that is.

Although really, we won't know till tomorrow how bad it will be.

A friend is coming to visit for a week, she was scheduled to fly in this afternoon but last night I sent her an email suggesting that Sunday afternoon would be right in the middle of the hurricane and if it was bad it would be very bad. It's a good hour's drive to the airport, another back and they were forecasting 40-60 kph winds and heavy rain, increasing to up to 100 kph in the evening. So if her flight was delayed, well, I just didn't feel safe on the highway in that kind of weather.

So, she cancelled her flight in favour of coming Monday afternoon. The airlines are being forgiving about people cancelling flights in hurricanes.

Now it turns out that Sunday afternoon was a bit gusty but nothing really bad, and the major winds will come tonight and tomorrow. Great. I am not telling her to cancel again, I'll just suck it up. Maybe the airline will cancel, or maybe it'll be fine.

My neatly stacked firewood will probably get blown over during the night. The smaller stack behind the shed has already tipped over, I don't know how long the bigger stack will last. It is broadside to the wind direction. I've got it stacked in hopes of drying out a bit before I stick it into the shed, where there is very little air circulation. Somehow I don't think I'm going to get much traction on this.

Sam invited some friends over and we spent the afternoon eating junk food and playing Settlers of Catan: Knights and Cities. By 5.30pm two of the friends had to leave so we counted our points and declared two winners; one of them declared the other one the King since he held the capital city.

A couple of weeks ago Sam and I had supper at Rosie's restaurant, I had a Spicy Bean Wrap which was really good. The beans were mixed with mashed potato and coated with sour cream. I have become quite addicted to that odd mix: potatoes and beans. I had a potato and bean burrito last night and I think I will have another one tonight. Really must get a little variety into my diet!

Two of Sam's friends are new to the province having moved here at the beginning of the summer from the Okanagan in BC, and they played tourist for the first month that they were here. I got some advice from them as to tourist-y things I might do with my visiting friend. They recommended a couple of wineries to visit and a zoo.

There are a lot of wineries around here, one could spend a whole week just doing the wine tour and still not hitting them all. Good to have recommendations for particularly interesting ones. One that was recommended by another friend they panned, said it was not bad for scenery and tasting but so new that there were no actual vines to see. They thought that one ought to be able to see the vines as well as taste the wines.

One of them grew up in Florida and Maryland, had a bit of experience of hurricanes. He said the word from New York and Philadelphia was that this one was a dud. He didn't expect much here. The other one grew up in the Okanagan and all her family are there; she is getting frantic calls from parents worried about her in a hurricane. They don't get hurricanes there.

Yes and this isn't really a hurricane, by the time it passed through New York state it was a tropical storm and is soon to be downgraded to a post-tropical storm. Whatever that means.

A hurricane (or whatever) headed for Nova Scotia or thereabouts is always a crapshoot, you never know what you're going to get until it arrives.

Well, we'll see what tomorrow brings...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oh Jack

It was shocking to hear that Jack Layton died yesterday. He was younger than me.

Jack really turned the NDP around and had a real shot at the top, being taken out by cancer like that seems so unfair. He fought the last election hard and the party won big thanks to him, but he had to have been battling his own illness at the same time and he couldn't do both.

I hope the NDP is able to build on what Jack did, I hope that his efforts were not in vain.

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

And we'll change the world.

All my very best,
Jack Layton"

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Just back from a day and a night at a lakeside cottage, before that two nights at a seaside cottage.

The seaside cottage was the more primitive, but quite comfy and in a lovely setting. Its only downside was the terrible infestation of mosquitoes.

During the daytime with sun and a brisk breeze it was OK, but as soon as the sun dipped and the wind died, the bugs rose. We stayed indoors in the evenings, but there was no escape, they plastered themselves to every screen and when anyone went in or out, they scooted right in.

The owner of the cottage--Jean--is immune to mosquitoes, their bites cause no discomfort to her. She is mildly irritated by their buzzing around her, but that's it. Her sons seem to have inherited her immunity, but the rest of us suffered.

Anyway, it was a good time. We swam and paddled and sailed, and sat around gazing out to sea in the sun. In the evening we ate and drank ourselves silly.

Jean is 80 and still paddles her kayak regularly. She used to go to the cottage for 5-6 months every year, but now she is down to 3 months, the cold weather bothers her more. She has a paddling buddy and they regularly paddle back and forth between their cottages on opposite sides of the island. Her cottage is on a small island linked to the mainland by a causeway.

The outing to the lakeside cottage was a get-together of seven women, and the 13-year-old daughter of one of them and her friend, for nine in total. But the cottage was large and spacious with beds for all.

We noticed that all of our vehicles were red.

The lake was blessedly free of biting insects. Not entirely but a great deal better than the seaside location. There was a thunderstorm in the middle of the afternoon that we watched from indoors, but it passed and the sun came out again.

More paddling and more swimming. I love swimming in a lake. Nova Scotia lakes are very tannic which makes the water very dark. You can't see a thing when you go underwater.

I wanted to get the kayak into the lake to wash off the salt from the ocean. Three women paddled one canoe, and the two girls took the other canoe. We went down to the end of the lake and back, not very far.

We had a potluck supper the evening of the day we all arrived, and seven women can produce enough food to feed an army.

Our host was in a mood for mixed drinks, so we sampled her pina coladas, crantinis and watermelon-vodka slushes. Drums appeared and several women drummed away for an hour or so. I am not a huge fan of drums but whatever, to each his own.

There were loons calling in the evening.

Breakfast was interesting. Our host provided little 4-inch pastry shells and bowls. We each got two eggs and there were trays of chopped veggies and bacon. You mixed up your eggs and whichever chopped veggies you wanted, added a little cream and then poured it into your pastry shell. The little pies were collected on baking sheets and baked in the oven to produce individual breakfast quiches. With unlimited coffee and jugs of fruit juice, we ate our quiches and sliced cantaloupe on the screened deck.

As the sun warmed up we washed our dishes and moved to beach chairs by the lake. Chatted and swam and took group photos.

Eventually we all tore ourselves away to return to civilization. We were only a half hour drive out of town.

Isn't summer grand?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free trip to wherever

[Dobby and the grandsons on a beach in PEI, last month]

The next best thing---or maybe even a better thing---to owning a summer cottage is having friends and family who invite you to theirs. I am off to a friend's cottage today and another friend's cottage in a few days. One on the ocean and t'other on a lake.

Having grown up with a cottage on a lake I prefer a lake for swimming in, but oceans have their special charms too. And invites to summer cottages are like winning a free trip to wherever. Yay!

Sunglasses, swimsuit, booze, hamburgler buns... check!

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's a dog life

Busy busy busy! That's my excuse here. Since the last post I have had family visitors, finished the fence, gone to PEI twice, and now have Sam and his two dogs Hapi and Hiro in residence.

The dogs are huge, hairy, smelly and do not play well with others. While Dobby the boxer and the Toronto branch of the family were here we had three major dog fights where Hapi and Hiro ganged up on Dobby and had him yelping in distress. Dobby is a big dog, 80 lbs big, but Hapi and Hiro dwarf him.

I was really happy to have Dobby here, he was glad to see me and I enjoy his affectionate nature. He is not hairy and not smelly. Seeing him take a beating from Hapi and Hiro did not sit well. I am sure he was very glad to leave here and get back home to his less aggressive dogpark buddies. He had war scars to show off.

Sam thinks that given time the three dogs would have worked things out and grown to be more friendly with each other. I think he may be right but Dobby was being seriously traumatized by the process. He did have a very good vacation in PEI though.

Taking Hapi and Hiro for walks is difficult, I cannot control the two of them alone and they are aggressive toward other dogs. I would like to be able to let them off the leash but there are no places around here that I can be assured that we will not encounter other dogs. I got haltis for them but as fast as I get them on the dogs the first dog has its halti off. I tried walking them separately but Hiro howls continuously when he is alone.

My current strategy is to get them used to short separate walks wearing the halti. Sam says he notices that after a couple of days of that he already notices that Hiro is more controllable on the leash. But I don't really know what to do about their aggression toward other dogs. I wonder if they were permanently separated whether they would be less confident and less aggressive, but Sam doesn't think it will make a difference.

Wilfred delivered two cords of wood to me and we shared a bit of Harbour gossip and chatted about the dogs. He suggested electronic collars for them. That might help, but I wonder if it would make any difference through their thick fur. Also I hate the idea of electric shocks. I suppose though that it might be better than the alternatives.

Sam and I are used to living alone, sharing this house is not easy. Not only are we trying to adjust to shared living accommodations but he is adjusting to a new job that he doesn't particularly like so far. He thought it would be better than it is turning out to be.

I went to Prince Edward Island the first time to visit Isaac and Gretel at the cottage they had the use of while on vacation. Gretel's parents live in PEI and her aunt purchased the cottage a couple of summers ago for the use of all of the family. Her Dad made some extensions on the cottage, three added bedrooms and a screened in deck. He operates a wood mill and was able to use mostly wood that he had milled himself.

The cottage is set in the woods a short walk from a sandy beach, you can't see the ocean but you can hear it. Mornings we would walk with Dobby and the kids along the beach, later in the day we would go swimming there. Gretel's stepmom organized a paddle trip down a local river one sunny afternoon, I brought my kayak along for that.

We all returned to Nova Scotia after a couple of days, meeting Sam and his dogs in Truro as he drove from his home in BC. Thanks to the wonders of cell phone texting, we were able to connect at a gas station and drive the rest of the way to my house together. It was a hectic short family visit with four adults, three giant dogs and two kids.

Unbeknownst to me Sam was expecting me to dogsit for three days while he went to a wedding in Cape Breton. I had previously agreed with Isaac and Gretel to take their oldest son Tristan back to PEI to spend a couple of weeks on his grandparents farm there, so the dogsitting job was not a welcome kink in my plans. We settled on my dogsitting for one day and putting the dogs in a kennel for the remainder of the time at Sam's expense.

The dogsitting day turned out to be a rainday in which we all stayed indoors. Isaac gave me access to his Netflix account so Tristan and I watched movies all day while the dogs moped.

My second trip to PEI was fun, this time I took my bike with the intention of doing some cycling on the Confederation Trail (aka Tip-to-Tip Trail). When the trains were retired on the island the provincial government turned the train tracks into a hiking and biking trail from one end of the island to the other, hundreds of kilometers of flat, gravelled trails through farms, woodlands, marshes, bogs, barrens and small towns. Lots of little B&Bs and cafes have sprung up along the trail, along with bike and canoe rental places, information rest stops, craft and gift shops and so forth. Really quite delightful.

The towns are close enough by that you can easily bike from one to the next in an hour or so, depending on speed. I planned only to bike the part of the trail in the vicinity of the cottage and the farm, but I saw lots of bikes loaded up with gear for longer trips. People from all over, I chatted with a man from Minnesota and a couple from the UK.

My first day of biking I planned to do a bit of grocery shopping and stop at the river we had previously paddled for a swim. The second day was cooler and windier, I biked another section of the trail that bordered the Gulf shore (Gulf of St. Laurence).

On the one rainy day of my PEI stay, Gretel's stepmom came over with Tristan and three neighbour boys to play a board game with me. On my last day there Fiona the boxer (Dobby's sister, living at the farm) had nine puppies to the great delight of the four boys. One of them described how one of the pups was born in a 'plastic bag' which Fiona licked off. They wondered about the logistics of eight nipples and nine pups.

Just before leaving the island I dropped by to see Fiona and her litter, she looked kind of shocked. Perhaps I am just projecting, but that's how I would feel in her place.

Now I am playing catch-up, taking care of all the stuff that was neglected while visiting PEI and with family. Two days spent weeding, harvesting and replanting my garden, some time working with the dogs, and catching up with neglected friends.

I stopped by the hardware store to pick up a new composter I had ordered, the fellow at the customer service desk asked me what I was up to now: every time I came in I was working on some project or another. I told him I had a list, I was making my way through it. He carried the composter out to the truck and I had to let the two dogs out of the back in order to get the composter in. I managed to shove the dogs back in after the composter. Hapi likes getting into vehicles, Hiro does not so he takes some coaxing and shoving.

I am thinking that I will probably keep one of the dogs, Hapi, and send the other one home with Sam. However Sam is now talking about going to college here, meaning that he might end up staying for several years. As things stand at the moment, I do not think having him live in my basement is realistic for either of us but I do not know where he can rent an affordable place for him and Hiro. Until we work that one out I am focussing on halti-training Hiro and somehow getting the two of them to either adjust to separation or be less aggressive with other dogs, or both.

My home is full of dog hair and dog smell. As luck would have it my own sense of smell has deteriorated with age so the smell is not so irksome as it might be, but I know that visitors react to it. The dogs have recently been groomed but you'd never know it, their fur is so thick!

The dogs poop in the back yard which attracts flies, I try to clean up the messes as quickly as possible but the dogs prefer to spend the night sleeping outdoors which means that in the morning the yard is full of flies. Sam says if I got into a regular dogwalking routine they wouldn't poop in the yard, but with all the problems of walking two giant aggressive dogs, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

The list of stuff to be done before winter is full. The firewood has been delivered and needs to be stacked. Places for stacking need to be cleared of other things which in turn need to be stored somewhere yet to be determined. The dogs need rain shelter other than my tiny living room. The kitchen faucet needs to be replaced. The decks need painting or something. The usual lawn mowing and gardening tasks. Several trees need pruning. I need to build four new garden frames for next year. The basement is a mess...

I got to two plays, Beowulf and Driving Miss Daisy, and hope to get to The Vigil and Shakespeare in the Park (Halifax). I managed to get to the Kempt Shore Music Festival and I have a ticket for the Deep Roots Festival, but I missed Stanfest and will (have already?) miss the Lunenburg Folk. Next year. One weekend planned this month at a friend's cottage with a bunch of women friends, the Labour Day weekend planned with a visit from an old Ottawa friend, a weaving workshop in September and hopefully a kayak camping trip in October and somehow a weekend at Milford Lakes Lodge (I have a Groupon I need to use there).

My life has just become a busy round of projects, culture and socializing, I kind of miss the old days of reading and knitting and long walks alone. The fact that my posting here has become so sporadic and that I am not getting near as many photos in is kind of indicative. No doubt this shall pass, but I do wonder when.