Reading Farley Mowat

This summer, I’ve been on a bit of a reading spree. I’ve focused on books by one of my favourite authors Farley Mowat (1921-2014) who wrote 42 books (translated into over 26 languages) as a freelance writer over the span of 50 years. Farley Mowat was the most prolific writer in Canada and sold over 10 million books – so why wouldn’t I want to read some of his books that I’ve collected over the years! “Subjective non-fiction” and “cause-oriented” as Farley said of his writings – he was an environmental activist to be sure.

Reading FMwm

Reading The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be

Farley Mowat wrote books about animals (domesticated and wild) like caribou, owls, dogs, wolves, and whales (Owls in the Family; The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be; Never Cry Wolf; Sea of Slaughter; etc.) or books about vanishing people who we knew nothing about like the Inuit (People of the Deer; The Snow Walker; The Desperate People; No Man’s River; etc.); or books about disappearing ways of life as in the outport posts of Newfoundland (The Grey Seas Under; Bay of Spirits; The New Founde Land; etc.) ; or books which tell a tale about a place I’ve never been to like the arctic or Siberia (Walking on the Land; Sibir: My Discovery of Siberia; etc.) > stories unwritten until Farley Mowat wove words together to share his experiences with artistic flare.

I’ve accumulated a number of his books over the years and placed them lovingly on my ‘retirement’ shelf to read ‘later’. Well ‘later’ has come this summer and I’ve been reading all my Farley Mowat books like a person starving for sustenance!

WoFMwmI started off reading The World of Farley Mowat: A Selection from His Works which is a compilation of excerpts from some of his books. I read and read and read until my vision became blurred when I looked out the window! (*Note to self: get eyes examined.) I thought I’d read my favourite piece until I got to the next chapter about another book and I loved it just as much! If I have to pick, I think I liked the story of “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” best. I was intensely interested in the story of the Inuit in “People of the Deer“, too. Farley Mowat is such an amazing writer! He captures the spirit of the setting and translates it with emotion. I laughed until I cried, literally, when I read his excerpt from “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float“. I don’t think Nellie or Taylor heard me sitting there all by myself howling with laughter or they would have thought I’d gone crazy!! I enjoyed this book immensely!

 

I took a break because I recalled seeing on my bookshelves, another book by Claire Mowat, Farley’s wife, called ‘The Outport People‘ about their years living in an isolated village in Newfoundland. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this volume.

VirungawmI scoured my bookshelves for FM book #2 and decided on “Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey“. This biography about the famous Gorilla researcher in Africa was a very compelling read and worth every moment of my life spent devouring it’s pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDWWBwmSurprisingly, I found “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” deep in the corner at the back of the top shelf of one of my bookcases. I was elated because I thought I didn’t have a copy anymore! THIS is the book I’m reading right now. It’s a small paperback so it won’t take me very long to read it. I also brought upstairs to read a copy of “Tundra“. These books were clearly visible on my bookshelves and I’m wondering what other volumes lie behind other books. I’m going to spend a few hours re-organizing some bookshelves to see what I’ve got……. and make room for more.

Every few years, we enjoy watching the movie made about Mowat’s book “Never Cry Wolf” as well. I want to add that I came across this amazing movie via the National Film Board about a young family who canoes the Farley route: Finding Farley https://www.nfb.ca/film/finding_farley/.

This morning I ordered “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float; Owls in the Family; Born Naked, and Bay of Spirits from my local public library. I just HAVE to read as many of Farley Mowat’s books as possible!! I’m looking forward to the annual Book Fair in town at the end of August – I’ll be scouring the tables for more second-hand Farley Mowat books to buy! I just love reading books about the Canadian way of life – for good or for bad! I guess it’s my way of paying recognition to Canada’s 150th Birth day by learning more about my country and the people and places in it. I do believe that I’ll be reading Farley Mowat’s books for years to come……

mowat-farley-cbc-quote_1

Made In China

I went looking for a new toothbrush the other day. As with everything else I buy, I always read the label to see where it’s made. A simple toothbrush is no exception.

I prefer not to purchase anything made in China. Sadly, a lot of items are made in China these days – things from food to cosmetics to …… well, toothbrushes. How hard can it be to find a toothbrush made even in North America? Apparently, impossible, I found out. After spending my valuable time in three different stores reading the labels of every single toothbrush sold, I finally found one that was not made in China. It wasn’t made in North America either, but in Switzerland. I just shook my head at the thought of little children brushing their teeth with plastic toothbrushes made in China where the standards of food grade plastic are questionable and quite frankly, not up to Canadian expectations.

How are toothbrushes made in China actually made, I wonder? Mass production factories by people paid a fraction of a percent of what the toothbrush is sold for? ‘Slave labour’ by inmates? It’s an ethical thing for me I think.

I’m not ‘holier than thou’ because I do have products in my home that are made in China. Most of these products I bought second hand but some I purchased brand new. It’s not that I didn’t search for items made on this continent. They are just not manufactured here any longer. Factories closed years ago and production sent overseas.

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Car packed with electronics to be recycled

 

I remember when one of my sons loved to take one of those individual fruit cups to school in his lunch. His favourite was the Delmonte mixed fruit with extra cherries which was made in U.S.A..  I was shopping once and I happened to notice that they changed the packaging to a glossy cardboard so I studied it suspiciously. Yup, low and behold, it said “Made in China”! I refuse to buy food from China.

Other items can be made in China using raw materials from North America – then shipped back to us. Other times, products are made in China with materials produced or grown in China – body products, jewelry, food, and make-up come to mind. There have been ‘recalls’ or bans from our government on kid’s jewelry from China which contained unacceptable amounts of lead. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How many more products are there that haven’t been tested or meet our country’s standards.

You CAN find products made in Canada or even the northern hemisphere but you HAVE to read labels. Reading labels has been a practice of mine for decades since I began reading food labels. I wouldn’t buy any food products with sugar as one of the first three ingredients. I looked for whole grain ingredients and less sugar – back in the day, ingredients were barely listed on products and with little detail. Hence, why I moved away from packaged products to homemade.

I’m not prejudice against Chinese people, honest.

All I can say, is that it’s a continual job to read labels every time I buy something even if it’s a product that I’ve bought for years. Well, at least I have a new toothbrush.

 

1-toothbrush

Kittens

When our kids were growing up, we seemed to have kittens around every few years. It all started because our neighbour Ed’s cat had kittens and we obligingly said we’d take the cute furry, white one who we named Princess (as in Princess Leia from Star Wars > she also had a brother named Chewy, who my other neighbour Nicky adopted).
Princess was a lovely, cuddly, furry lap cat. Soon, she became a mother to Obi and Rainbow, both pure white, furry male kittens. We became a family. Before we could get Princess spayed, she gave birth to 4 more pure white, furry kittens! Sadly, Princess got hit by a car when the kittens were 4 weeks old so we started them on softened kitten food. We found homes for three of the kittens but decided to keep the ‘runt’ called Dali, who had a rough start. Life went on and soon some of our white cats began to disappear and we were left with just Obi who lived until he was 12.

Nellie&Rainbow&DaddyWM

Daddy reading Nellie and Rainbow a story 1994

 

Fast forward to this past January. A feral cat who has lived in our neighbourhood for a number of years showed up in our backyard……. with 3 kittens in tow. I figured the kitties were about 6 weeks old. They were SO cute and it was SO cold outside (January!)…….. so I couldn’t resist feeding them to give them sustenance in order to survive a brutal winter. Wouldn’t you? I couldn’t be so heartless as to turn my back on them.
Nellie gave them all names: Mother Cat, Mochi (a cute ginger cat), Mandu (striped tabby), and Dimsum (striped/slightly mottled tabby) – we called the latter two, the twins. They remained alive and feral all winter.
One day in the spring, I made a discovery: Mother Cat was a mother again to a litter of 4 more kittens who lived in the woodpile at the side of the garage! These kittens seem to be about 4-6 weeks old.  That very same day, I accidentally left the garage door open and found out the Mochi was a mother to newborn kittens when I caught her bringing several kittens into the garage! She was real fast and had two of them behind all the junk before I could stop her. I left the door open that night as she’d never been inside before and I didn’t want her freaking out – and I didn’t know how many kittens there were. But I had my car parked in there and I had to figure out another plan for her.

Mochi's babiesWM

Our ‘little sausages’

 

The wood shed. I wasn’t using the wood shed at this time of year so I hoped she would move them there (she was moving them from place to place in the garage). I opened up the back doors to the wood shed and left them open, giving her a chance to bring them inside – I even put down a little piece of foam and tiny hunk of carpet. I wasn’t disappointed because the next morning after I fed the ‘outside cats’ I snuck into the wood shed and found 4 little baby kittens who looked like sausages all lined up in a row: 2 ginger and two blackish coloured.

pettingWM

 

Mother Cat’s kittens remained beside the garage and were spooked every time we went over there to try to civilize them. They remained ‘untouchable’ and feral. But we didn’t want that to happen to these new kittens. We knew we had to get them used to humans in order to catch them to get them all spayed/neutered when the time comes. So every time Mochi was eating, we’d go into the woodshed and ‘handle’ them, getting them used to us. And, of course, we gave them names: the two ginger males are Haru and Gogooma; and the two mottled black females and Jin and Min. Slowly, they became friendly and were unafraid of us. When they began to venture outside, they would come up to us for petting. But Mochi was still staying far away from us. Mandu ran like hell any time we went outside and Dimsum had gone to live somewhere else (we’ve only seen him once since the spring). Mother Cat must have figured it was getting crowded around here so one evening she led her 4 new kittens trotting down the driveway and left! She’d come around to eat every day at first but hasn’t shown up lately.

outside playingWM

 

The worse thing is that Mochi brings home dead moles for the kittens to snack on almost every morinng! They are getting plenty of cat food but she insists on providing for her young with fresh kill. It’s disgusting to have to pick up these dead rodents with a plastic bag over my hand, put them in another plastic bag, and take them across the road and throw them into the forest. I don’t want them to eat them because it will likely give them worms or something else.
Now that we’re on the other side of summer, we knew that we’d have to make inside accommodations for these ‘outside’ kittens especially if we’re going to get them fixed in a few months. We already have an inside cat, Dante, and I’m not interested in a houseful of new cats. But they are welcome to stay in the mudroom where they will be safe from winter storms and predators. We began this week leaving the back screen door propped open and moved their food inside. They spent one day going in but mostly out and since then are quite comfortable with being indoors. Nellie even bought them a couple of kitty beds and a litter box – which they now know how to use (important for their post surgery recovery). They’ve even spent the past few nights in there quite comfortably! Even Mochi! We tease her inside with kitty-treats because we know she would freak out and rip the screen door to shreds if she was separated and left outside.

MudroomWM

 

And this morning I found scaredy-cat Mandu inside the mudroom eating too.
So now we have a whole bunch of kitties! We love watching them play and wrestle with each other then suddenly flop down for a nap. They especially love to play ‘jungle kitty’ around my spider plants out on the deck.

nappingWM
Nellie has claimed responsibility for their care, food, and vet bills.
They ARE adorable though 😉

cutiesWM

Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl. 😦

WM

Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

My Cancer Journey

I have skin cancer – a type called basal cell carcinoma.
I want to share my experience right from the beginning through my blog. Don’t worry, it won’t dominate this blog – there are recipes to share and other experiences to write about. Cancer does not define me. I won’t let it. It’s part of my whole life journey. It’s part of me. I own it.
One might think, whew, it’s only skin cancer….. good thing it’s not a more serious cancer. Cancer is cancer. Those mutant cells have now been identified in my body. I AM grateful that basal cell carcinoma has a very good success rate of treatment and survival rate of 95% at five years.
This kind of skin cancer is attributed to UV rays from sun exposure or tanning beds (which I’ve never used). Some scientists say that the sun’s rays were doing their damage decades ago unbeknownst to me. When I was a kid in the 1950s , we practically LIVED outside, summer and winter. Sunscreen hadn’t been invented yet and climate change wasn’t recognized. We played outside in the summer wearing as few clothes as possible with our bodies becoming browner as the summer progressed.

DaisyWM
I felt suspicious about a few spots on my face several years ago so I went to my former family Doctor. He thought they were insigificant, cosmetic spots and proceeded to do a freezing-like treatment on each one – it’s called Cryosurgery which uses liquid nitrogen to destroy the pre-cancerous cells. It didn’t help. I changed physicians to a young woman who was only 4 minutes from home – I ‘interviewed’ her and decided she was easy to communicate with, up-to-date on the latest research, and had no problem with addressing each other by our first names. Last year, I showed her my little ‘spots of concern’ on my face and asked for a dermatologist appointment to get them checked out. She suggested that first we try the freezing treatment (again). After a month, it was clear that it didn’t work (again) so a referral was made to a dermatologist. My concerns centered around one particular area on my upper lip which bled off-and-on and never healed completely. It looked almost like a roundish scar, but I had never been cut there. And it was growing in size.
Finally, my dermatologist appointment arrived after 8 months of waiting – I could have gone earlier into the city but I didn’t want to drive there as parking is a nightmare. The Doc walked in and introduced herself and her collegue, asking for my permission that he be there. She walked up to me sitting on the examining table half dressed and stated matter-of-factly “I see you have skin cancer”. Just like that. A family doctor couldn’t identify a suspicious skin anomaly? Anyone can ‘google’ my symptoms and get a probable answer. She checked me over but was focused on that one spot. She thought that it was a large basal cell carcinoma. Her and her collegue talked about various treatments and even called in the plastic surgeon from the clinic next door. They all agreed that Mohs surgery was called for: basically, at the Ottawa Hospital I will be under local anesthetic and the surgeon will scrape away layers of the cancer, testing it after each layer until no cancer remains. It’s quite successful for the treatment of this kind of cancer. The surgery will likely be in about 3 months.
While I was there, the dermatologist did a biopsy by injecting freezing into my upper lip and removing a portion of the cancer with a scalpel to send off to the lab for confirmation. I had no problem looking at the needle with freezing going in but when I saw her coming close to my face with the scalpel, I thought to myself “it’s okay to close your eyes now” hehehe. Then she proceeded to cauterize the area, which hurt because some of it had no freezing. I said that I shouldn’t be such a baby since I gave birth to seven children without as much as an aspirin for the pain.
She talked about sunscreen… calling for biopsy results in 3 weeks… the surgeon’s name… Mohs surgery… reconstruction…. and other things and I was worried that I wouldn’t remember it all. Then she handed me a sheet of paper where she kindly wrote it all down.
I’ve been thinking alot about being outside and gardening this summer and driving with the sun pouring through the window and forgetting to lather on my 60 SPF sunscreen and a whole lot of other things that never concerned me before.
Biopsy results confirmed basal cell carcinoma.
Let the journey begin

8wm

I Love a Real Christmas Tree!

There’s a lot of debate about Christmas trees.  Some people like an artificial tree for many reasons.  They feel that it’s less messy because there are no pine tree needles from a real Christmas tree falling all over the floor when they put up a fake Christmas tree.  Some say it’s more environmentally sound because no real tree is cut down and they reuse the same Christmas tree year after year.  Others feel that an artificial tree is easier to assemble and take down every year.  I appreciate all those reasons that fit other people’s lives.  BUT I LOVE A REAL LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE!

Searching

Searching for the Perfect Tree

Tradition.  I’ve always had a real Christmas tree for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, we used to buy a Pine tree for Christmas – they are the ones with the short needles.  I went with my Dad to the Woolco plaza parking lot and we picked out the perfect tree to bring home.  Later, after I got married, I always bought a Scotch Pine with the longer needles which didn’t seem to fall off as much.   We usually went out to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut our own tree but occasionally we bought one from a lot.  When Marty worked at a garden center once, we picked a gorgeous Balsam Fir from their selection – we hadn’t intended to buy one already cut but we couldn’t resist the urge.   One year when I was 9 months pregnant, we went out to a tree farm and picked the closest tree because I couldn’t walk too far – my poor husband was worried I’d give birth right there in the field!  Hahaha – I waited until 6 days before Christmas.  Some years, we went to a nearby Christmas tree farm where they had horse-drawn wagon rides and hot chocolate, but the commercialism of the entire operation began to nauseate me.  The whole spirit of Christmas was becoming depressing from the beginning of cutting a tree!

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Timber!

So I scouted out another Tree farm that just sold Christmas trees (and homemade wreaths) – cut and cut-yourself – at a reasonable price.  THIS is what I was searching for – driving into the tree farm fields, walking around (sometimes for a LONG time) to find that perfect tree, and sawing it down ourselves.  Some years, there is no snow while other times, there’s lots of snow to trudge through.  One year it was unusually mild around 0C degrees and another time it was -20C!  You just have to dress for the weather to stay comfortable.  There is plenty of room for everyone and the farm is never crowded like some other ‘wagon rides and hot chocolate’ Christmas tree farms.

I feel that Christmas Tree farms are very ecologically responsible.  The farmers who grow these trees use hands-on, labour-intensive practices to grown and prune their trees –  I remember my oldest son Robin working for a Christmas Tree farmer one summer, when he was a teenager, to prune them by hand.  The farmer’s livelihood depends on the seasonal sales of Christmas trees.  I support Farmers and I try to practice local consumption – Christmas trees are no exception.  After Christmas is over, I take my tree outside for the birds to land on or find shelter in for the rest of the winter.  Then in the spring, I cut off the branches and spread them around my blueberry plants.  I’d say that’s environmentally sustainable.

All my grown children and their families who live around here will drive out to the tree farm this year:  Nellie, Melvin, Sarah, Kristi, Mike, J, Josh, Taylor, Darin, Amanda, Kalia, Livi, Janet, and Frank.  After a fun afternoon searching for our perfect trees, we’ll come back home for a nice warm supper beside the toasty, wood-burning cookstove.  Our tree will have to wait till after supper to be brought into the house.  I just love the pine smell from a freshly cut Christmas tree!  Then we’ll let it warm up overnight before we decorate it.  And again, it will be the best Christmas tree ever!

Tree

The Real Price of Cheaper Oil

 

Recently, oil prices have taken a nosedive.  The price of a barrel of oil is half of what it was only 6 months ago.  I have ambivalent feelings about this when I think of the impact at the moment and in the future.

I like the lower price of gasoline as much as the next person.  Yesterday I topped up my gas tank, which I do when it gets to about half (a good practice in this frozen country).  It was only $15 and change!  A few short months ago it would have cost me $23 or so!  My pocketbook likes that.  Does that mean that I can afford to galavant all over the countryside just because it’s cheaper?  No, I don’t think so.  Why would I want to spew more polluting carbons into the atmosphere?

But I’m hoping, I’m REALLY hoping that the lower price of a barrel of oil will impact the production of oil in Canada.  Yes, OPEC – 1, Canada -0.  In fact, it already has.  The giant (mostly foreign owned) oil producers have already cut back, way back on production.  The ripple effect is being felt in the entire industry.  Unfortunately, those people who work in this oil industry are paying the price with losing their jobs.  I feel really sorry about that.   I know someone has to “take one for the team” and the “little guy” is it.

EEBeaversWM

photo by Marty

 

Something near and dear to my heart is the opposition to the Energy East Pipeline which is proposed to run from the Alberta oil sands across the county, right past my home (a couple kilometers away, and through the river that my home sits beside), to the east coast where it will be shipped overseas.  The plummet in the oil prices might be the death knell to the Energy East Pipeline project proposal because it may not be profitable.  Yeah!

With the cheap price of gasoline in North America now, does that mean that people will buy bigger vehicles (SUVs) and drive like there’s no tomorrow?  The sale of SUVs has never been more robust.  This is bad news for our environment.  With more carbons being spewed into the atmosphere, climate change will proceed more rapidly and we can expect more extreme weather.

There’s not much I can do about anything.  In fact, I can’t do a single thing about the price of a barrel of oil or Alberta oil or the Energy East pipeline or the increased production of SUVs.  I can simply choose to continue to respect our environment, drive my old Honda as little as possible, and use less oil products.

EEWM

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