Monday, November 30, 2015

Support A Small Cheese Farm

I wrote a couple of years back, in April 2013, has it really been that long? about Sweetwood Farm in Blockhouse, Nova Scotia (near Mahone Bay) and my new friend, Heather Squires, who is working very, very hard towards her dream of opening a licensed cheese-making facility in order to produce fine, artisan -- and very good for you -- goat cheese products.

If you would like to support her continuing efforts, she is selling Sweetwood Farm calendars this year as a fundraiser. I'm getting one and using it as my desktop day planner so every day I get to see some fabulous faces like the ones above.
She also has pigs and guinea hens and cats -- oh, and a partner named Neil! 

I know there is a lot of pull on your hard-earned dollars this time of year but please check out the link below to learn more, and to be convinced in helping out Heather and Neil and the lovely goats, I mean, GOALS of Sweetwood Farm. They're not needy; they just have a dream they are pursuing.
Seriously, when you see the cover model, you won't be able to resist! (I certainly wasn't!)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Oh, Baby

Four years ago today was Abby's first full day in our home. I was just thinking this morning that we lost a lot of friends in the past six months - Stella, Archie and Fern. Our pets come and go because they live such short lives but they are never forgotten. And now we are lucky to have the brothers to love. Abby is still figuring them out -- two very busy cats to keep track of. But I felt she needed other animals in the house to temper her possessiveness. No plans to bring home another puppy, though. One dog, and this one particular dog, are enough. I'll just look at her puppy pictures whenever the "Puppy!" craving comes over me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Unscheduled Cleaning Day

Some of you may think the sunshine pouring in the windows is lovely but for those of us who are busy writing columns and sermons and Christmas Eve services, the sunshine pouring in the windows this morning simply could not be ignored.
Normally, I'm very good at ignoring the dust and smudges and clumps of cat hair that are suddenly lit up by the sun BUT the countdown is on to the first Sunday in Advent which means the Christmas decorations go up.
And even I, as sloppy a housekeeper as I have become (even though I don't mind cleaning, it's no longer a priority), cannot decorate a dirty house.
So while the crew that creates all the hairballs lounged around in the sunshine, soaking it up, I did some cleaning.
Okay, what I did was wipe some surfaces and note what really needed a good scrubbing once the stuff I'd rather be doing -- like writing a Christmas Eve service -- were finished.
This is the real reason why writers like rain and snow, people. We prefer our illumination to come from within. It's less distracting.

Friday, November 20, 2015

When You Don't Know What To Say

The light has dimmed, hasn't it?
It's dark all over the world. But sometimes, we have to take a step back from saving the world, trying to save strangers, from trying to change hearts and minds, and turn our attention to those right around us. Our small acts of love here at home are enough.
These are long, dark, rough days for many friends and neighbours. A daily struggle to find hope, to keep emotions from overcoming, from collapsing as you walk upstairs and sobbing your eyes out on the fifth step.
Although sometimes you just have to do that, get it over with, just sit there and be there and let that happen. Catch your breath, dry your eyes, wipe your nose on your sleeve, then stagger up and keep climbing. You have no choice, do you, but eventually you will reach the top of that difficult mountain, and whatever awaits you there, and begin the descent back to level ground.
Keep an eye out; on that climb, on that journey, while exhausting, heartbreaking, seemingly endless, there is beauty around you. Allow yourself to experience moments of joy; they will carry you through all the other moments.
Take the hugs when they are offered. Hold on to each other for 30 seconds. Restock your energy.
You may not be aware of it, and you're not expected to be these days, but there are a lot of people around you who will catch you if you fall -- who will keep you from falling in the first place. Let go and let them take care of you. 
Shut out the rest of the world; we can take care of it while you rest, while you weep, while you walk. We promise it will still be here, spinning half-out-of-control, when you are ready to return.
I'm thinking of two people specifically as I share this -- posting here because I never know what to say -- but I know others whose hearts are full of worry and pain and fear.  I never know what to say when we are face-to-face so let me do what I do best.
I wish you love like an ocean.
I wish you joy like a fountain.
I wish you peace like a river.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Shadow Goes In and Out With Me

This was the first morning since Stella died that I walked through the tree plantation. I realized I was about to to this as I lay in bed waiting for the sky to lighten enough to get up,as I lay there thinking about the day ahead and feeling pleased the day would start with a walk through the plantation again, now that it is Fall and frozen-ish, now that the bugs and flies are gone,
and that's when I remembered,
Stella is gone, too.
She loved to walk around this property, loved to eat deer poop, loved to wander by herself, to be off in her own world of smells and tastes. She had her ways, Stella did.
She never, ever listened to me. 
We battled about her total lack of recall, and about filling her belly with poop.
Yet as I dressed and headed across the lawn, I was aware, and sadly so, that today marks the first day of the Fall walk through the plantation without her. 
Because she loved to walk and greeted each day, each you-can-see-my-breath morning with enthusiasm, and later, deep-hearted devotion and courage.
I miss her. 
Her shadow walks unseen now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Milkman Cometh No More

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, by Sara Jewell.

Eldon Mundle, left, with son Jonathan next to their now-parked milk truck

             It’s more than the end of an era. It’s the end of a treasured service Eldon Mundle had hoped to pass on to his son.
            After 47 years of delivering milk products to homes and small businesses in Wallace, Pugwash and Port Howe, Eldon’s milk truck is out of business.
             “I’d bought a new truck just before Saputo bought out Scotsburn’s liquid milk division in 2013 but we were told they were going with independent distributors. I was laughing because I already was one,” Eldon says in the living room of his Pugwash Point home.”
            But last month, the Montreal-based Saputo, with its Nova Scotia office based in Stellarton, informed its drivers they had to buy their own trucks and operate on a commission set by the company, a commission Eldon says is half of what he currently makes.
            With truck expenses and a driver on salary, “I can’t afford to do it any longer with what they’re offering,” he says.
            What bothers Eldon more, however, is that Saputo has made it clear only large accounts will receive deliveries of Scotsburn milk products.
            “It’s all about numbers, not people,” he says. “I prided myself on offering a service to the public. Our driver has a key to the Sandpiper restaurant. We still have two or three senior ladies we deliver coffee cream and yogurt to at their home because they can’t get out. We’ve always done that.”
When Eldon took over Mundle’s Dairy Farm from his father, Stan, in 1968, he was already selling propane and providing milk delivery. Back then, milk was in bottles, the truck wasn’t refrigerated, and home delivery was common, no place too small for a stop.
            “Everybody got milk. Our commitment was, If you need it, we’ll get it to you,” he says.
Even if that meant heading out on the Skidoo after a storm to get milk to the Sunset Residential Community.
            A few years ago, Eldon handed the dairy farm over to his younger son, Jonathan, a father of two who turns 37 next month, and he was getting ready to hand him the keys to the milk truck.
According to Jonathan, the dairy farm isn’t affected because it’s a separate business.
“The milk delivery business was always a sideline for Dad,” he explains. “I told Dad the other day not to worry about me not having the milk truck because I have my snow removal business as my sideline.”
“When we had the big barn fire in October 1978 and had to rebuild, the income from the milk truck helped out,” remembers Eldon.
            That fire happened two months before Jonathan was born. When asked how he feels about the end of the milk truck, he surprises everyone, including himself, by getting emotional.
            “It’s upsetting to see this happen to Dad,” he explains as he wipes his eyes. “Just because he built the farm to where it is now. It doesn’t bother me to not have the milk delivery; I was continuing that on as a service to the public. As long as the milk will still be in the stores, that’s all that matters. All of a sudden, if this shore ends up with empty milk shelves? That’s what concerns me.”

**** BLOG BONUS **** Mundle's Dairy Farm: A Father-Son Operation

Mundle's Dairy Farm has been a family-run operation since the early 1950s; that means it is small and easily managed by one man with a few helpers.
"Bigger isn’t better in dairy farming,"Jonathan states. "If you’re milking 400 cows or 40 cows, your milk cheque is still in relation to your expenses. Dairy cows are treated better than any animal on this earth besides the family dog,” he says, looking down at his black Lab sprawled on the rug. “I can treat my 45 head of cattle far better than someone can treat his 450. Comfortable cows produce good quality milk.”
And like his father, Eldon, he hopes this small-scale dairy farm can become his legacy.
“I can make a living here on the farm, if nothing changes. It’s something I can hand down to my kids. 
Jonathan says when he first took over the day-to-day running of the farm, he relied on his father a lot to make sure he was doing things right but at the same time, he had his own ideas on how to run things. 
"I don't exactly work alongside him now," Eldon says. "I tell him what to do and he ignores me."
Jonathan laughs. "Then I tell him what to do and it works."
And there were changes made at the farm once Jonathan was in charge, mainly because of the demands of modernization according to Canadian Quality Milk (CQM) guidelines.
"I asked Dad if he was alright with that and there was some questions because I was going all modern," Jonathan says. "Computerized feeding and Bluetooth milking. I’m about as state-of-the-art as you can get.”
This doesn't make Eldon grumpy; it makes him proud.
“I go out in the barn when nobody’s around and just stand there and look at it. It was time for me to let go and I did,” he says. 
But turning the farm over to his son hasn't meant Eldon, now 78, puts his boots up on the footstool and simply watches from the front window. He remains as interested in the goings on of the farm as he ever was.
"I drive back through the fields like it’s still mine, even though it isn’t," he says. "But I enjoy it. I’m looking at a certain cow and coming home and telling Jonathan that she’s getting handy to calving. That’s what’s helping me in my old age.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Local Content

On magazine racks now!
             After Faron Young and his wife Joyce moved into their home in Springhill, Nova Scotia, in 2008, the large tree stump near the sidewalk at the front of their property caught Faron’s eye. He began to study the stump, its lines and angles, and within a couple of years, he knew exactly what to do with it. 
            But even Faron, a wood carver for more than 30 years, couldn’t predict what would happen once he’d carved his vision of a wood spirit into the street-facing side of the trunk, along with the words, ‘Touch for luck, health, fortune.’ Neighbours worried the unique carving would be vandalized but after three years, the wood spirit has inspired only curiousity, even devotion.
That's the opening to an article published in the latest issue of Saltscapes magazine. I've been writing for Saltscapes since 2004, and finally landed a cover story! My article about Springhill carver Faron Young, and about carving in the Maritimes, is the feature story in the current issue. It's great to see one of Faron's Santas on the cover!
Plus, the tree spirit Faron carved into a tree stump on Burton and Louise Ripley's property in Port Howe is one of the photographs with the article.
The editorial and art teams at Saltscapes are amazing to work with; I'm very fortunate to be one of their regular contributors. The staff always make my words look good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Goals & Goats

What I love most about freelance writing is the people I meet. I meet some truly interesting and inspiring people. They make the nerve-wracking work of pitching a story and the dull work of transcribing an interview worthwhile. I really do believe my cells absorb a little bit of each person I speak with, the little bit that resonates with me and that I need to remember and perhaps even possess in order to tap into in the future.
And isn't it interesting how I keep running into goats?
This is Mocha, a wethered Alpine. Isn't he handsome? He's the size of a Great Dane and quite docile, a fact I appreciate when I am standing inside a pen full of goats trying to take photos. I met Mocha, and his pen mates, a pair of Pygmy goats, while interviewing for a current writing assignment. He deserves to grace the pages of a magazine, doesn't he?
He's exactly what I would want in a pet goat, but abstractly, he helps me stay focused on my goals, which aren't to become a more prolific freelance writer but to keep working at the books.
How does a goat motivate me? If I want to fulfill my goal of having goats, I need to fulfill the more essential goal of publishing books in order to build a barn for them. Sometimes a writer needs a little more motivation than simple publication.
So while freelance writing can feel like it's keeping me from working single-mindedly on what matters most to me, it's the people and the goats -- and they stories they have to tell -- who make that work rewarding.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Starting Monday with a Nap

This pretty much sums up how I feel about the start of this week: 
It's a good day to simply crawl on top of all the projects 
and have a good, long sleep in a beam of sunshine. 

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Getting Sauced/Getting Duped

The birds did not eat our cranberries. Which is lucky for me because I'd noticed them on our high bushes several weeks ago but as is my life, if I don't act immediately on a thought -- I should pick those cranberries -- I forget immediately as I keep juggling all my ongoing projects.
I was delighted, then, to notice all these berries, ripe and red and round, hanging on the bushes as I took our wind chimes to the garden shed. (Always a moment of sadness when the wind chimes have to be put away for winter.) And I was even more delighted to realize we had so many. We were given these two bushes back in 2007 or 2008 and haven't paid much attention to them. It's fun to finally have a crop we can use.
My husband left mulching leaves with the lawnmower to help me pick.
"I"ll make a roast chicken next week," he declared.
"Oh, no, these cranberries are for Christmas," I answered.
Our first crop of homegrown cranberries deserve to be served at a special occasion. 

APPARENTLY -- and I actually suspected this as I was picking them because they are so small -- these are NOT high-bush cranberries -- do they even exist?? -- but red currants.
Red bloody currants.
What am I supposed to do with a handful of red currants?
This is what happens with FREE stuff, right? You get what you are given and it's usually a surprise.
So...if anyone wants two cups of red currants, I have some right here for the picking.
FREE -- but you will know what you are getting. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A House Without A Cat is the Real Catastrophe

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, by Sara Jewell.

      “When you’re ready, just go ahead and get another cat,” my husband said a week or so after the wood was piled in the basement.
            “Really? You want to get another cat?” Our last cat had died just a month earlier.
            “Sure,” he said. “We need a cat to catch any mice that came in with the wood.”
            Whatever his reason, it worked for me. Off I went to the computer and found an Internet full of photos of healthy adult cats languishing in cages in shelters.
I was looking at rescues based in Dartmouth and Truro and Moncton when I read a column by Terri McCormick in the Amherst News about the huge number of cats needing homes right here in Cumberland County.
            I shifted gears and headed to the Lillian Allbon Animal Shelter to meet the cats featured on its website.
            What my husband didn’t know was that I was committed not only to adopting an adult cat but also a bonded pair. Adult cats have a harder time being adopted than cute kittens and a pair who must remain together? Even harder. We have more than enough room for two cats so I was on a mission.
            On my first visit to the shelter, I sat in the cat patio with eight or so female cats who wandered around or lay there staring at me. No one strutted up to me and said, “I’m yours.”
            And I needed that. As the Abominable Snowman of cat lovers – “I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him” – my cats need to be snuggly, talkative and friendly.
            On my second visit, shelter manager Tara Gould said, “There’s a pair of brothers in the quarantine room who are a year old. Why don’t you meet them?”
            Two more visits to the shelter and the large cage in the quarantine room, including an introduction to my husband who accepted that he was being bamboozled, and I was signing adoption papers and leaving with “Remy” and “Leonard” in a large cat crate.
Adopting a cat, or two, means bringing another living creature into your household. Even if you know what you want in a feline companion, it’s difficult to really suss out the personality of a cat from a few visits to the shelter. So many of them act aloof in the knowledge that yet again, this visitor will leave and not take anyone with her.
            Within 24 hours of bringing the boys into our house, they were exploring it top to bottom, ignoring the neurotic dog – “How am I supposed to keep track of two of them?” she whined – and scarfing leftover chicken for breakfast.
            It’s been just over a month since we brought them home and it’s like they’ve been here for years. Imagine that: I found the perfect cats at a shelter. And there are so many cats I left behind who are longing to have humans to call their own.
Just like Leonard.
            If he’s somewhere in the house and can’t see or hear his brother or his people, he’ll start to call out.
            “Hello, Leonard!” I answer him.
            And he comes running. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Windblown Selfie

I don't go to the beach enough. In the off-season, I mean, when it's cold and windy and damp. I had to pick up some sand for a presentation on caregiving I'm making tomorrow (a visual about a rock and a circle and a sacred space) so Abby and I headed out to Northport in late afternoon, only to discover it was high tide. Just enough beach for a walk but the dog whined the whole time, stuck close to me -- as if the tightness of the water, the noise of the waves rushing up to us discombobulated her.
It was rather annoying, actually. When I go to the beach in November for a walk, I don't want to hear her whining; all I want is the sound of wind and waves in my ears, driving out all the thoughts and worries that aren't attached to my brain (the firmly rooted ones being the ones I want to keep in there). I don't want to hear her whining because I go to the beach to escape the whining voice in my head -- Why? Why not? When? How?
Waaaa, waaaaa, waaaaa.
I can only speak for writers but there is nothing like the beach in the off-season, in cold, damp, blustery November, to fix the slew of obstacles that sprouted up during the day. If I have a problem, a glitch, a miring I am stuck on, the beach is the place to go to work it out, to get unstuck.
And now that my memoir is turned upside down, into a totally different book, with a new beginning and a new focus, there are memories to tap into that are lying deep and dormant in my brain. It will require a lot of wind to stir them up.
I'll be going to beach more often now.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Orange You Glad It's Hunting Season?

Not particularly, even though I am married to a hunter, who is more of an observer, a welcomer, a seeker, rather than a killer.
Perhaps he won't thank me for saying that.
I like that when we went to bed last night, he said, "There is a doe and two fawns out behind the chicken coop."
We are still a place of sanctuary.
Come close, be safe. Here, put on your orange cape.