Four Thousand Views-One Hundred Seventy Five Days

I started blogging some 175 days ago when my friends at my workplace set up a blog site for me as a farewell gift.  I then moved on from the sphere of full-time work and am now 5+ months into what I am calling my Next Chapter.

My ignorance of blogging knew no bounds as I began blogging and some might say there’s been little change in my level of understanding.  If you blog, the literature suggests you are encouraged to pick a theme.  I read a blog that is all about baking and eating and it’s very good-I have baked from her recipes.

I started out thinking the blog would be focused on my experience of eating my way through the dessert counter at Simply Biscotti, a local coffee shop/bistro in Little Italy, Ottawa, Ontario. Well, the best laid plans of mice and man… the blog morphed pretty quickly into more of a life-beyond-full-time-work blog.  It’s not gone viral-like some of the things we hear of that have gone viral…and that may well be a good thing.  But it’s been a chance for me to observe and report of a life’s experience when not in the workplace full-time.  In retrospect, it’s not surprising I don’t have a single theme, like gardening or golfing or cycling or quilting or cooking or Simply Biscotti or hiking or cross-country skiing, or, or because there are so many things to experience when you are writing a new chapter in your life.  In a way my career was a bit like that-when people would ask me about my career I would say my resume looked like I couldn’t keep a job.  I was always looking for something new after a while-a new adventure, a new horizon and only once did I stay long enough to get a 10 year pin.  I’m proud of that (although my manager had to work a bit of magic to convince the powers that it really was 10 years).

But back to the blog and the stats.  In the 175 days there have now been over 4,000 views!!  While not viral, there are people having a look.  I know people are looking because there are things like Site Stats and Akismet Stats that tell me how many views per day and which blogs are most frequently viewed.  I know because people have left comments and a number of sent emails directly to me.  I am thrilled that you and others have looked once..or twice…or maybe routinely. My husband says the views are likely made up of my own 3,900 views and the 6 times he has looked and a few miscellaneous viewers who stumbled on the site by mistake.  Well he didn’t really say that but that was the gist of it. I showed him the bit on Word Press that says they don’t count my views on the site.

Another friend who has more experience in blogging posted detailed stats about his blog recently.  I don’t know how to find those stats yet but I plan to learn over time.  I do know though that the blog titled Scotch and Chocolate keeps getting viewed.  And I see now that Carol Anderson of GrapeScot who led the scotch and chocolate tasting has provided a link to my blog through one of hers….this is the world of blogging. I wonder if I could do a blog about drinking scotch and eating chocolate after cycling to the garden and then finishing the day with a treat from Simply Biscotti.

Any thoughts on what I should write about next?

Bonnie’s Lavender Farm

A Place to Lay My Head

I recently wrote about attending a class at the School of the Arts in Haliburton, ON.  I needed a place to stay during the week-long course.  The school provides a list of  places that offer accommodation.  It is a very long list.  The school has the following proviso included in the list:

Your choice of accommodation should be the result of many questions asked of your host. You are advised to discuss accommodation requirements, cancellation policies and meals with the host in advance to ensure that your visit will be everything you expect it to be. The list and information here is intended for the use of students registered at The School of The Arts. The accommodations listed have not been inspected by the college.

Bonnie’s Lavender Farm

Ultimately I booked a room with Bonnie of Bonnie’s Lavender Farm.  The description from the school’s list of accommodations: 

Room for rent, charming country bungalow. ‘Bonnie’s Lavender Farm’, make yourself at home. Located on private 10 acres, whimsical gardens, candyman (Llama) welcomes artists.

Mental Images-How Far Off Can They Be?

A lavender farm, whimsical, pet llama…I started to form a mental image.  Bonnie would likely have long hair, she’d wear a big floppy straw hat, a long flowing summer dress and on her feet-Birkenstocks.  As I drove towards her home on the first night, little did I know what an interesting person I was about to meet.  The only part I got right was the long hair.  As I turned into the driveway and parked in a pretty, well-tended yard with a powder blue garage. Yes, there was the corral with a llama looking out at me.  Here’s a picture of the garage with a couple of the many bat houses that hang there along with the lilies in front of the veranda.

Bonnie met me on the veranda and when I went inside I was greeted by dogs barking, lots of dogs barking.   Dogs barking upstairs and downstairs.  I recall the information saying the owner has pets.  The upstairs dog was a black standard poodle named Dancer.  The dogs downstairs Bonnie said were German shepherds.  They were trained as personal protection dogs and in my first few moments their barking sounded distinctly like “Don’t you bother Bonnie and don’t you make me come up there and get you!!”.  I kept my distance from those downstairs dogs for the rest of the week.  

So, What Do You Do?

And so, throughout my week’s stay at Bonnie’s Lavender farm, I got to know Bonnie a bit.  The more we talked, the more questions I asked.  The more I saw, the more questions I asked. Bonnie has done many things over the years.  She has trained thoroughbred horses and various animals for television.  She has raised dogs and trained dogs for personal protection and for drug and land mine detection.  She currently trains standard poodles.  That by itself sounds like quite a bit. It continues.  Bonnie has operated farms in a few different places and on those farms she has raised sheep and bison.  There was some commercial photography in there too.  

Artists Welcome 

Bonnie welcomes artists (yes I know,  I was the exception) and you can see why.  She is an artist….and a craftsperson.  She loves to paint-not just the home she largely renovated but almost everything in the home and yard.  

She has painted her fridge pastel green, her coffee maker is pastel green, and much to the surprise of the local mechanic, her International Harvester (IH) normally red tractor got painted green.  Die hard IH enthusiasts would be mortified.  At one point I told Bonnie that I needed to keep moving when in the house, lest she paint me if I sat in one spot too long.

Other art/crafts from Bonnie include outdoor art-things you can display in your garden, the bat houses you saw in the picture above, chain saw sculpture (done with her chain saw, of course), smaller wood figures done with her jigsaw, larger items like her dining room table and cupboards for displaying her products.  She said she’s done using a ripsaw as during a recent project it sent a chunk of wood zinging past her head.  She crochets quilts.  It might have been easier to list what she isn’t capable of doing.  While I went to school to learn about art composition, colour and other theory, Bonnie just seems to innately know those things.  On a piece of plywood she had cut out and painted a bear and it sits in her yard.  When I first saw it I waited to see if it would move.  It didn’t.  And neither did the two bear that she has shot when they were in the yard and after her sheep.  

An Independent Spirit

The week with Bonnie was very interesting.  She talked of her regular monitoring of the shopping channel and then, in the next breath, her interest in the writing of Deepak Chopra.  I have no idea when she has the chance to do any of it after she has maintained her farm and pursued the arts and crafts.  Maybe she reads while operating her wood splitter. 

Ah yes and about the lavender.  She does grow lavender.  She sells lavender plants as well as her handmade soaps and lotions and creams and sachets and greeting cards and other things.  She carefully wraps each product and puts it in a bag she has decorated and finally inserts a little handwritten saying she picks from a jar she has filled with same.

Who knows who you will meet when you are beyond full-time work and you have the opportunity to spend a week taking a course and staying at a farm.

Bonnie’s lavender farm. Lavender-yes.   Shrinking violet-no way.  Thanks Bonnie.

Bonnie and Dancer

Dusting the wheels on the fridge-a true story

Sayings that take on a life of their own

It is my observation that families and/or people who have known each other a long time and shared many experiences end up with some unique words or phrases in their vocabularies.  The phrase might be the result of someone making a mistake in the use of a word…or an idiom gone wrong and then over time the phrase becomes normalized within the group or family.  In fact it becomes so “normal” that it’s used without thought or thinking that you might need to explain the phrase to those who aren’t aware of the history.

In our family a few of those off-kilter phrases are:

  • If you give a man an inch, he’ll take a rope RATHER THAN if you give a man an inch, he’ll take a mile.  A mistake someone made once in the presence of my mother and so 60 years later, the phrase lives on in our vernacular.
  • Pronunciations we know are wrong but we use them either for effect or automatically leaving the listener wondering about knowledge our grammar. One such word is fingernilefail RATHER THAN fingernail file.  
  • </. Our mother used the former and now I have to think hard before using the word at all.

    And so we come to Dusting The Wheels On The Fridge. Years ago when we were invited to our dear friends' home for dinner we arrived to find them in the middle of a marital "discussion". It went something like this-he felt they should be focussing on the dinner party preparations for the evening. She (according to her husband) was spending the limited time cleaning things and doing tasks that were not on the critical path to a successful evening. He coined the phrase and asked her to stop "dusting the wheels on the fridge!"

    It is a phrase we have used since. And one that rings so true for me- particularly when I am going away for a bit. Instead of focussing on the packing or preparing I suddenly have a need to send cards I should have sent weeks ago or finish all the laundry (even if not needed for the trip) or phone someone or or or.
    A true story and recently born out yet again as I readied for a few days away. Is it just me who is compelled to dust the wheels on the fridge at the least appropriate time?

    Do you have sayings and words that are unique?

The Wit of Appliances

I know a man who, upon occasion, uses the phrase “it is a truth”.  Curious phrase but it serves to give credence to whatever will be said next.  And so, it is a truth that household appliances and to some degree farm machinery possess some sort of inanimate sense of humour and a desire to make humans look stupid.  Someone should do a study, a trial to bear this out.   It would show this is a true story.

Farm machinery humour

I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan where, starting well before the legal driving age, you were operating farm machinery.  This included all manner of tractors and machinery that hooked on behind-seeders, cultivators and rodweeders, swathers and combines.  I remember clearly on more than one occasion where something would break down when I was operating it.  A sudden grinding sound or a gauge that showed over-heating and I would stop things in their tracks and wait for my father to show up so we could fix things.  Eventually he would come to check on me (this is pre-cellphone days of course) and when I explained what was wrong he’d do a test drive and there would be no sign of any trouble.  It’s my belief that when the machinery sat out in their little commune on the edge of the field they would speak amongst themselves and say “let’s make Barb look as if she doesn’t know what she’s doing”.  And they were very successful.

Home appliances scheme

In our married lives we have had about three sets of home appliances.  I mean large appliances, as in fridge, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer. When you buy things at the same time, some say they wear out at the same time.  That’s not really the way it happens.  The appliances speak amongst themselves too.

If one appliance has an ailment and a repair person is called then the other appliances think that they might need some pampering and attention too and soon they break down.  We once had a repairman in to fix our stove.  While there he noticed the make and model of our dishwasher and he said he was surprised to see it was still working for the model was a lemon.  That dishwasher heard that and within a month it broke down.  We have learned through that experience you should never speak ill of an appliance while in its presence.  

Over the last year or more our geriatric washing machine seemed to be making louder and louder sounds while it continued to work very well.  About three weeks ago, over morning coffee, my husband said it might be time to think about replacing the washer.  I told him he shouldn’t say things like that-the washer could hear him and think it was time to break down.  My husband said there was no chance the washer heard him-there was too much other noise in the house at the time and the door to the laundry room was closed.   It was less than two weeks later the motor on the washing machine seized up, the breaker blew and it was time for a replacement.  Here we are now, ten days later and today a new washer and dryer were installed.  We’ve done our first loads of laundry.  The machines beep and whir and chime.   At this point we need to stand there with the instruction book in order to operate the washer and dryer.  The book says if you are having trouble with the dryer you can call the repair service and hold the phone up to the dryer and it will transmit information on its malady!  Seems to me with this new generation of appliances we really will not be able to speak about their health in front of them-they might just call the repair service and lodge a complaint of maltreatment!

Score: Mother Nature 10 or more, Man 1.5

There are many reports of disasters in the news these days-nationally and internationally-flash wildfires, tornadoes and floods.  People have lost their homes, been injured and there have been deaths.  Knowing these facts puts one’s little predicaments in perspective….let’s just call it straight.  A second assault of wee little ants is nothing, if not annoying.

Early this week score-Mother Nature 5, Man 1: The ants coming marching in two by two:  How in the world do ants find their way into a house?  We found another forward party this week-in another place.  Wee little gaffers-after vacuuming and moving things around I saw the tiniest little dark spot in a baseboard and they seemed to be going in and out there.  Outside I searched the foundation and there outside the house at close to the same spot was a little stream of ants going up and down the foundation and slipping under a little ripple of parging.  The parging looks no different from most of the rest along the foundation.  Out came the ant spray, the ant traps, the vacuum and not having a supply of parging material or any idea what it is or how to seal up the hole outside at that moment, I did what many home owners facing this challenge might consider.  As an interim fix, I taped duct tape in that spot.    Duct tape is wonderful.  One day I might swallow my pride and blog about a time when I thought duct tape and balloons might be a temporary fix for a plumbing problems at our cottage.  That initiative was not successful.  We’ll move to what I hope will be a permanent fix on these ants who want to visit, as soon as we figure out what that is.  Anyone got some advice?

P.S.  In one way, we really need to give ants credit.  There can’t be any room for brain in those little bodies but look at how they communicate.  And they do it so well and don’t seem to lose anything in translation.  The message comes through and the march is on.  Compare that our human capabilities-if you’ve ever been part of a teleconference or video conference when things don’t work and we can’t communicate or try to get a message communicated and see how often things don’t come through clearly, well you know what I mean.  Humans could take lessons.

Later this week- score: Mother Nature 10, Man 1.5 : How green is my garden:  We had our first working bee at the garden last weekend.  It remains wet.  Too wet to roto-till say most.  We went at it by hand, picking dandelions and a number of thistles, methinks, Canadian thistles and putting up a little roped off area where we want the (if we ever get dry enough) roto-tiller to stay away.  If you read the link about the Canadian thistle you wonder why Canada got saddled with the thistle-it came from Eurasia.  Why wasn’t it named the Eurasian thistle? Its roots apparently spread 10 feet in every direction each year.  I learned about the root spread from the book Second Nature by Michael Pollan.  My gardening partner has loaned me the book-perhaps to give me an appreciation for what we are up against.  Pollan consulted many field guides and botany books to find a suitable definition of weeds and one he cites is “a weed is an especially aggressive plant that competes successfully against cultivated plants”.  Right now we don’t have any cultivated plants to be competition for the weeds.  As we buy something else to use in the currently bare garden we talk about potential return on investment (outside of the social interaction, the fresh air, the coffee and treat breaks and so on).  We started out talking about the ten-dollar potato-how much each potato would ultimately cost us by the time we harvest it.  We are now up to a fifty-dollar potato-thinking we may only harvest 2-3 potatoes and we haven’t sowed a seed.

We’ve met some of our gardening neighbours including the woman who had our plot previously.  Gardeners are quite a friendly lot-they have advice on lots of things.  Sometimes all you need to do is ask.  It seems sometimes you don’t even need to ask.  They can tell you who they think does a good job of roto-tilling but is too expensive.  Or they don’t believe in roto-tilling, they turn their plot by hand.  Or it’s not too wet to seed. Or yes it is too wet.  We appreciate it all but would really appreciate Mother Nature giving us some sun and wind and a chance to get out on the land on our farm.

Barb’s Best-Boston style

We took a road trip to Boston, Mass. last fall.  Nice place, that Boston.  We enjoyed many of the sights and walked around a great deal.  On the first evening we were strolling along a side street, not far from Boston Common.  It was close to dinner time and we were looking for a place to eat.  We came upon a little bistro place with a decal declaring “Boston’s Best Small Bistro 2010”.  Well, let’s give it a shot we thought.  We were lucky to get seats, we thought, since it was Boston’s Best.  The place did get busy and the food was good.  We left thinking we were fortunate to have stumbled upon the place.

Over the next several days we noticed something peculiar as we continued to walk around.  We saw several Boston’s Best decals-it became a bit of a humorous sighting.  We concluded it was perhaps not the special thing we might have originally thought.  It seemed the designation is given out freely (or maybe you buy it from a Boston’s Best decal shop).   We think the bistro was perhaps Boston’s Best Small Bistro between 3rd and 4th Avenue.  And the dry cleaning shop a few blocks away was Boston’s Best on a Tuesday in October and so on.  On that theme, I figure if Boston can do it, so can I.  So I thought I’d put forward Barb’s Best.  There’s no decal, no jury or panel or Deloitte and Touche, just Barb and what seems to be the Best-at least for that minute or hour or day or month. 

Let’s try a couple:

Best Virtual School-Khan Academy

  • Sal Khan, a former investment banker has established on-line virtual school.  What started out as Sal making a few algebra videos for his cousins has grown to over 2,100 videos and 100 self-paced exercises and assessments covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history.

Best Ice Cream Bar-Magnum

  • Magnum Ice Cream Bars.  They are delicious!  There are several types and not a dud among them.  I’ve seen them in the UK and in Singapore (where a colleague and I ate one a day for a week-because it was so hot there of course).
  • And the really great news is that Magnum Bars are now available in Canada.  If you are really creative you could enter their contest and win a prize valued at $250K!  No kidding, it’s a true story-that’s quite the prize. If you win with the best video (that’s what you need to do, make a short video), I’d appreciate you remembering you learned about it here.  A small remembrance-perhaps a year’s supply of ice cream bars.
If those who follow this blog find this sort of thing interesting, let me know.  I can think of many other Barb’s Best’s e.g. bakery/sandwich shop in an odd location, scotch/food tasting favourites (we happen to be attending such an event soon), italian food/wine match (coming up soon too) and so on and so on.

Coincidences-what are the chances

Recently I attended a class give by a man who has a Master Gardener designation. It was held in the south central part of the city-there were about 50 people in the audience. Three nights later I went a fundraiser amateur production in the hall of a Church in the eastern end of the city. There were probably about 200 people in the audience. During the intermission I noticed that at the table behind us was the very same man. What are the chances that in a region of some one million people that you will see the same person at two unrelated events in very different locations within a few days? What are the chances?

There is another story, indeed a true story about coincidences that we experienced as a family some 20 years ago. I have a picture to prove what I am about to recount. Unfortunately I am 21 years behind in any sort of organization of photos so you’ll need to picture what I’m about to describe-at least until I become more organized in this, my next chapter.

My our family of three along with a good friend were traveling to Denver, Colorado by car during the summer. We had put in a long day and had planned to overnight in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We had made reservations at a motel in advance. None of us had been to Cheyenne before. As we drove along what was obviously the motel strip, our daughter about 8 years old at the time, peeking out the car window, said to her father “We’ve been here before, right, Dad?”. Her father said, no, we hadn’t been to this city before.

Upon arriving at the motel our friend registered and then left the office to wait outside as we registered. As we left the office our friend, who had been looking around outside told us to come over where he was standing for we “won’t believe it”. And there etched into the cement was a heart and inside it where my husband’s and daughter’s names along with last initials! What are the chances?

Coincidentally (there’s that word again) I am reading a book right now titled “Why Do Buses Come in Threes” The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Windham. Chapter 6 is titled “How do you explain coincidence: and in it the authors explain the mathematics of chance. So what are the chances that the either of the above would occur? If I understood is correctly-the first example-the chances are about 50/50 over a certain period of time-the second example-not so much. You’ll have to read the book to see what the authors suggest. By the way, you need to really have a handle on math and probabilities to stay with some parts of the book. All I can say is they don’t say The Hidden AND SIMPLE Mathematics of Everyday Life.