Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Punk Rock Big Year gets dirty.

WARNING: This post contains nothing about birds. Though I did hear many species that are breeding in the forest behind my house. A favourite is the Great-crested Flycatcher.

One of the main goals behind moving from the city to the country was to be sure the kids understand a little more about where their food comes from. Since moving, we have visited many farms that sell meat and produce. When we eat, we talk about what we eat by what it actually is. Steak is cows, pork is pigs, chickens are, well, chickens. The kids love going to farms, and I hope are understanding more and more that they are eating those animals in the field. Vegetable farms are definitely of less interest to them. It's easy to have fun feeding some goats or cows. Not so much watching people pick asparagus or trim the new growth off of tomato plants.

In an attempt at making vegetables more interesting, we decided to try our hand at growing some of own. The garden went in a little late though. It was a combination of a really wet, rainy spring and all the birdwatching I needed to do this year. My big year number is now at 206. I don't expect it to grow much for the next couple months. I'll chase anything rare that shows up but the summer is generally slower as all the long distance migrants are now up in the boreal forest and beyond raising their families and I've seen most of the local breeding birds. And this year, it's all about the list! Now back to food. I had built the raised-bed garden boxes quite a while ago. This weekend we filled them with nice rich soil (35 wheel barrel loads to be exact).

Empty gardens made in Late March/early April.
Friday evening was spent watching Elliott Brood, Bradleyboy and Poor Pelley perform in Oshawa to celebrate Rachel's birthday. The bands were great. Also memorable was eating wings on the street with a very drunk complete stranger. She just walked up with a take-out container of wings and started sharing them with us. It was odd.

Tearing up Oh, Alberta.
Bradleyboy singing with The Brood.
The weekend wasn't great weather the whole time, in fact, it rained heavily Saturday until at least 3pm. That was fine as we needed to do something every father fears. The dreaded dance recital. Don't get me wrong, I am very supportive of Georgia being involved in dance. It does a lot of good thing for her. It's very social, it's great exercise and it's not TV. I'm going to be excruciatingly honest here and say G is the ONLY kid I cared to watch dance. As I'm sure all the other dads felt about their kid. Though they might stifle the urge to say so in a public forum. Ask Rachel, that's just not my way. Shep was in the class for two lessons and quietly told me he wasn't into it. Now, when G is at dance class, Shep and dad get haircuts or go to the hardware store. Another favorite activity is returning empty beer bottles. I don't know why he likes it so much but he does. I think it has more to do with us doing something no one else does but us. I fondly remember doing those things with my dad too.

Sunday was a different story. It was the best possible day you could ask for living in the country. Mosquitos are pretty much relegated to dusk and black-fly season is over. Now, it's just nice out. But a day of rest it was not. I woke at 5:30am and headed outside to finish moving the dirt to the garden boxes. At 7, Shep was up and helping me move dirt. He borrowed a small wheel barrel from a neighbour. Rachel and Georgia joined us about 8:30. They came with big stacks of pancakes and real maple syrup bought from a local place. We sat in the morning sun and ate. After that, the kids played in the dirt filled gardens; no food planted yet. Rachel and I started in on a fence. It would mean six posts had to be cemented into the ground. I had already dug the wholes. Everyone thought I was nuts not to rent an auger. I just felt like the right thing to do was avoid using any gas or electricity to dig these holes. How hard could it be? Pretty damn hard actually. Six holes, 3-4 ft. deep each. It took some time and caused some muscle pain but I have to say it's very satisfying and almost therapeutic to dig holes. We cut the sona tubes, placed the posts and cemented them in. It took significantly longer to do it than typing that last sentence.

When that was done, it was off to a local plant shop to get our food. It's nearby and a great place for the kids to run around. We bought several varieties of heirloom tomato, cucumber, beans, peas, watermelon, onions, squash, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and parsnips, many types of lettuce and lots of herbs too. My Aunt Pat dropped by that afternoon and helped me and the kids plant all the veg. while Rachel worked on the flower gardens going down the hill. It was a lot of work but also lots of fun. There was one other hole to dig. You might remember that our cat Frances had been killed by a dog last weekend. We looked at burying her at a local pet cemetery but the $600 fee seemed a tad steep. Like $575 to steep. We found a nice place for her in the back garden and I dug yet another hole. This one was a bit bigger than fence post holes. 4 ft. deep and about two ft. by three ft. I wanted to be sure no fox, raccoon or other critter would disturb her. We marked her grave in the old style of pilling rocks over it. Among the rocks, the kids sprinkled some colourful little stones. I think it looks quite nice. See for yourself.

Tomatoes and herb in.
Working on the layout.
Aunt Pat working hard. She's a fast planter.
Georgia gets involved.

Shep (and a robot) trampling things more than helping, really.
Strangling dad usually helps move things along. 
Shep preparing to put in some onions.
Even Frances has a place in the garden.
But not the vege garden.

I write this post as I ride the commuter train back into the city for work Monday morning. I wish I was putting boards on the fence and spending another perfect day with the family, but I guess I gotta' pay for that fence somehow...

This is what my commute looks like. Yuk.

Punk Rock Big Year
Paul Riss

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