One of the first harbingers of spring is longer days. When so much of our time is determined by the elements,slight changes take on huge proportions. I had always found it a bit silly, that stereotype of country people chattering non-stop about what the weather was like last year, what the weather is like to day(hour by hour) and what the weather will be like tomorrow and every day after that.It is weather by season,by generation, by county, by rain, by snow, by minute, by flooding, by freezing, by impact on animal and crops and even by pests and blight. Life revolves around weather and it is the topic of conversation by almost everyone. I am here to tell you ceaseless weather talk is a fact, it is what people do, and I do too. Last summer’s most popular joke was of course about the weather. The cashier at Giant Tiger introduced me to the joke. “Did you know it only rained twice all summer?…once for a month and the second time, for three months.” Weather drives the day, what can and can’t be done. I had always longed for weather worries so I could feel part of the pulse of real farmer’s lives. I certainly got what I wished for, I recommend anyone think twice before settling where “lake effect”, rain and snow, controls your activities. My car has been snowed in for three months. The slight thaw finally released the snow’s grip from that silly silver city car. The car’s released signals my freedom.
Spring is in the air, sort of, we tend to rush into the idea of spring. Spring is any temperature above freezing. I am restless. Here on the farm, so are the bees. Today on a walk to do a routine property check, ( I love to check for animal tracks) I noticed that one of the hives has had its lid torn off and the bees were scattered all over the white snow leaving little golden dots all over the glaring carpet of white. I never imagined watching bees leave the frozen hives in search of nectar and then when reaching the level where the air is cold, to fall into that icy blanket and die. The bee carcasses made a trail from the hives to the barn and that sight made me sad.
It has been a long cold winter and the days have been very gray. I have been working on my cookbook and autobiography and it has been a delight. I adore the discipline of the pen and the recalling of so many memories. I sit at my dining room table surrounded by windows leading to the outside world and my mind fills with ideas that have to be put to paper. It is a passion.
I have been busy planting seeds and the feel of the cold dirt in my hand as I fill the trays makes me long for spring. Spring is a long swans song away, but I can taste it. Today it rained, and I was able to get about with a simple coat instead of layers of heavy clothing and snow shoes. I am dreaming of things to come and things I want to accomplish this spring. One never knows what animals winter brings and a snowy owl was a gorgeous visitor last week.
Thankfully I have found the time to sort through all kinds of family photos and to find a way to keep them safe to pass on to my children. Just how to preserve photos and memorabilia is a question that we all need answered. I don’t believe the solution is in the “cloud”. I think families should share precious photos so that we all have the opportunity to recall our collective past. I am lucky that some of my mother’s family shared some remarkable, never before seen photographs of my parents and of myself. Sadly, most of my family’s photos fell into the hands of a few of my siblings. They are forever lost.
I have spent many happy hours reading and writing this winter and it has been very soothing to me. We all need a way, a venue to express ourselves. Winter is a time of refection, solitude and about braving the elements. This winter the lake effect snow has accumulated enough to make our own bunny hill by the side of our driveway. I love watching the turkeys climb up and down the icy slope. Searching for something to eat. That reminds me of a night a few weeks ago when I was drawing my curtains and I saw a rabbit eating the cracked corn that I keep on my porch. I was so happy to see that rabbit as I had not seen hide nor hair of that lagomorph in many months. Creatures come and go and come again in this landscape. I never know if I will see a rabbit or hear a coyote again. Coyote tracks were found so there is hope.
Last week, as I sat writing I saw a partridge stroll by the window as a black squirrel interrupted its promenade. I have been sitting in the same seat for 6 years and this was the first time I saw the species. Kitty brought us a partridge a few years ago and left it by the dojo as a peace offering. We eventually let this gorgeous feral cat into our lives, only to have her eaten by a fox or coyote. I was trying to sell some of the 1200 butter tarts and 100 other baked goods at the Elmvale maple syrup festival and she left that evening, never to be seen again until her fur was found several months later while trying to load the riding lawn mower onto the truck to get fixed. I only just threw out her fur that I found, I have pictures to keep her memory alive. My heart is always open to a new animal. I know that every farm needs at least three dogs and a few cats. I am ambivalent because I feed the birds and the wild turkeys. However, I could use a mouser in the house and barn. I could use a dog to keep the pesky raccoons and ground hogs in check. Every once in a while, I find myself checking out available rescues on line. For some strange reason, there are never any dogs available.
Spring is synonymous with skiing in sunshine and in relatively warm weather. Die-hard skiers are eager to get the most out of the end of the season. This weekend I am planning to hit the hills and I will find out if I can recall how to use the equipment. I have heard that the “new” skis are much easier to use. I am confident that anything would have been better than the lace up boots and bindings that I learned how to ski on would be better My parents decided that I should learn to ski at 4 years of age. Mother would never go to Cragleith on the weekend ski trips. My poor father would have to patiently tie up my boots, get me into my skis and then help me ski down the hill. Dad would wake me up when it was still dark and insist that I come skiing. I would spend the entire Friday night, lying in my bed trying to come up with a reason, it would have to be a great reason, not to go skiing. He never accepted any of the excuses that I thought were brilliant. I would stuff myself into the bogner ski outfits that I thought made me look ridiculous and knickers were often involved. Another interesting sartorial must wear- a dickie. We would leave in the solemn dark and father would promise a breakfast stop at the 1867 restaurant. More often than not he was telling a whopper, he would somehow forget his promise. I would sit in the car looking out the window as the restaurant flew by. He would make sure to stop every once in a while, so that we would not stop trusting him altogether. He had a sound strategy. At the cash register, I would examine all the treats for sale as all kids do. I was always fascinated by all those maple candies, but I found them too sweet. But that never stopped me from asking my father to buy me one.
We would drive along, quickly and each time Stayner came into purview my heart sank, as it meant we were near the dreaded ski chalet. I would get cold just thinking about skiing. Dad would insist that we leave before noon as there was a blizzard in the forecast and he wanted to make sure we missed it. This pattern never altered, we must leave with him or be left behind. As I got older I started agreeing to come skiing because there was a McDonald’s on the way home. This was my first taste of that fast food and hamburgers were 10 cents. I think my father gave up skiing when the technology changed from lace up boots to buckle up boots- the expense of outfitting all of us, and the fact that fewer of his children were going skiing. I was glad as I was starting to feel very embarrassed by my out of date boots. Everyone knows half of skiing is how you look. I remember the ski bunnies in their mukluks’ sipping on watery hot chocolate dressed perfectly but never touching a ski hill, perched, waiting for the boys to return form their runs. My father had infinite patience, sometimes. I have very fond memories of him holding me in his arms forgoing his own poles and letting me snow plow slowly down a hill, which must have been very boring for him. He was much kinder than me as when I took my daughter skiing I would ski past her as she would look up at me from her position on the ground.
Mother did come on a few family ski trips to Mont Tremblant and I have many happy memories and a few scares. My last trip with my family was when I was 17 and in high school. My first trip was when I was just five years old and I was taught how to ski in the parking lot while the rest of the family took off to the hills. We stayed at Grey Rocks and it was great fun. I recall the most delicious muffins and the very nasty prune juice.
That is until the time I was speeding down the hill and had passed the “Closed due to Ice” sign before I could string the words together and glean the meaning. I was hurtling down the icy slope, with little control over my skis. I must confess that I can’t solely blame the ice as I have never been as adept on skis as I had wished. I saw in front of me at the bottom on the chair lift a long line of people waiting to board the lift and they were cordoned off for crowd control. I had to make a split-second choice if I did not use the cordon to stop me I was going to end up in the fully packed parking lot. I watched as people scramble, not an easy task on skis to get out of my way. I ended up slamming into the yellow cordon and was thrown backwards in the air and landed very abruptly on my side. I was injured but thankfully not too seriously and the real pain was the humiliation. The ski patrol came to remove my limp body from the hill slope and he gave me a second glance, removed his goggles and gently asked me never to use the “expert” hills again. I blushed, as all young girls hoped to catch the eye of the bronzed, fit ski patrolmen. My blush was intensified as he was the same fellow that had rescued me after a fall the day before.
I must gratefully thank my parents for getting me skiing so early and for all the other sports and activities that they encouraged me to do. My mother was in charge of organizing and my father would be the one to ski. I was very happy when mother came to Tremblant and I can still picture her smiling face, dressed very stylishly. On a very cold day, my father faced the cold with indifference and went skiing in his short sleeve shirt and jeans, not done at the time.
My father was very proud when I won the fashion contest, I was all dressed up in the now taboo seal skin outfit. My father always encouraged me and always told me how proud he was of me. I have so many memories of the two of us experiencing nature and the out of doors. I even forgive him for making me go cross country skiing in regular ski boots when he got to wear actual cross country ski boots. Maybe he did that because when we set out together to walk the 32 miles for Miles for Millions he had to quit, the black brogues nearly crippled him and he quit after two miles. He did come to city hall to pick me up after I had completed the walk.
I am looking forward to hitting the slopes. Wish me luck.