Where Is Your Home?

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Everyone has ideal work and home environments, places where they can be their most productive and authentic. I wonder where these preferences come from. Is it an attempt to recreate a childhood home where one felt safe and loved, is it just a matter of convenience and lifestyle or is it a link to the way our ancestors lived that is stored in our DNA that makes one person hanker for city life and another for the quiet of the country?

As an introvert, I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit into an extrovert world. I tried to convince myself living in an apartment in a big city was what I wanted and working in a government office was the thing to do. Then I got older and wiser and just plain tired of trying to be something and someone I wasn’t.

If I had just listened to my child self and followed what made her happy, I would have saved myself a great deal of time, grief and moving expenses. Children always know their preferences especially when they are young enough not to care about what society says.

I’ve always preferred a forest, and not a forest view but being amongst the trees, down in the understory. As a preschooler, I would head outside and straight for the hedgerow that divided our property from the neighbour’s. I would spend hours tucked underneath the branches where it was cool and dark making up stories about magical animals and places. Once I started attending school, every recess I would scoot down to a small dell where a poplar forest stood. I loved that tiny green palace with its shimmering leaves that shivered with the slightest breeze breaking the sunlight into moving sculptures of dark and light.

It wasn’t until my forties when I would finally own a property that was nestled in the trees and for five years I lived in my dream environment. Even on the brightest, hottest days of summer I could find a cool, dark spot of shade where my light-sensitive eyes could enjoy looking at the sunny day from a comfortable perspective.

When it comes to work environment, a softly lit, quiet room with the sound of the rain outside is when I feel the most energized and productive. A sunny day does the opposite for me; I just want to find shade and read all afternoon or have a long afternoon nap. Give me an overcast stormy day, soft glowing yellow light and even better a fire roaring on the hearth and I’m a very happy camper.

kitchen fire

I am also a morning person, a very early morning person. Before sunrise, I take my coffee outside no matter what time of year. I go outside to experience the brief moment when the night creatures have all gone to bed and the day beings haven’t gotten up yet. The silence that exists is like the earth holding its breath and it feels as if all things are possible in that fleeting period of absolute silence.

So, I prefer the sun dappled shade of a forest and my home needs to reflect a sense of calm, warmth and dreaminess. I contemplated why I hold such preferences and I think I unconsciously try to recreate in the external world what my internal one looks and feels like.

My imagination and inspiration live in a place of shadows where characters and stories emerge from the half-light of a flickering candle flame, where the brooding clouds create a blank slate for my characters to act out their stories. And the in between places of my mind are where I catch glimpses of another world that ask to be placed on the page.

candlelight window

So what is your ideal place to live; the stark beauty of a desert, the vastness of an ocean view, a cottage in the forest, the open vistas of a prairie, or the exotic flora of a jungle? And what environment allows you to feel most comfortable, the hum and buzz of a city, the quiet of the country or something in between?

The Many Hats of Lora

shoepxReading the title of this post, you’d think I would start by talking about hats, but I have to backtrack a bit and talk about shoes. Or my past obsession with footwear. My family owned a shoe store so I was indoctrinated into the passion at an early age and by the time I was in my thirties and working a government job, I had about forty pairs of shoes in my closet. My most expensive pair was four hundred dollars. That was a lot of money in the early nineties and oh they were beautiful.

But my life has changed dramatically since then and now I’m down to four pairs of practical shoes. I have two pairs of gardening shoes, (my wellies and duck shoes) a pair of runners for working in retail and when I’m writing I wear my comfy moccasins. I don’t mind that I’ve had to give up buying exquisite shoes because I’d rather spend my money on plants, books and writing journals. Also, I have a dear friend who sends me beautiful shoe calendars every year and I frame my favourite ones so I can still enjoy looking at them. And for my last birthday, the same friend sent me a colouring book complete with glitter crayons. But not just any colouring book. Just look at the photos below.

shoebook Collage

So now that I don’t have the lifestyle or budget to buy shoes I’ve noticed I’ve switched my addiction to hats.

In this day and age there isn’t much call for wearing hats, not like in the thirties and forties where a woman wouldn’t venture out the door without a hat, gloves and matching handbag. Although, my hat collection so far is mostly practical with one exception, I have been pinning quite a few stylish hats on my Pinterest fashion board.

So here is a quick look at my current selection of hats.

The Gardening Hat

Gardenhatblog

This was a cheap little hat I bought eight years ago when Cari and I lived on our hobby farm. I added the fabric flowers later. I wear this hat everyday when I’m gardening in the sunshine and rain. It has an unattractive adjustable cord for around the chin which is invaluable for keeping this little beauty on my head on windy days.

Knitted Winter Cloche

knitdfl3

My most recent purchase which I picked up at a local craft fair. Hand knitted with a sliver brooch and fluffy little feather detail on the side. Fashionable and practical and speaks to my love of the 1920’s.

Trapper’s Hat for Serious Winters

Winterhatblog

This one I don’t wear much anymore since moving to the west coast but it was a life saver when I lived in the Kootenay’s and was outside shoveling nine feet of snow fall over a season. But you may notice it is warm and practical but look at the colour. Okay, the expression on my face tells you exactly how I felt about all that snow. I do wear the scarf however, a lovely gift Cari made me last winter.

Riding Helmet

Oh look, a pony!

Oh look, a pony!

Okay, I have to confess, this one isn’t mine. It’s my niece’s and she and her sister taking riding lessons but it was a bit of silly fun I couldn’t resist.

Italian Sun Hat

Bighatblog

This one is so big you could host a whole party underneath it.

My Everyday Hat (Just Kidding)

witchhatblog

Frankie is helping me decide what to make for dinner.

A Gardener’s Tale

My Little City Garden

My Little City Garden

This is a story of the power of a wish and how once it was released into the universe created its own magic. After my sister and I moved from our hobby farm back to suburbia I pined for my large vegetable and flower gardens. I did what I could with the backyard space available, creating a tiny veggie patch by the garden shed and adding to the flowers in the existing perennial borders. But after two seasons of gardening in this small plot my gardener’s soul yearned for more space and bigger challenges.

The previous summer, Cari and I ventured down to the local farmers’ market. The first stall we happened upon was Stack Family Farm. The owner/farmer Jenn Stack was selling her organic, ethically raised beef, pork, lamb and chicken along with fresh eggs. The three of us started talking and found out she’d just moved to the area so she was a newbie too. We looked over her pictures of her farm, becoming more misty-eyed and homesick for our own little acreage in the woods.

She had a Facebook page for her business and so we promptly started stalking following her online. And last winter I saw a posting on her page that made me stop breathing. She was looking for help with her vegetable garden. She said she wasn’t much of a gardener and desperately needed someone who was willing to share their experience and the work for half of the produce. There were several other replies to her call for help and as I put in my reply I whispered under my breath, pick me, pick me. And she did.

We arranged to meet on a cold February morning to check out the garden and to see if we would be a good fit for what she was looking for. As Cari and I drove up a very narrow winding road and over a little trestle bridge I knew where I was going, because I’d been there before.

A year before we moved to Mission, I had come down to visit our other sister, Amy whom we would eventually move in with. During that visit, my nieces and I went for a country drive. We ended up on that windy narrow road and drove past a beautiful farm that happened to be for sale. I did spend a few days daydreaming about what it would be like to own such a picturesque property and then forgot about the experience until that day we drove up to Stack Family Farms.

Garden Potential 3When Jenn showed us the large empty plot surrounded by a snow fence, choked by weeds, the only things planted a few sickly blueberry bushes and straggly raspberry canes I felt a bubble of excitement. This was going to be a challenge. The plot hadn’t been gardened in two years and all that she’d managed to do the previous year was rototill half of the soil until the rototiller gave up.

It wasn’t until we had started gardening that Jenn admitted she was terrified that we would look at the overgrown weed infested area and tell her thanks but no thanks. I laughed when she told me this because when I saw the area I was thrilled at the possibilities I was just nervous she wouldn’t say yes to our help.

And so began our adventure. We spent the rainy month of March hand-digging the plot, removing endless wheelbarrows of weeds and laying out the beds. The great thing about gardening on a working farm is there are an abundance of soil amendments at your fingertips. With the help of Jenn’s son who drove the tractor, we incorporated bucket loads of well-rotted manure in the raised beds and used animal bedding and old hay for the walkways to suppress the weeds.

Cari gets help in the garden

Cari gets help in the garden

We also had other help as we began to turn the soil and mix in the manure. The laying hens would come as soon as they heard us arrive. We invited them in to help us turn the soil and they were paid handsomely in grubs and cut-worms and the occasional earthworm if they worked extra hard.

The garden was located in the ideal location, close to the house at the front of the property with a water spigot right next to the snow fence that surrounded the garden. The previous owners had moved an old outhouse to the back of the garden and although no longer functioning as a privy became the ideal place to store garden tools and extra bamboo stakes and pots.

digging in the dirtThen came the planting. It is no secret that I’m a planner especially gardens. On the first day of planting I showed up with my plant lists and a detailed (and yes it was a scaled drawing) of the veggie beds, showing what plants were to go where based on companion and succession planting and how I needed the beds to rotate for the coming year. I showed Cari and Jenn where things should go but when my back was turned the two of them would plunk things in willy-nilly. Cari’s thoughts were, well there is a little bit of space here and she had just a few more seeds so why not put them in the ground. Jenn wanted strawberries and more raspberry canes. I showed her the areas and how much of each plant we would need and then I would get an email saying she’d gotten a great deal or extra plants for free. So instead of 30 strawberry plants we ended up with 70 and triple the number of raspberry canes I had planned. So despite my careful planning change agents named Cari and Jenn kept adding new challenges in the mix and reminding me that sometimes I just needed to loosen up and go with the flow.

IMG184Once the tender plants began to send up shoots, the chickens were banned from the garden but would patrol the fence line knowing they would get an occasional morsel from us grateful gardeners. The plastic fence worked most of the time, but when a resident mole decided the fluffy turned soil rich in insect life was a better hunting ground than the acres of pasture surrounding it we were constantly at war with the little guy. After chasing it out with a water hose and putting windmills in the ground, we declared a truce.

Sometimes the invaders were even larger. In late June; I received a frantic and very apologetic email from Jenn. Turns out that her son’s 4H steer had gotten out of the pasture and into the garden. From her email it sounded as if he had decimated the plants. With heavy hearts, Cari and I showed up at the farm for our scheduled work in the garden fully expecting to see churned up soil and no plants. But it wasn’t as bad as Jenn said. Yes the fence needed repairs and there were some rather large hoof prints in the beds and a few plants had been nibbled but all in all nothing the garden couldn’t recover from. The blueberry bushes had received the brunt of the devastation just as the shrubs were loaded with berries ready to pick.

 

IMG237Leaving the noise and rush of the city and heading out to the farm was like shedding layers of stress and tension. The moment we stepped out of the vehicle to be greeted by the five farm dogs both Cari and I could feel something shift. Even if the days chores included heavy hauling and digging our spirits would lift, our heart rates drop and a sense of ease and peace would surround us. Farms are not quiet places of solitude, they are noisy but it is a different kind of sound, I think one that instinctively feels like home. The sound of the animals calling to each other, the cluck and coo of the chickens, the sigh of the wind through the trees is more like a symphony than the cacophony that surrounds the city dweller.

Moma goat and babyBeing out on the farm meant Cari could get her animal fix be it dogs or farm animals. We were there when the goats had their babies and Jenn brought out a newborn just hours old for us to hold, Cari took a turn at milking the cow and the goats something she really enjoyed doing and I became the go-to-girl when it came to wrangling the odd chicken that escaped the property and decided to check out what really was across the road. We were reminded too about the natural cycle of life and death. From the farm animals being sent to slaughter so that we can have meat on our table to witnessing a mother bobcat providing for her offspring by snatching one of the chickens out of the garden.

Over the summer, we fell into a routine where we would arrive in the morning and be greeted by the dogs and the chickens. Jenn would be off in the barn dealing with the cows, sheep, goats, horses and chickens. If she had time she would help in the garden and by two in the afternoon we would finish for the day. The three of us and Jenn’s two son’s would gather under the cherry tree just outside the garden or more often than not, we each would plunk ourselves down on a patch of hay in between the garden beds and spend the rest of the afternoon talking and enjoying the fine weather. Even the dogs would come and join us and on occasion when Jenn’s husband was home he too would wander out as if drawn my some magic and pull up a patch of ground to join the group.

Guard Dog on Duty

Guard Dog on Duty

So as I write this I do so with a bit of sadness that all gardeners feel at this time of year. The garden has been largely put to bed for the winter and just two beds have been planted with winter crops and the kale is the only thing still thriving. Our regular trips out to the centre of our soul will be coming to an end soon, at least for the winter. And like any fanatical gardener I have already spent time drawing up new plans for the coming spring and pouring over catalogues deciding what new experiments in gardening we should try.

A wish made in earnest, coincidences and synchronicities came together to grant my heart’s desire. And although our garden was a success and gave us beautiful vegetables that fed two families over the season it also provided something I hadn’t anticipated, something more precious than any plant we cared for; a new friendship that will continue to grow and flourish even in the dark days of winter.Fall Collage

Audie The Cat Bird

Audie closeupAudie is an orange tabby that my nieces adopted last spring. She came with the name Autumn because of her colouring; her coat is a reddish gold instead of the typical pale orange. It only took a few weeks after she arrived to realize her name didn’t really fit her.

I’m not sure which one of us started calling her Audie first but it suited her and the name stuck. She has striking markings and eyes that are such a pale yellow that she looks slightly dazed or crazy all the time. Along with her fiery colouring, she is fine-boned with a delicate face but her back end is rather large. It’s as if she’d been fashioned from two different sized cats. But her name isn’t just a reflection of her funny body shape or otherworldly eyes, it goes deeper than that.

Cats are far less domesticated than dogs and far more independent. But like dogs they have a range of behaviours some that are more prevalent in specific breeds. Long-haired black cats are the most docile and friendly. The most aggressive and prey-driven are orange tabbies. I can attest to the truth of the researchers’ finding as I have had both types of cats in my life over the years. Currently I have three tabbies one who happens to be an orange tabby like Audie. His name is Frankie and he was an outdoor cat before we adopted him from the neighbours. He was a first class hunter; no mouse, vole or bird was safe when he was around and he is usually the first to start a fight with the other cats. Yup, typical orange tabby.

So according to the research, Frankie and Audie share the same DNA and heritage and should both share a similar nature. But that’s not the case. Audie isn’t aggressive or territorial and has no desire to hunt. She is allowed to go outside into the backyard because of her gentle nature and the fact that she never wanders away.

We have a feeder for the sparrows, chickadees and juncos and a hummingbird feeder hanging from the same tree. When Audie was first allowed outside, the birds would scatter when they saw her coming but over time they realized she had no interest in eating them. She does wear a collar and bell but she really doesn’t need the bell to warn the birds because she’s become one of their flock. She doesn’t want to hunt them, or kill them or eat them. She just wants to be near them and watch them at the feeders.

Now they allow her to nestle in under their feeders, quietly watching. And when they feed on the ground they will sometimes come only inches away from her paws. They have also begun to rely on her as an early warning system. When other cats wander into the yard she goes on alert and thus warn her feathered friends.

It’s a good thing Audie isn’t aware she isn’t conforming to who she is supposed to be otherwise she wouldn’t have found such delight in her adopted feathered family. Not such a bad way to live your life when you think about it.

Audie Collage