Odds & sods

Hello from COVID-19 quarantine at the farm. The farm is not a bad place at all to hunker down, and I feel fortunate that we have this spot.

We play outside and inside. I’ve broken out my old Cabbage Patch doll (for her) and jigsaw puzzles (for me). Ellie loves her new play area in the basement, though I so wish I had a playground or swing set for her outside. It’s in the plans. I just haven’t got there yet.

Ellie playing with a cabbage patch doll

We look for snail shells at the pond, sit on the tractor in the barn, practice rolling down the hill behind the house (which is a tandem event, since the toddler doesn’t understand physics yet), and I trade wheelbarrow rides for just a few minutes to rake this next section of flower garden.

I do a bit of work online and am daily so grateful that I am here with Ellie and don’t have to answer to a boss–aside from keeping clients happy.

Matt, who was our lead grocery shopper, always kept us stocked as though the apocalypse was about to arrive. So our pantry, freezer, battery stash, toiletries, cleaning supplies are all full–even though I’ve been on a mission over the last few months to eat the freezer (in hindsight, not great timing). I of course have to go to the grocery store, but I’ve been buying enough for two weeks at a time, so I can minimize my outings.

I’m finding quarantine brings out grief in different ways and I’m missing Matt in new ways. He would love this time off work and being home with us at the farm. He voluntarily self-isolated before it was government mandated. We would be really good at this.

But, Ellie and I are a dynamic duo. There are lots of things for us to do, so it’s not too hard to stay home and do our part to flatten the curve.

Twinning

I had an epiphany last week when I was taking some items to the post office. What if I am somehow a carrier of the virus? It could be on the package, which is then handled by the post office staff and any number of people as it travels from my house to someone else’s. I cannot carry the responsibility of infecting anyone. Never mind our families and our daughter and people like Matt. So we are staying home.

I hope that you are staying safe and doing everything you can to help stop this virus.

Here is this month’s odds & sods round-up, quarantine edition:

We’re keeping connected with family and friends through text, online chats, phone calls, Facetime and emails. I’ve taken food to a friend who works at the hospital and a neighbour who is overdue with her third baby–two people who need easy meals after long, tough days. I’ve also set a goal of reaching out to at least one more remote connection everyday, whether it’s a coworker, neighbour, cousin. How are you staying connected?

We got a new stove! In case you missed my previous update, the team at Tasco exhibited the care and compassion I was hoping for, and arranged for us to return our malfunctioning stove. Our new stove arrived just about 10 days ago, and it is lovely. I felt pressure to pick the right one this time and walked into the store with a spreadsheet of ovens with all of their features and reviews. I ended up going with KitchenAid. The double ovens are exactly what I was looking for. Food cooks as expected in the amount of time expected. I made homemade mushroom soup for the first time (so easy and so good) and my favourite bread–apparently it’s the thing to do during quarantine.

No knead bread baking in the oven

Just discovered this artist. Love this one, this one and this one so much.

What dog owners should do during COVID-19 and 10 ways to help an animal shelter during COVID-19.

The terms social distancing and self isolation bug me. Why invent new words that people have to learn? Especially in a crisis? As a communicator, my mission is to always be as clear as possible. That means keeping things simple and direct.

Social distancing graphic

We’re wrapping up March by… what else… staying home. I’m hoping the month ends lamb-like, so we can be outside and maybe even finish clearing the gardens so the spring flowers are ready to bloom.

 

How are you getting through COVID-19? I hope that you are well and safe. Take good care, everyone.

 

My writing elsewhere:

Making a playhouse out of a grain silo

How about a bit of fun for this Monday?

I feel like we need it after last week’s post about our malfunctioning stove, plus everything else that’s going on in the world. (P.S. Tasco agreed to take back the stove, so I bought a new one at the end of last week. Thank goodness. I’ll share more about the new stove once it arrives.)

Let’s think about a playhouse for Ellie, shall we?

Ellie, Bax and Ralph by the silo

When we were growing up, we loved playing outside when we went to visit our grandma’s house. She had a super deep, super steep backyard that sloped down to a ravine. Halfway down the hill tucked into some trees and bushes was a little tiny house with white pealing paint. It wasn’t big enough for an adult to stand up in, and by the time we came along it only housed abandoned lawn furniture. But we were told it had been my Mom’s playhouse when she was growing up. It always seemed like the coolest little spot to me. It was so hidden and private and obviously kids only.

We had a great backyard growing up and tons of things to do and lots of freedom. But we didn’t have a playhouse. We would occasionally build forts, and it was always a thrill to have a place of our own.

I’d like to give Ellie that experience, and fortunately I have a great start with our grain silo beside the barn.

Wouldn’t this make an awesome playhouse?

Ellie running past the metal grain silo

It’s big, so there are lots of possibilities of what we can do.

My plan is to make it two stories. It’s tall enough that a floor halfway up would still make two really usable spaces–an adult could probably even stand up (though I probably won’t be invited).

Metal grain silo

A ship’s ladder would be a simple way to get up and down.

It’ll need a few windows for light, and maybe a better door.

Ellie trying to get in the metal grain silo

Beyond that, Ellie could make it what she wants.

This spread from the May issue of Country Living gives some ideas, although this is much more extravagant than what I have in mind.

Grain silo conversion in Country Living May 2019

I think this would be a great secret space for her. I can even see sleepovers out here once she’s bigger.

Plus, if we truly are in the apocalypse, the silo would be a place to house all of the friends who have told me they’re coming to the farm when the world ends.

Did you have a playhouse growing up? What do you think Ellie needs in her playhouse? What would you do with this grain silo?

 

Don’t buy a Samsung stove with flex duo oven

Update: Tasco worked with Samsung and I got the okay to return the stove. I have picked out a new stove, which should be delivered shortly. I am so, so thankful to have this resolution. The team at Tasco exhibited the care and compassion I was hoping for. Fingers crossed I picked a better stove this time around!

On Oct. 22, our oven died. We had had a long day at the hospital for a chemo treatment, but it seemed like we were going to make it home for dinner with Ellie and be able to put her to bed at her regular time.

I had prepped the food before we left, so we called my Mom who was watching Ellie and told her to start the oven. When we got home, dinner was still sitting on the counter because the oven was not heating. I whipped up some eggs, we all ate and Ellie went to bed late.

The next day, Matt and I went out and bought a new stove.

A different company, Tasco, was in the building where our go-to appliance store had been. We went in and found a Samsung stove with a flex duo oven–a feature that we really like. We bought it on the spot, and Tasco delivered it the next day.

Yes, we rushed, but Matt could only be out for so long and I needed to be able to feed him and Ellie.

Samsung flex duo stove

The first time I cooked with the new stove, it didn’t seem right. Everything took a long time, and the oven didn’t seem hot enough.

But on Nov. 2, Matt went into the hospital and on Nov. 9 he died, so the stove was the least of my problems.

However, the problems with the stove continued. Despite setting the oven hotter and cooking things longer, food was still coming out cold.

I cranked the oven to 500 to make pizza with my friends. After 10 minutes in the oven–my normal cooking time–the pizzas were still raw. When I reset the oven, the temperature reading was down to 300. Eventually, we ate our very unevenly cooked pizzas.

I baked a cake that came out dark brown on top and crunchy around the edges, but soggy and fallen in the middle. Macaroni was burnt on top but still cold in the centre.

Unevenly cooked cake from Samsung oven

Burnt macaroni from malfunctioning Samsung oven

By December, I was finally ready to deal with this stove. I called our salesperson at Tasco, and he referred me to their service department, which I called on Dec. 18. They said they would reach out to Samsung to arrange a service call.

Christmas came and went, and no one called me back.

I called Tasco again on Jan. 3. Then again on the 13th and again on the 20th.

I asked to return the stove, but Tasco had a 30-day return window and that deadline passed during the week of Matt’s memorial, and there didn’t seem to be any willingness to make an exception due to our circumstances.

Finally I was able to figure out that there was confusion because the name I gave over the phone was different than the name on the invoice–I had taken Matt’s last name because I wanted to carry that part of him with me. Rather than call me back to sort out the confusion, Samsung had done nothing.

On Jan. 24, a technician finally came to look at the stove.

He took readings and replaced one part, but said everything seemed to be working fine.

I gave the stove another try, and still had the same issues of food not being hot or cooking unevenly.

On Feb. 4 I called Samsung again. A few days later Samsung sent an email telling me that my stove was working properly. I reached out to my salesperson at Tasco, and he arranged a second service call for Feb. 20. Again, the tech who came to the house said that according to his measurements, the stove was working properly–I begged to differ–and on Feb. 25 I received another message from Samsung that my service ticket was closed.

I followed up again with Tasco. A representative called me back right away and was very understanding. She asked me to follow up again with Samsung.

The telephone call with Samsung did not go well. The person on the phone said that my stove was working properly and they have to “trust their technicians.” I said that felt like a lack of respect and trust for their customers and a lack of integrity in standing behind their products.

The next day I received another email that said, “unit is working fine.”

I followed up with my salesperson at Tasco again, asking “Can you please just take it back, so that I can buy a stove that works?”

So far I have not received an answer.

I am writing this post today because I am so disappointed and beyond frustrated. I am hoping that I may get some accommodation from Tasco or Samsung by sharing my story publicly.

I have tried to follow their procedures and work within their policies, and I have gotten nowhere.

I realize it is not their problem that my husband died and I missed the return deadline. But I hope that even large companies can be understanding and flexible and compassionate and act with integrity when there are problems with their products.

Odds & sods

Thank you everyone for your kind welcome back this month and patience as I work to find my voice. All of you who are reading, commenting, emailing, thinking of us and wishing us well mean so much. You make a difference. It is a comfort.

We had a very, very special day yesterday–Ellie’s second birthday. Our families came for a simple celebration with balloons, presents, pizza and cake. Just for fun, Ellie and I recreated her tractor photo from her first year (in case anyone wants a cuteness flashback). She can almost reach the pedals.

Ellie on the tractor on her 2nd birthday

This month’s posts have been pretty personal with my word of the year and sharing some about Matt’s illness. That felt like where I needed to start, but I’m looking forward to writing more about the house and the farm–like Ellie’s new play area that you saw last week–soon.

I’m also going to be continuing my month-end wrap-up posts, trying to share things that have inspired me or interested me and might do the same for you.

Here are some of the things I came across in February:

I’ve been enjoying following along with Laura’s closet makeover. It’s organized, totally my colour (dark blue teal) and there’s even a cozy reading nook.

“You choose to wake up happy or choose to wake up sad… And then, from that point on, you… just continue trying to figure it out… It’s about the journey and the discovery and understanding what that is.” Ear Hustle.

“We live in hope–that life will get better, and more importantly that it will go on, that love will survive even though we will not.” The Anthropocene Reviewed

Love this song. Love this moment. Wish I could sing.
* There’s some commentary about this being set up rather than impromptu. First, why do we have to be so cynical? Second, if it was set up, good on her (or him) for a savvy strategy and achieving a tough goal… going viral.

For gift giving for Ellie, I try to follow the wear, read, want, need formula. So her birthday gifts were  a party dress (which I made from one of Matt’s flannel pyjama pants), the sequel to one of her favourite books, a new pack of Play-Doh (we’re terrible at putting the lids back on) and some teeny-tiny hairclips (her hair is finally growing!). Of course, her aunties, uncles, grandmas and grandpa were also very generous to her.

Did you mark any special occasions in February? Do you have a gift giving strategy for your kids? Or any birthday traditions?

Resolve

I’m not sure what to say. Where do I start? (This question drives me most days.)

I am sad. So, so sad. But working hard to not let sadness prevail.

The saying is that time heals all wounds. Right now, as time passes, a lot of things get harder.

Matt’s absence feels stronger.

But there is still great love and still great joy. I have resolved to choose love and to choose joy.

Writing is hard–which is really hard. Writing is how I think, and the words aren’t coming right now. My fingers make mistakes as I try to hit the right keys. Familiar words look foreign.

I can’t write about Matt yet. I feel like once I do, I will succumb to this abyss that lurks behind me all the time. An abyss of sadness and loss and grief and no love or joy.

So I put on this mask of resolve. Of a capable, dedicated, hard-working woman. I take care of Ellie and Bax and Ralph and the farm. I go for walks and breathe the farm air. I lean on my family and friends. I knit and sew and organize.

And today, I write.

This writing, this blog, this imperfect, potentially inarticulate, writing is important. Even if right now its importance is in the role of a distraction.

Matt and I have a lot of plans for this farm, and I am resolved to carry them on. This farm is us, and sharing this part of us makes the journey more special. I am not sure what’s going to happen and how plans are going unfold, but I will share them as we go.

I am not planning on turning this into a grief blog–I can’t do this publicly. Or a Mommy blog for that matter. I will talk about Matt and Ellie because they are still my life. But I will be talking about renovations and projects and gardens and animals and farm life and working every day to find love and joy.

A friend gave me the winter edition of Magnolia Journal for Christmas. In her letter from the editor, Joanna talked about the word resolve.

“The meaning of resolve is often interpreted in duality, as being both/and. Resolve can manifest as both grit and contentment: I will resolve to set my own course and I am resolved in the lot I’ve been given… Resolve can catalyze a beginning and determine an ending…

 

“Making our own way in this world requires our resolve to always be weaving together the old and the new, the parts of who we’ve been with who we are still becoming. To choose that way of living–one based on all that we are and all that we could be rather than the things we’re not–begins and ends with resolve.”

 

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word of the year every January. This year, I wanted a word to guide me and shape me. I felt like I needed it. But I’m so lost that I couldn’t find it. I was thinking and reading and searching, and when I read these words, they connected so deeply. This is me, right now.

I am resolved.

Odds & sods

Happy last week of October. Are you all set for Hallowe’en at your house? Our Hallowe’en is pretty lowkey. We’ve done a few things with our little goblin, even though she doesn’t realize what’s going on. We’ve had a few Hallowe’en stories at bedtime (including a special one from Daddy), there is a jack o’lantern in our living room, and a Supergirl costume is set aside for Thursday.

Pumpkin carving with Ellie

Before I look too far ahead, I’m looking back at some of the things that inspired me this month:

“If you’re going to be good at something, it has to be your own something. It can’t be somebody else’s thing.” Michelle Obama came to town, and Matt gave me tickets to go. She was inspiring, funny, sincere, dedicated… everything you expect.

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turnHarriet Beecher Stowe Sometimes the universe sends you just what you need when you need it. This quote showed up in my Passion Planner during a particularly difficult week, and I’m still carrying it with me.

One Room Challenge is continuing. I am very behind on blog reading, but I’m popping in as much as I can to check out the progress some of my favourite bloggers are making. Are you following anyone that I should add to my list?

I finally started reading Harry Potter this month. The original craze somehow passed me by, and I don’t think I’m the target market anymore. I’ve finished the first two books and will likely finish the series, as I’m curious enough to see what happens. Are you a Harry Potter fan? I’m taking a little break this week and reading this book that my Mom passed along. A sewing inspired novel? That sounds good to me.

My writing elsewhere:

What’s inspiring you this month? How are you celebrating Hallowe’en this year? Any Harry Potter fans out there? Or other good books to recommend?

Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada. I’m thankful for many things. My husband, our daughter, our dog and our cat. Our families, this farm, good food.

The silo at sunrise in the fall

Most of all this year I’m thankful for time. We often feel that there’s not enough time. Or we wish we were doing something else with our time.

At the start of this year, I proclaimed my word of the year was “slow.”

I wrote:

“We have to do our absolute best to live a life that we are satisfied with. I want to feel good about what I do, who I am with and how I spend my time. And the word “spend” is important. Time is valuable. Time is precious.”

Over the past little while, I feel like I’ve found a balance of how I spend my time. I have time to work and create and relax. Time with my family and with myself. I treasure each of these moments and don’t take them for granted.

Every day is very full, and there is pressure. There are trade-offs and the balance doesn’t always look the same. But usually by the end of the day I feel at peace with what I’ve done and how I’ve spent my time.

I’m very thankful for that.

A few weeks ago I saw a sign on the side of the road that said, “You have what you need for this moment.”

This message was an affirmation that I have the strength, the skills, the energy, the ability, the support to face whatever comes. It’s also a reminder to live in the moment and not worry about what’s ahead.

Today is going to be full of moments with my amazing family at our lovely farm. I’m thankful for this time.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Odds & sods

Happy last day of September. I’ve been hanging on to summer and the warm weather as much as possible, but yesterday morning, Baxter, Ellie and I went out for a walk and it felt very fall. The sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing. But in the east field, it looked like spring as new seedlings have sprouted everywhere (just ignore the red tree on the edge of the field).

Baxter walking across the field

Grass seedlings

Getting this field ready for planting has been a full summer project, but over the last couple of weeks, our farmer did the final grading and even seeded. I’m pretty sure this is the start of hay for next year.

Living on the farm, I’m conscious that things are always changing and growing. Even as fall begins and we head to the quieter season of winter, life goes on.

Before I look too far ahead, here are some of the things that have grabbed my attention this month.

When I meet people they often call me Julie rather than Julia. I always feel awkward correcting them, so I usually just go along. At a party earlier this month Ellie was playing ball with a young girl who looked to be about 7 years old or so. I kept saying, “Throw the ball to Ella. It’s Ella’s turn.” After a few rounds of this, the girl said, “It’s Bella.” She was so confident and direct. I was impressed. It takes a lot to correct an adult when you’re a child, and this is something I struggle with even now. Next time I hear Julie, I’m going to try her simple approach.

More communications tips: how to talk to your kids using nonverbal techniques.

“Food should be grounded in people and place… Growing and cooking their own food, making their own history, building their own economy.” Eat Like A Fish by Bren Smith is an interesting, motivating and slightly scary look at fishing, food and climate change . It has me thinking about the choices I make and my expectations around food.

I haven’t knit in a really long time, but I started again this month, and it feels really good. A little sweater for Ellie is taking shape. And one project is sparking so much creativity. I whipped up a simple elastic waist skirt for myself during one of Ellie’s afternoon naps and started sewing a dress for me as well. I also have two more sweaters planned for her, a pair of mitts, maybe a hat.

Sarah Richardson just wrapped up a makeover on her own cottage. I loved watching the first renovation that she did many years ago, so it’s been interesting to see how she updated the spaces. A highlight for me was the bathroom where she made it look new even though most things stayed the same. She shows the benefit of choosing timeless materials that you love.

My writing elsewhere:

What season does it feel like where you are? Have you been doing any crafting? What’s your favourite creative outlet? Anyone else have a name that people often mishear? What was the highlight of September for you?

 

Fall farm to-do list

Fall is officially here. I’m never ready to let go of summer, but the days are definitely shorter and leaves are starting to turn. I can’t deny it.

A long to-do list is the norm for life on the farm. But fall brings some extra pressure. We have to get thing done before the weather changes.

(Although have to might be a strong word choice. The farm will likely not fall apart if we don’t do these things, but I would feel like we’re more responsible caretakers if we did.)

Raspberries

Prune raspberries – The garden continues to be a disaster, but I continue to hope I can get just one part of it under control. Aside from the emotional peace of mind pruning the raspberries would bring, it would also set us up for a better harvest next year.

Double French light purple lilac

Transplant lilac – When we moved here, I brought a cutting from my grandmother’s lilac. It’s been doing well, but as it grows bigger, it’s obvious it isn’t ideally located. I’ve heard fall is a good transplanting time. Any tips for moving lilacs?

Remove screens – This is something I try to do every year, but it’s hit and miss as to whether I succeed. I feel that storing the screens for the winter protects them from the harsh weather, plus it sets me up to clean them and the windows every spring.

Spraying hose nozzle

Turn off exterior water – This one is non-negotiable. The water has to be turned off, the hoses need to be put away and pipes must to drained before the temperature dips below freezing. We’ve done this enough times that it’s usually not too difficult.

Clean the gutters – Before we turn off the water, we need to clean out the eavestroughs. Being surrounded by so many large trees mean that the gutters fill up with pine needles, leaves and other debris that clog up the downspouts. If they’re given a chance to freeze, troughs will back up and overflow, which could lead to water going where it’s not supposed to.

Ralph and Baxter supervising the oil change on the tractor

Service tractor – My super helpful cousin comes up to the farm every fall to change the oil in the tractor and check it over. Before he shows up, we need to remove the mower deck, clean and grease it. We’ll hold off attaching the snowblower until we need it. We also need to run the push mower out of gas.

It’s a relatively modest list. I’ve not added any big new tasks, just focused on a few basic things that we need… or things I’d like… to do.

Odds & sods

I know summer is winding down, but we are still savouring every second. We’re having such a good time all together and really, really enjoying each other.

We’ve spent time with our extended families and also with our own little crew. There were lots of swims in Matt’s parents’ pool and a very special cottage week with my family. There have been tractor rides, hikes and harvests. Life is very full and very good.

Our rhythm is changing these days, but we make sure to treasure our time at the farm together.

Here is my monthly round-up of some recent happenings:

Dining room by Luke Havekes

The September issue of House & Home was over-the-top with a Milanese “guesthouse” (on the scale of a chateau), a Parisian pied-à-terre, and a large London flat. Completely out of my league. But tucked amongst all of the splendor was a home that felt completely attainable and identifiable by Canadian designer Luke Havekes. It was comfortable, colourful and personal. A few spaces even felt familiar, as they had elements that I’ve used here at the farm, like the white china cabinet with the arched tops.

Are you watching American Ninja Warrior? It is such a positive, uplifting show. The physical achievements are super impressive, but the competitors themselves and their stories are even more inspiring. Plus, watching two women finish the course last week was a great milestone.

“Resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have within us.”

I’ve been trying to recycle Ellie’s infant carseats rather than putting them in the garbage (they were hand-me-downs and are near expiry). It took awhile, but Atmo does recycling all across Canada. There is a cost (about $20 per seat), but there are various drop-off locations, which is more affordable than some of the other options I found that required me to ship the seats to a depot.

Chris Loves Julia’s kitchen makeover has been all over the internet–for good reason. It’s a great example of what can be done with DIY, creativity, some simple materials and paint.

My writing elsewhere:

Do you feel summer winding down? How are you wringing every last drop out of the season?