Monday, December 30, 2013

#179. or, The Clock is Ticking!

  I'm trying really hard here, not to be THAT guy.

  You know that guy. The one who goes on and on incessantly about something he gets to do, while the rest of you are left to suffer in your day to day lives.

  But I'm weak. And if I don't tell somebody, I'm probably going to explode, and that would be unpleasant. So I'm going to tell you, and imagine that you've all just shimmied your asses onto the edge of your seats, leaned ever so slightly, closer towards your screens, and are thinking, "What Ken?" "What is this news that has us all atither?" 

  OK, honestly, I know I'm lucky if you're here blurry eyed, on your 3rd cup of coffee, trying to get through your blogroll in your underwear. But I'm imagining atither, so roll with me on this.

  My winter holidays are less than a month away, and I get to escape this frozen wasteland I call home! (That last sentence used to be all caps, but I went back and changed it because I'm trying to show a little restraint here.) Also, I may or may not have dug my kids' used up Advent calender out of the trash, refilled it with the left over Pot of Golds, Scotch taped the windows shut, and put a palm tree sticker on the 25. 

  I'm a bit excited about this.

  My wife and I, along with young son, are jetting off to Cuba toward the end of January. Because there's nothing like 8 months of winter to make you dream of visiting one of the 5 remaining communist countries left in the world. Actually, it turns out, Cuba is in fact, quite the popular tourist destination for Canadians. And I won't be visiting with any political agendas, but rather, for the rum, cigars, ocean, sun, and sand. Roughly in that order. Also, I may have just pee'd myself a little bit there, imaging myself partaking of all of those things simultaneously. don't need to concern yourself with that.

  I have this countdown app on my tablet that's been ticking down since I started it, back in frickin October. And like the fireplace channel on the TV somehow mysteriously makes you feel all warm and cozy on the inside, some nights I've laid awake in the darkness, while my family slept, counting down the seconds, dreaming of dancing the Salsa and conversing in perfect Spanish with the locals.

  Unfortunately, the extent of my Spanish is "hola", and even though I have taken Salsa lessons in the past, I seem to lack the ability to move my body in rhythmic unison to the music. My hope is, that if I'm ever called upon to actually do the Salsa in a public setting, any retained knowledge I have on Salsa-ing will spontaneously manifest itself, and I'll be hip-swinging-ly awesome. Not to mention irresistibly sexy. In my imagination, that's how it's going to go down. Rum may play a part in helping me achieve that.

  Nonetheless, the clock is running, and barring mechanical failure or weather related flight delays, when the numbers hit zero, I'll be thrust back into my seat as the pilot pushes the throttle of the plane to maximum, to achieve cruising altitude. Then I'll tuck in my elbows to eat my cellophane covered airline breakfast with plastic cutlery, and enjoy my thimble full of complimentary champagne as we jet off to a communist paradise.

  It's so exciting!

Wheels up in 26 days.  Because it's fun to say wheels up!

  Until then though, there's much to be done. I have to try on all of my beach shirts, make room in my humidor for new cigars, figure out which flip flops I'm going to take, and see if I still fit into my shorts. I suspect, after all of the turkey, ham, and gravy I've consumed over the last week, there might be an issue with that last item.

   I may need to get onto some sort of emergency weight loss schedule to fit back into my shorts, along with building up my tolerance to Rum. Because after all,

  ...........the clock is ticking!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

#178. or, Christmas Eve

  I'd have to say I'm ready. Well, as ready as I'll ever be. Other than a little wrapping that I'll finish up today.

  I did manage to get some of my outside lights up, and even if most of my cords and displays are still in boxes, the yard does have a decidedly festive feel to it. There's been shows on TV, the last few weeks, about the Christmas Light Wars and people who go all out with bigger and brighter displays every year. One of the things I've noticed is, the majority of those displays are where most of the light stringing is done in t-shirts and sandals. I didn't have that luxury, so I'm taking a pass.

  My shopping was done last week. Earlier than usual, so I'm ahead of the game in that regard. I like to do my own wrapping, but I responded too quickly to one purchase, when I thought the girl behind the counter was going to ask if I wanted a bag, but asked if I'd like that wrapped instead. I didn't have the heart to stop her from finishing the job, so I guess I'll just add some ribbon and a bow, and call it an effort of cooperation.

  Last night my wife received simultaneous texts from the 2 older boys asking what we wanted for Christmas, so I'm not sure what's going to happen there. Some people thrive under pressure. Last day Christmas shopping is something completely different.

  Nobody's sick! That's nice. Last Christmas was the Christmas of the vomit, but as we went to bed last night, we were all in good health. It's always nice when you're able to actually taste Christmas dinner. Looking forward to that this year.

  The thing I wanted to mention was, I watched A Christmas Story last night. I didn't get to see it last year, and for me, there's just something about that movie that makes it Christmas. I know it took place in the 40's and I grew up in the 70's, but so much of it reminds me of being a kid. The coal furnace in the basement, the heavy wool winter jackets and pants, the wringer washer in the corner of the kitchen. Things that aren't integral to the movie, but still catch my eye. 30 years before I was a kid, but I know all of that stuff.

  I remember there just being toys under the tree. Nothing electronic. We had a TV. It got 2, then 3 channels. And as I sit here writing this, a memory just tripped that the TV always worked better when the tree was up. It brought the humidity up in the living room up enough that my dad didn't have to get up out of his spot, walk across the living room, and smack the top of it, open handed, to stop the vertical hold from rolling across the screen so he could watch the CBC news.

  Sometimes, I wonder if my kids have a memory like that, buried deep in their brains. Just sitting there, waiting to be triggered by some nostalgic show. Some distant thought or event, that will remind them that their mother and I did our best to make their Christmas's as good as we could. I hope that those spots in their brains aren't used up memorizing patterns on how to navigate their way through virtual worlds on some game console.

  Hopefully those memories are there. Because Christmas is a time for memories. Old ones as well as new ones. And for what it's worth, along with the hustle and bustle of the season and trying to make everything perfect, it's the time of year that I remember my childhood more than any other. My childhood, my kids childhoods, and hopefully one day, the childhoods of my kids children.

  Because to me, that's what Christmas is all about.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

#177. or, I Need to Get On That.

  Hi, my name is Ken, and I'm a procrastinator.

  It's the 12th of December, and I don't have my outside Christmas lights up yet. There's no good excuse for it, other than it's Winter, and Mother Nature has chosen to hurl down Arctic hell and fury upon us. But as a Canadian, I believe somewhere, deep down inside of what I am, is hidden the expertise to survive prolonged temperatures well into the negative side of zero. Along with an ability to continue using my hands productively, long after my fingers have been reduced to little more than frozen stumps that have no real value, other than making my wife scream when I get into the house and try to warm them up by sneaking up behind her and slipping them into the back of her pants.

  That never ends well.

  But I haven't seen any sign of that evolutionary mutation in myself for quite a number of years. Unless, of course, you count ice fishing. Because if you include that, I turn into a guru of the cold, and can feel the gentle nibbling of a trout on a lure, at the end of 20 feet of 8 pound mono-filament fishing line hanging off my index finger, while sitting on an empty 5 gallon pail, on 3 feet of ice, at 25 degrees below zero. Apparently, putting up Christmas lights doesn't trigger that hidden talent.

  So, my wife has given me the ultimatum, if you don't get those fricken lights up by the end of the weekend, you might as well not even bother putting the damned things up at all! I'm paraphrasing there. She might have used slightly more colourful language to emphasize the urgency of the situation. And while the merits of that notion did, in fact, briefly drift through the icy caverns of my mind, it was quickly blown out of there by the next impending blizzard warning, on my Weather Network phone app.

  Truthfully, it's not like I haven't been thinking about it. Getting the Christmas lights up is one of the places I've been trying to go to when I'm laying awake in bed at night thinking about the crashing grain prices, or all of the snow I need to dig out of the corrals before I can sort and sell my calves. Then I recall, because I don't really take the Christmas lights down till May when the snow finally melts, and I see they're still laying out there, that the puppy ate the ends off of pretty much every extension cord I use, and all of those need to be fixed before I can start. Maybe it's all of the work I need to do prior to being able to put up my lights, that is preventing me from diving into that project.

  I'm a bit of a fan of grand, energy sucking, Clark Griswold-esque, lighting displays. It makes me feel all warm and cozy inside, and sets my heart aglow with the Christmas spirit. So I suppose, it's time I dig out my extension cords, try to salvage anything still usable, and start doing up my yard.

  Yesterday I began where I always do, by plugging in the giant star on the top of our grain tower. And as night fell, and I peered out the window through the falling snow to see how it looked, I saw that there are just enough bulbs burned out on the thing, that it more resembles a giant glowing flat tire than it does a Christmas star.

  That means I need to climb the 100 foot ladder with a bag of bulbs and replace those as well. Except, it's blizzarding right now, and it's pretty damned cold up there. It's supposed to warm up on Sunday.

  .........I think I'll start then.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

#176. or, Tested

  It has been a cumulative effort, for the entirety of my life, studying for, and trying to pass tests.

  Ok, I realize that not all of those tests were administered in situations where I was given ample time and opportunity to sufficiently refresh my knowledge base, to be as fully and completely prepared as the limited amount of grey matter, I have left in my brain reserved for those type of things, would allow. And believe me, that space is indeed quite limited, because nobody bothered to tell me, when I was a kid, that filling my hard drive with useless Star Trek and 70's sitcom trivia would be a problem down the road when it came time to learn multiplication of fractions or algebra.

  But regardless of the state of my mental preparedness, I've done a lot of tests.

  The first test I can ever remember doing, was some sort of aptitude test at the health unit, to determine if I had the mental capacity to be registered into school. The only reason I remember this test is because at some point during the testing, I was asked to pull the wings off of a giant holographic fly.

  I'm going to repeat that. GIANT HOLOGRAPHIC FLY!

  I think I failed that test. But not because it was a fly. Hell, as a kid growing up on a farm in 1973, I was no stranger to flies. In fact, at that point our bathroom was still a room with a bucket in it that had to be periodically taken out and dumped. It's a pretty safe assumption that I was familiar with flies. Now that I look back on it, at 4 or 5 years old, I was also significantly smaller than I am now, so the giant holographic fly might not of been as large as I remember it. I'm pretty sure what freaked me out more than anything, was the hologram, which had to be relatively new technology back then. Certainly not the thing a kid living with two TV channels, back in the days when a simple calculator still cost $700, had ever seen before. And even if that test had no scientific basis, to measure whether or not I was fit to be turned loose in the real world, if science has blessed you with the ability to create giant holographic flies, what better sector of the population to unleash that horror on, but sweet and innocent preschoolers.

  Yay science!

  So, I may have failed the first test I ever did. Or not, because they let me got to school, so I'm not sure. My scores probably read, plays well with others, scared shitless of giant holographic flies. But since that time, besides the multitude of testing I did in school, my life has been about passing tests. I've been tested to drive a car, an 18 wheeler, a motorcycle, a boat, and a school bus. I've been tested to own firearms. Seems to me, my wife and I even had to take some sort of test to see if we were fit to get married. All those were specific course tested situations. There's a whole other facet, where I've just been tested by life.

  It's all about the tests.

  Now, over the last month or so, my wife and I, along with her sisters and their families, have been in the process of moving her parents out of their home and into a retirement facility. Because my wife's mother is not in the best of health, she's been given a room with relative ease. Her father on the other hand, while not in the best of health, is still not in bad enough shape to be admitted immediately. He has to go onto a waiting list. In order to get top billing, you have to fail a test the doctor gives you to determine your mental and physical health.

  After a lifetime of being conditioned to pass various tests, it would seem there comes a point when it is in your best interests to start failing tests.

  I fully expect to spend the golden years of my retirement, in a home, eating mushy food and playing bingo. Not to mention, I have heard, the old ladies out number the old guys in those facilities by something like 10 to 1. At those kind of ratios, an average guy like me is going to immediately get bumped up to an 8, or a solid 7 at the very least. There's gonna be old blue haired women all over this wrinkly sugar!

  But, in order to get in there, I need to fail the test. And I suspect there's a pretty fine line between a room with a window or one with bed restraints and a drool bucket. You can't just walk in there and completely blow the thing.

  .................I think I had better start studying to fail that test as soon as I can.

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

Sunday, November 03, 2013

#175. or, The Dog Had a Birthday! (.....but as it turns out, this post isn't about that)


  Just to explain that. I have a small, but what I think is a fairly decent list of topics, that I had written down in my notebook over the summer. Some of them were relevant to specific situations, but as the situations passed by, I deemed those topics to be "out of date." However, seeing as I'm far from blessed with wonderful writing material on regularly scheduled intervals, and part of the bargain of you guys continuing to stop here to read what flows forth from my stagnant brain, (that is assuming you're still there? this thing on?) as long as I keep writing, I'm going to be dipping into the well, as it were.

  I had intended come up with some sort of fancy acronym for, THINGS THAT HAPPENED WHILE I WAS FARMING, THAT I INTENDED TO WRITE ABOUT, BUT INSTEAD GOT TOSSED TO THE WAYSIDE, WHILE I WAS TRACTORING MY ASS OFF........, so you wouldn't be reading a post, and thinking, "What the hell is he talking about something that happened 2 months ago for?" But that seems a little ridiculous at this point. And nobody's even going to know what TTHWIWF,TIITWA,BIGTTTW,WIWTMAO means anyways, not to mention, it's rather unwieldy. So henceforth, if you see a post that begins with, SHIT THAT HATH COME BEFORE!, You will know it's just an old topic, and I'm not really trying to pull the wool over your eyes or anything. I promise!

 Back to the task at hand..........

  You know, it just occurred to me, that it took 3 fairly significant paragraphs to set this whole thing up. And because the dog's birthday post, that is actually old news, is fairly significant and is probably going to include not less that 3 photos and a video, that if I begin it now, this whole thing is going to explode into a 3500 word nightmare, that I have no hope of holding you all through to the end.

  Geeez.....what do I do now?

  Um......OK! In an effort to get this train back on the tracks, here's what's going to happen.

  This is no longer the dog's birthday post. That will happen in post #176. I'm just going to ramble a bit here to try to finish this thing off, and hopefully not lose any followers and get us all out the other side.

  Coming up, over the next few posts, you can expect to hear about something interesting that happened during vacation with Young Son.

  Also, I have a post about urinals. That's right, urinals. I had that one all planned out in my head, but then somebody else I follow did a urinal post, and had to mothball it so as not to break some unwritten blogger code of ethics. (there's such a thing, isn't there?)

  There's the post about an upcoming winter vacation we booked.

  And, I still have that post almost completely written about football, Jesus, and riding the light rail transit system.

  So that's just a few. I apologize for this post. I really was going to write about the dog when I sat down here. Sometimes things just go sideways.

   .........more often than not if you're me.

Monday, October 28, 2013

#174. or, The Wedge

  The best way that I can describe it, is that it's like a wedge.

  The beginning of harvest is the wide side of the wedge. That's where I start, looking side to side, and there's all this potential, and vast array of jobs to do. But there's time and while there's always pressure, it's not an overwhelming pressure that threatens to crush you into the ground as you try to get everything done. Because the wedge is wide, and it offers you the flexibility to move from side to side and spread out you're duties where you best see fit.

  Moving along, one breakdown compounds into the next and as the sides of the wedge begin to narrow, certain jobs have to be set aside, as it becomes obvious there's not going to be enough time to get everything on that list completed.

  And as you drive yourself into the point of that wedge, with all the force you can muster, as things seem to fall apart around you, the motion of trying to achieve that goal becomes the only thing you can focus on. It's the only thing that matters. The thing that you set out to accomplish even before there was the hint of a wedge, because in the beginning, it was so wide you didn't even notice it was there.

  However, the jobs you cast aside don't just disappear, they're still there needing to be done, they've just slipped behind you, and you drag them along. Toward that point, that goal, and all that stuff behind you is now pushing you into the tip of that wedge, forcing you into a place, that while it was your objective all along, it's a position that's uncomfortable and heavy as the days left available to you become less and less. Everything is compounded. Little breakdowns are the end of the world because they keep you from your goal. Inconsequential things make you angry for no reason. And at night, you crawl into bed exhausted and dusty because you're too tired to wander through the shower, yet you can only sleep sporadically as thoughts of all those jobs you cast to the wayside come back to haunt your slumber when you try to shut off your brain for a handful of hours.

   I don't know if what I do is the insanity, and writing is the anchor, or writing is the insanity and what I do is the anchor? But I think, having a little insanity in my life is a good thing. Whatever it is, writing is one of the things that got put on hold while I raced to that wedge. I'm not apologizing for it, but I've missed it. My notebook, that had gotten crammed into a deep deep corner of my dusty backpack is ready to come out again and get filled with ideas, because  on Thursday night, I finished my harvest. Beyond the date I had set out for myself. Hell, I blew far far beyond that date. But I did finish, and while there's still plenty of things to be done, at least it feels like I've come out the other side of that wedge.

   Perhaps that wedge isn't really a wedge at all, but more of an hourglass, and over the next month or so, as I move away from that narrow point, and all the potential of the wide open view sinks in, I'll have the desire to do it all over again.

 .............because after all, there's always next year.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#173, The End is Near!

  As I sit here, hunting and pecking this out, I have one field left to combine. That's not to say, by the time you read this I won't be done, because honestly, it's been pretty damned hard to find the time to write. Add to that, I've become so focused toward finally completing my harvest, any spark of inspiration or wit burning in my imagination has been temporarily snuffed out by lung-fulls of grain dust, sometime when I wasn't paying attention.

  Before you read the next paragraphs, I want you to know, I don't consider myself driven. In fact, I might even be leaning toward the lazy side. And while I've been combining my ass off at every available opportunity, I can't keep from thinking if I was a harder worker, I may be done by now. I'm just saying, a Sunday on the couch with my wife and a stack of movies is looking pretty damned attractive right now, even though the end of combining doesn't mean that's any closer.

  Anyways, the last three nights haven't gone so well. Thursday around midnight, the cab of my combine filled with the distinct smell of smoke. I spent a good half hour going over things but there was no sign of anything burning. I decided to continue, but before I finished the round, was shut down buy the sound of banging and clanging. Unless you're in the drum corps, banging and clanging are not good sounds. So I went home and tried to sleep with my memory filled with all of the images of combines burnt to a crisp, mid swath, that had flooded my twitter timeline over the last month.

  Friday night, at 4:00 am, (which I know is technically Saturday morning, but the days are all sort of running together here) as I was unloading canola, again with the banging and clanging. In the hopper tank of my combine, there is metal slide that helps distribute the grain evenly in the hopper. That broke loose, and was eaten up by the auger. So I got shut down again.

That doesn't belong in there.

  Last night, (Saturday) I was trying to clean up the last of my wheat, and it was trying to rain. I had so little left, and the more it drizzled, the more difficult it got to get the crop into the combine. Wet crop doesn't slide as well as it needs to, to get where it needs to go. You're not supposed to combine in the rain, and I probably looked like an idiot. Then half my lights went out, and the slip clutch fell apart.

  On the bright side, my combine didn't burn to the ground, and the Thursday banging and clanging wasn't such a difficult fix, so it didn't take too long to get going again. Friday night, 4;00 am banging and clanging, was easily fixed by cutting the slide out of the auger with the cutting torch, and everything still works without the slide, so not so bad either. Saturady night, I was able to patch the slip clutch back together enough to finish the field with the lights I had left, and even though the straw was getting quite damp and hard to get through, turned out the wheat was still dry. So that was good.

  When I eagerly began this harvest I remember the moon was full and bright in the sky. Now the moon is full again, and I'm eagerly anticipating the end of harvest. Granted, I lost a couple weeks in there, because of rain, but it's been a long-assed haul. I'm ready to be done. I have one field to go, and weather permitting, and if everything hangs together, I should finish on Monday. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and I'm headed in that direction. Cross your fingers.

  ...........also, when you're combining between midnight and 4:00 am, majestic Mr. Owl likes to fly in and sit on the side of the truck and watch me combine. Apparently when I leave, he also likes to sit on the combine. I can tell by the nasty gift he left me on the deck plates in front of my door the next morning.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

#172. or, The Not so Pumpkin Spiced Latte

  My wife likes a little coffee in her creamer, enjoyed from a cup that holds about a third of the contents that our coffee pot will produce. And there's nothing wrong with that. I on the other hand, start my first cup with a splash of the hazelnut creamer we've been using, and gradually fade to black by my third cup. I tend to slam them hard and fast. Like when you try to burn through that tray of drinks you bought at last call at the social and now they're playing that last slow song before they turn on the lights and send you home, and you still have Forty dollars worth of booze in front of you. Because if my wife goes back for refills on that pail she's using for a coffee mug, I'll be done, and will have to wait for coffee time to continue my recharge.

  We tend to go through a bit of coffee.

  October, over the last few years, has brought on an inundation of an all new coffee phenomenon. The pumpkin spice latte.

  Now, my nose isn't all that sensitive. You'd think from the size of it, I could smell like a dog. That's to be able to smell as well as a dog can, not smell like the dog does, because I know there are days I come home from doing what I do, stinking worse than the dog. I believe my olfactory senses have been somewhat dulled by a perpetual onslaught of a combination of agricultural chemicals and cow shit.

  I can smell some, but not great. I've been tricked more than once, coming home to a house filled with the delightful aroma of what I'm certain is fresh baked cinnamon buns, only to discover an apple/nut/cinnamon scented candle burning. So, there is the association with smells connected to certain things in my memory.

  Pumpkin spice. It sounds wonderful. Like something you want to eat, but when I hear those words, I can feel my synapses trying, but firing off  blankly in my head. I want to associate it with something. I remember my childhood, and from carving pumpkins with my kids, the damp musty smell of pumpkin guts in a bucket beside the table. That's not it. I remember leaving the Jack-O-Lanterns my kids carved, sitting out a little too long because of their attachments to things created from their own hands, and having to scoop it off the side walk with a shovel because it had begun to liquefy. That's not it either.

  Usually I end up settling on pie.

  I don't do much baking. In fact, I don't really do any baking. But I have a suspicion that pumpkin pie is less about the pumpkin, and more about the elegant mix of spices and flavourings added to it. My Grandmother was a prolific vegetable grower, and coming from a time when you used every damned thing you could produce, she would trick me into eating cakes made from zucchini or beets, that I had no idea were vegetable based products. Until she told me, which I'm certain she got some sort of perverse pleasure from.

  Anyways, it's my suspicion that the pumpkin is like a blank canvas that conforms to whatever concoction of flavourings that you blend with it. And because it's the season of harvest and Halloween, and sitting wrapped up in a warm cozy blanket, reminiscing over the past summer, while you sip a warm beverage consisting of roasted beans, the major producers of coffee-to-go, have seen fit to play upon our nostalgic memories to sell more product. I've tried those beverages from two of those coffee-to-go companies, and have been left...........wanting. Not to mention  feeling somewhat misled by the advertising with pumpkins all over them, when they should probably have nutmeg and allspice and some other thing I can't put my finger on, rather than pumpkins.

  I can't really blame them, even though I didn't care for either pumpkin spice latte. They're advertising did, in fact, seduce me into buying their seasonal products, on two separate occasions. So they're moving a lot of coffee, to people who normally wouldn't spring for something like that. Plus, I'm certain there was fevered debate by a bunch of suits in a boardroom somewhere, whether or not to go with the pumpkin spice latte, or the roasted turkey, mashed potato and gravy cappuccino. I think they probably made the right choice.

  ............that being said, if I could come up with a coffee flavouring to make you subconsciously reminisce for colourful wrapping paper and bows, and decorated evergreens before Christmas, I could make a million.

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

Friday, October 04, 2013

#171. or, Lift with your brain.....not your back

I have the answer to one of those burning questions that probably keeps you up at nights pondering, until you finally fall asleep at 5 in the morning, then snooze right through the alarm clock making you late getting your kids up and to school.

How heavy is the transmission and differential cover on a 2950 John Deere tractor?........

Freaking heavy enough, that if you try to lift the thing by yourself, you're probably going to taste yesterdays breakfast. That is of course assuming that your digestive tract works as poorly as mine does.

Back in the day, (because I'm old and get to use phrases like that now) I probably would have been able to pick that thing right off the floor and tuck it nicely in, right between the cab and the transmission where it needs to go. Most likely without a second thought. But, that also might be the reason why my joints snap and pop in the morning until I can get them thoroughly lubricated with coffee. It's also the reason why now the phrase, "lift with your legs, not your back", seems like much better advice than it did, say.....10 years ago.

When I was young. Young and invincible.

These days, I tend to do more of the heavy lifting with my brain, rather than the limited brawn I seem to have left. That's not meant to be a resounding endorsement of my intellectual wealth. Truth is, I'm not the smartest farmer on my block, and if I was, I probably would have made my million inventing something like vacuum cleaner slippers so you could just shuffle about sucking up dust bunnies. But I'm not a millionaire, so clearly, limited brain power to match my limited brawn.

I try to exercise my brain. That's partly what this is. An exercise that sends my brain off toward something other than crop planning, marketing, the direction I want to go to remain viable, and all of the varied things I need to get done in the limited window of reasonable weather we have left. The thing about exercise, is that some days, it's just easier to sit on the couch inhaling potato chips. But also, once you get off your ass and do it, exercise at some point magically transforms itself from a chore, into the thing that makes you feel good.

So that's how it is. I like this exercise, and even though I most likely won't even come close to the goal of reaching 200 posts by the end of the year I had set for myself, I'm still plugging away. Doing brain squats, if you will, to keep from becoming a bleary eyed, drooling mass, slouched in the corner in full mental shut-down. Hopefully, in 10 years or so, it won't be my brain, along with my body that cricks and pops when I try to get out of bed in the morning. And if I'm lucky, both will still work well enough together to be able to figure out a way to get the transmission and differential cover back onto a 2950 John Deere tractor with a combination of both brain and brawn, and still be able to bend over to tie my boots the next morning.

..........just in case you're wondering, coffee and toast with honey. And it tasted much better coming in from the outside than from inside up.

Friday, September 27, 2013

#170. or, How's it Going? It's......going.

  I was really excited to dive into the harvest, so I could tell you all about the progress that I was making, and how much I look forward getting our combine rolling each year. Not because it's easy. But rather, because this is what it's all about. The culmination of a series of events, set into motion some 5 months back, when I hooked up my tractor to put seeds, some not much bigger than the head of a pin, into the ground. Then looked after those plants to the best of my ability, with the help of a preferably  favourable Mother Nature, to hopefully fill all of the grain bins we own, and maybe a few borrowed from the neighbour as well.

  Mother Nature has been kind. Except maybe that rainy stint while I was trying to make hay. But the Fall has been an exceptional run of harvesting weather for us. My combine, on the other hand, has not been quite so cooperative. 

  I wanted to tell you about how awesome my combine is. And how over the winter, while it was in the shop getting a proper going over from one end to the other so I could avoid any issues come harvest, we discovered it was actually a prototype combine. The tractor company I use, that makes green equipment, will make a handful of units, say about 30 or so, that have all the specs of the next piece of equipment they want to introduce, and sends those units out into the world to be tested before they begin the actual production run of that next unit. Turns out I own one of those combines. So, it's sort of like the Batmobile of 9750 combines. It looks like a 9750 combine on the outside, but on the inside, it's an angry thumping mass of gears, horsepower and hydraulics that can chew up and spit out tiny little pieces of your run of the mill 9750 combine.  

  That's what I wanted to talk about. Instead, I think I'll tell you about how I've made so many early morning parts runs into town, that the fellow I meet on the bicycle each morning and I have now become casual acquaintances, and we've stepped up our relationship to the "good morning" nod, as we pass on the street, just before the only lighted intersection we have in town. Or that how it crossed my mind, on the 3rd of 4 trips to the dealership last Saturday, the staff there might not be so happy to see me for my cheerful demeanour and engaging  personality, but more so, for my contributions to their winter vacation. 

  But, I've been getting the bugs out, and there have been good days as well. I've decided that I might be able to eliminate any further stress by replacing the header portion of my combine with an upgraded one that is supposed to feed the crop into the combine a little more evenly. The bad thing is, the one I want is 6 hours away and I have to send my old header along in trade, so basically, I'm buying this newer header unseen, except for a handful of email pictures, and on the word of the salesman, that it's a good unit. What can go wrong? People buy shit on the internet all the time?

  ............also, I'm not entirely sure I was supposed to mention the whole prototype combine thing. So if people in green jackets and dark sunglasses show up and I mysteriously disappear, you'll at least have an idea of what happened to me.   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

#169. or, At The Ocean, Not On The Ocean.

  Sometimes, when I have a particularly frustrating day, which decides to compound itself into a full week of one thing after another, my mind tends to retreat into it's happy place. My mind spent a good deal of time in it's happy place this week.

  I have become a believer,  that the ocean can heal your soul. That might be a stretch for a farm boy who lives 14 hours drive from the nearest ocean, but the times that I've had at the ocean have been the most relaxing and rejuvenating vacations I've ever had.

  It hasn't always been that way. When I was younger, the ocean was a stinky place, that was damp and gloomy, where it rained more than the sun shone. In recent years however, I've found an ocean with wind rustling palm trees, and miles of beach to walk on bare footed as the waves lap at my feet. Even if I can't do that thing where you walk along just inside the water, as it goes back and forth, back and forth. That makes me queasy and I need to sit down. I like the water to be just about to my feet, and only occasionally washing over them. I can deal with that.

  So, I like being AT the ocean. I'm not all that fond of being ON the ocean.

  Truthfully, being on the ocean freaks me the hell out! We've all seen that picture on the internet of the guy on the paddle board as a giant majestic whale breaches the water mere feet where from he is. Beauty and oneness with nature. I own cows, and as much as you want to be friends with something that exponentially exceeds your body mass, it's probably not going to end well. I always wonder what happens after the picture, when the tsunami that free Willy just made tosses him into 1000 feet of unexplored depths. I bathed a dog in the bathtub once, there was water everywhere, trust me, that guy's going in the drink.

  Or how about surfboard guy, with the shark in the wave beside him. That looks like fun. Or not! I've been fishing before. With my dad, and as a dad with my son. You all know what fishing is? It's where you introduce a reasonable facsimile of the natural diet of a particular species of fish, in the hopes that it will entice that fish enough to be fooled into thinking it's lunch. That's surfing! Lets mimic the food source of the most efficient killing machine mother nature could devise, in the pursuit of paddling a glorified ironing board out into a series of waves with the intent of riding one of those waves to shore. Without losing a limb. Fun times.

  Maybe you're a free diver? One of those people who wear oversized flippers and tempt fate by seeing how deep they can dive without the aid of oxygen or pressurized suits, trusting that they are in tune with their bodies to the point they can get as deep as they can go, and return to the surface in one breath of oxygen without blacking out. Because if you pass out under water, it's not going to be pleasant. You're going to sink to the bottom of the ocean, be crushed into a pellet the size of a pea and end up being eaten by a fish with no eyes, a light bulb thingy hanging on a tentacle in front of it's face and more teeth than tail, created by a million years of evolution. I passed out at the Rotary Park in town once because I thought I was in tune with my body and how many beers I thought I could drink, and that was unpleasant enough. I'd rather not add being in the water to that scenario.

  The ocean that I know and love, and I dream about when I spend all day fixing my broke down combine, is one enjoyed from the shore. The sound of waves crashing on the beach, and the serenity of a cool breeze on my face as I stroll along with my toes in the sand. I like that ocean a lot. I've been thinking about that ocean quite a bit this last week.

  .........and now that it's on my mind, I generally have a mojito in my hand when I'm there as well. Perhaps soon. At the ocean, not on the ocean.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

#168. or, Adversity

  You know that thing?

  That thing.....

  .........where you're swathing canola in the middle of the night because you're trying to catch the dew to keep the pods from breaking open and spilling their seed all over the ground along with everything you worked all summer to achieve? When your swather makes this sickening bang and suddenly the header is hanging to the left and you limp it off the field, best you can, without tearing apart all of the swaths that you've cut earlier in the day? When you're finally off the stubble and onto the wet grass, crawling around underneath looking for the problem by the light of a cell phone because you didn't really think you needed a proper flash light? When you find the problem, and your heart sinks a little because you know, in the dark, laying there in the wet grass, by the light of your cell phone, THIS is gonna be a bitch to fix?

  So, you go to town the next morning for parts, and along the way, you see that one guy has been combining, which means even though it's only one guy, EVERY DAMN BODY is combining and you're the very last to start. Again! Without thinking about it, you chat it up with the parts guy a little longer than usual, because even though you know you need to get that swather repaired and back to work, you're delaying just a bit, because inside, there's a tiny piece of you that doesn't really want to tackle the job. But it needs to be fixed so you get to the field with your tools and the parts, and wander over to start the repairs with the body language of a quarterback who just threw an interception that cost his team the game in the final.

  And in 10 minutes it's done. Even before you realize, as you're crawling out from underneath the swather with a hand full of greasy tools, you have to stop and look back to make sure you did it right, because the whole job only took 10 minutes.

  That thing!

  Ya, that happened to me, earlier this week. First time ever! This year, anyways.

  I've been swathing canola like a madman, as it's been unseasonably wonderful weather for this time of year. Unfortunately, the heat has had our canola turning faster that I can get it cut, and now my last 80 acres are dead ripe and I can't swath it without losing all of the seed. So I'm a little stressed.

  I do have another option. I can cut it standing, directly into the combine. I do that with grain, but have never done it with canola. It's extremely delicate, much moreso than the other grains, so I'd prefer it to be in a swath, but all is not lost. Last night, I went to talk to my neighbour who was hauling grain in a field near ours, as his son combined. He straight cuts canola sometimes, and put my mind at ease about doing it. Somewhat. He also assured me that I am in fact NOT the very last farmer to begin combining this year, and he's also got some canola that still needs to be swathed. And most likely will be straight combining some as well.

  So that made me feel a little better.

  .........even though, it still bugs me that I wasn't able to get it done.

Friday, September 06, 2013

#167. or, Cover that in plastic, and put it in the fridge.

  We've finished making silage for this year. That means, I can cross that job off my list of things that need to get done before it snows, and can now focus my full attention on some of the other items.

  All 10 000 of them.

  Winter is coming! (Why can't I say that any more, unless it's in a British accent? Maybe it's something I've seen on TV? Who knows?) Anyways, it would be ridiculous to think that I'm going to get all of those items crossed off before winter, but certain ones seem to work their way to the top. Feeding the world seems to always be pretty high on that list. It turn, making sure our cows get fed is a priority.

  Our cows have two different items on their menu, hay bales and silage. Hay bales are pretty much exactly what they sound like. Cut the hay, dry it, roll it into 1300 pound bales and store it until it's time to feed it the cows. This process happens over about a week, so feasibly, it could be done by one person. Silage on the other hand is much more labour intensive, and requires quite a bit more man-power and equipment.

  So why do we make silage? Cause my Daddy always said, "It's hard to make good hay, but it's harder to make poor silage."  The thing about bales is you need the weather to be on your side. Which wasn't really the case here over the summer. The more rain you get on your hay between cutting it, and it dries enough to bale, the poorer the quality will be. Bale it before it's dry, it will spoil in the bale and turn into manure. Try to store good bales too long, they lose their feed value. So while they can be made easier than silage, it's safer not to put all of your eggs in that basket.

  When we make silage we cut the hay, same as with baling, but before it dries, we come along with the silage chopper, which chops all the hay into pieces about an inch long or less, and blows all of that product into a wagon we pull behind the chopper. Get it, tractor, chopper, wagon. Three units, plus the tractor and hay cutter that have gone before. When the wagon is full, we dump that into one of two trucks that are running trips back to the yard and dumping the chopped silage into a giant pile on the ground, with dirt banks on each side. It's then pushed up by yet another tractor, and packed as much as it can be to squeeze as much of the air out if it as possible. So, 8 different pieces of equipment, and 5 different people to run all of that. A little more than baling.

If only there was some way show you what I'm talking about?

  Bored to tears yet? Ya, I thought you might be.

  The final step in the procedure it to cover the whole  pit full of silage, about 1300 tons, with poly, so it doesn't spoil. If the poly remains intact, it can keep in good condition for up to 7 years.

  It's sort of like covering that plate of left-overs with plastic wrap and putting it in the fridge to save for a later date. maybe, say.....7 years from now?  Except, my plastic wrap is 350 feet long and 50 feet wide.

  Surprisingly, now that I think about it, I find it quite a bit easier to deal with plastic wrap on that scale, than I do with covering my left-overs. That stuff always ends up in a wad that sticks to everything except where I want it to be. It's only slightly less irritating than trying to match a lid to one the 500 plastic containers we have in the drawer, none of which are quite the same shape, and requires it's own specific lid. I usually end up with my food in a plastic container, covered with a ragged chunk of plastic wrap, held in place with a rubber band.

  I've heard, from one of my neighbours, that there's a way to extract the alcohol from silage, and come up with a drinkable product. It seems possible, as a pit of silage can ooze syrupy liquid all through the winter, and will only freeze when it gets around minus 30 degrees Celsius. While interesting, I've never been desperate enough to get down on my hands and knees and try to suck up a little silage juice. Or maybe whip up a thick brown cocktail to enjoy in the evening. There's no amount of tiny colourful umbrellas that will make that shit appealing.

  ..........however, maybe that's why my cows like it so much? I've never actually seen them hugging on each other and try to sing though. I may have to pay more attention.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

#166. or, I Don't Know if I Can Fix That?

  Sometimes, it's a bit disheartening when you think all of your equipment is in pretty good shape, then you head out with the intent to be productive, and all you end up doing is fixing.

  Don't get me wrong. I know that the only way to completely avoid having to do any repairs is to not turn on the key. I expect repairs. It would just be nice to have at least a couple consecutive days without any.

  In the old days, (ya, I'm going to be THAT guy) when something wore out or broke, you could tell what it was by the noise it made, or perhaps a vibration. Things wouldn't "feel" right , and it usually wasn't too hard to track down the problem. Because tractors were relatively simple machines, and in turn, a simple mind like the one I have could readily resolve the issue.

  But today, tractors are more wiring and hydraulics, that they are gears and grease. They have computers that tell all that plumbing how to run more efficiently for optimum performance. Which is nice when it all works, but a bit of a nightmare when there's a ghost in the machine.

  Right now, we're making silage to feed our cows over the winter. Sometimes we make hay bales, sometimes we make silage. Silage, is pretty much sauerkraut for cattle. About 1500 tons of it. It requires a lot more equipment and in turn, more people to run that equipment. As there is usually more than one tractor in the field at the same time, it's a good opportunity for my niece and nephew to learn how to cut hay. The tractor we use to cut hay with is the one with the issues, so lately, my day has consisted of trying to drive a different tractor, with the manual from the hay cutting tractor on the seat beside me, so when they send me texts of the pictures of error codes that keep coming up, I can try to track down the issue.

  And because a whole dash full of icons with tiny tractor related hieroglyphics is a little too easy to diagnose, each icon has multiple meanings. That way, even though there's a picture an engine pre-heater flashing at you in all of its bright orangey wonderfulness,  it might also mean there's water in the fuel, or the filters need to be changed. So you know there's a problem, but it's probably going to be easier to call the dealership and have them come out and plug their computer into it at $120 per hour, than try to track it down yourself.

  I know computers are a wonderful addition to life. I couldn't be Ken-inatractor, writing here without them. They just have the ability to cause me grief because I don't know how to fix them. Like when our ancient desk top computer crashed last week and I lost all of my header pictures. So, you're stuck with the baling hay picture until I decide to pay somebody else to attempt to dig into our old computer and retrieve them.

 On a more positive note, I'm fixing the transmission on an older tractor that is more nuts and bolts than wiring, so I get to use my wrenches and have greasy hands. And also, I was able to crack open my cell phone and replace the loud speaker with a new one I bought off of ebay.

   .........but, that actually means those things were broken as well, so that's not so positive. I think you know what I mean though.

Monday, August 19, 2013

#165. or, Elusive

  4:45 a.m., and I'm nowhere closer to that all elusive, peaceful sleep, than I was at 3:45.

  Except, I'm aware that I've failed at my attempt, with the small percentage of my brain I've allotted to ignoring the mosquito bite on my right middle toe, and inadvertently used it to scratch the heel of my left foot, unleashing a flood of euphoria that will most likely end up with my right middle toe being scratched into a bloody mess.

  I didn't actually want to get out of bed, on the off chance I accidently missed catching hold of the sleep that's been dancing playfully on the periphery of my brain. My brain, that seems instead to be content with racing through my great list of unfinished jobs at 100 miles per hour, since around 2:45 this morning.

  Yet, I've begun to string together a mix of words that are too good to ignore, and I know if I don't write them down, and I do happen to fall asleep again, they'll be lost forever. So that's why, at 5:45, I was sitting in the bathroom, scribbling words into my notebook, that have become sentences, which have in turn become paragraphs, and by 6:00 a.m., I've moved to the computer, because I need to write them down.

  Write them down.

  I've noticed the words have pushed all of the other noise out of my head, and it's now quiet enough in my brain, I could probably fall back to sleep. But now, it's the words that need to get out.

  Like I'm some sort of writer or something?

  The thing is, I don't really call myself a writer. I say, "I'm someone who likes to write." Which is sort of the same, but not quite. It's about as close as I can come to calling myself a writer, without actually saying the words. Sitting right there, dancing playfully on the periphery of my brain, like elusive sleep at 3 in the morning.

  I wonder if sitting on the toilet in the middle of the night, jotting words into a 3x5 notebook with a pencil, because you don't want to let them get away makes you a writer? Hopefully it does. I think I'd like to be a writer.

  Maybe I am a writer.

  .........a writer with a crazy itchy, right middle toe.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

#164. or, City Cousin, Country Cousin

  Over the long weekend, we attended the 2nd annual camping/casual family reunion held by my mom's side of the family. This year my cousin, who lives in Vancouver, and his son were able to attend.

  It occurred to me, over the course of the weekend, that my city cousin lives a bit of a different life than I, his country cousin does.

 City cousin jetted in from Vancouver, country cousin arrived by pickup truck. Granted, his flight happened as the result of saved up air miles, routed him through various airports, and included multiple planes, and a rental car. I realize he probably had to jump through way more hoops than I did to get there, but he's a seasoned traveler. I've been to 3 destinations by airplane in my life and whenever I have to go somewhere far flung, my first thought is still, "wonder if I could drive there?"

  City cousins favorite coffee comes from Starbucks and has a title five words long, none of which happen to actually be the word "coffee". Country cousin drinks whatever is in the tin can his wife brings home with the groceries.

  City cousin likes to sample various hard liquors, on the rocks, can detect subtle nuances and flavours, then instantly devise a list of  possible drink combinations out of his head. Country cousin needs a beer. And maybe, after this weekend, a Gin & Tonic.

  City cousin knows the proper pronunciation of all of the cigars that country cousin has in his humidor. The ones that country cousin chose because he liked the way they looked when he was buying them.

  City cousin, will occasionally take a job editing a book, is schooled in proper punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure, yet doesn't write. Country cousin writes, yet is dismal at proper punctuation, grammar, and  sentence structure.

  City cousin, while unusually pale, has exceptional skin and looks much younger than the years he has under his belt. Country cousins skin looks like a belt.

  You would think, with all of those differences, my city cousin and I would have nothing in common and would be hard pressed to find something to actually chat about. Yet, it's quite the opposite. We spent more than one evening, talking long into the night. Which goes to show you, it doesn't really matter where you come from, or what life you happen to be living, there's connections to be made everywhere. You just have to let them happen.

  He's quite supportive of me toward compiling some of these ridiculous posts into some sort of a book or something. Who knows? But I won't say it's never crossed my mind.

  I suspect, that if I were to visit the city, in my pickup truck, I may not blend in so well. I don't know how many good 'ol boys they have in Vancouver. Or, maybe I'd do fine? As long as I didn't draw any attention to myself by trying to get into the backseat of  a pickup by crawling over the front seat, instead of just using the back door.

  ............don't worry, Roland, I won't tell anybody about that, your secrets safe with me.

elleroy was here

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#163. or, Honey, Build me a Frickin Gate!

 It's nearing the end of July, and as far as I can remember, I've had my morning coffee on the deck, a grand total of one time this summer.

  Maybe twice, my brain doesn't cling to these details like it used to. But rest assured, it's a low number.

  Our deck, while useable, is still under construction. But that term, "under construction", conjures up images of exposed joists, and having to walk down a plank, from the door to get to the BBQ. Like some sort of rural pirate, without the ship.....or water......or, ruffled shirts for that matter. So, I tend to use the term "work in progress". What we have so far, is a split level space that is completely useable as it is. It's just not the vision my wife and I had in our heads when we dreamed of evenings with friends, sharing time on our deck with the ambient mood lighting, flickering citronella torches, all while I mixed drinks from the outdoor bar. It's a lovely, cozy space, perfectly suited to sharing a morning coffee on, with my wife in our pajamas. Or.......without the pajamas, depending on how badly we want to traumatize our kids.

  Except, because this is rapidly turning into the summer that wasn't, we rarely use that space. Every day we seem to have thunder showers roll through, making it damp and soggy out there. Not entirely inviting at all. And to top it off, our old dog, who is completely freaked out by thunder has decided that climbing up onto the patio furniture with his wet, muddy feet makes him safe from any impending, thundery doom. While his son, one of our other dogs, has taken to eating the cushions his father isn't using. So if, on the off chance, it happens to be a beautiful morning, or even evening for that matter, the place we would normally sit and enjoy that time looks more kennel than cozy.

This isn't a recent picture, there's less cushions now.

  My wife and I have recently begun a campaign to reclaim our deck. Or, as it's more casually come to be known as, Operation, HEY YOU DOGS, GET THE HELL OFF OF THE DECK!! Because that's what we yell out the door now, whenever we see them up there.

  We've let the dogs know of our intentions to take back our deckly sanctuary by going out, pointing forcefully at them, showing our stern faces and making pssshhht!, pssshhht! sounds like Cesar Millan does. I even trimmed my beard more into the style that Cesar Millan wears so I could be doubly threatening. And more awesome.......but it's mostly for the dogs.

  Whenever we wake up now, to a lawn full of patio furniture cushion stuffing after our dog has gone on, what I can only assume, has been a night of terror filled struggle as he battled the devil cushion until he was completely satisfied it was dead, I sometimes go for at least 30 minutes without petting him. Just so he knows I'm not terribly impressed with him, for protecting us from deck furniture.

  So now, we're planning to take our offensive assault to the next level. Well, mostly on my wife's urging. And when I say urging, I mean she said, she's NOT putting the new patio cushions, that we spent 130 DOLLARS on, out there until I build her a FRICKIN gate, to keep those GODDAMNED dogs off of the deck! AND, if I EVER want to see her out there in her pajamas again, or without pajamas for that matter, get the FRICKIN gate done!

  Because I'm a good listener, and I can pick up on subtleties and shit like that, I think I'm going to build that gate today.  I suspect she'll be pleased that I picked up on her hint and appreciate my efforts to make her happy. Also, I keep picturing her out there in her pajamas, and occasionally without them, so it's pretty important I get that job done., I get to use my power tools, so......bonus!

Friday, July 12, 2013

#162. or, Silicone Spatulas

  I am a campfire cooker. That's my thing. Well, one of my many talents. No.....not really, I mean yes, the campfire cooking, no, not too many talents.

  Whenever we go camping, I'm in charge of cooking the significant things we eat. Whenever I can, I do it on an open fire.

  I need to tell you here that primarily, my wife is the reason our family is as healthy as we are. She does the meal planning because I seem to lack that skill. If she asks me what we should have for supper tonight, most likely I'll draw a blank, freeze up with that deer in the headlights, glazed over, vacant eyes look, and give her my go-to answer. "UM.........nachos?" If the task were to fall to me, ours would be the home where you would come in and probably find a kid huddled in the corner in a tattered loincloth,  eyeballing the dog with visions of it on a spit over a fire on the back lawn.

  But when we're camping and she says, "here, cook this", I'm magically transformed into a combination of a kinder, gentler version of Gordon Ramsay and Bear Grylls. An Outback Iron Chef, if you will. Being able to do this, requires me to draw heavily on my vast and skilled knowledge of shop tools, and farm boy ingenuity.  My griddle handle is fashioned from a old pair of Vice Grips, and all of my bacon grease goes into an empty beer can that I've cut the top out of with a survival knife.

Fire, meat, Vice Grips.......yup!

  So, the one thing that I do cook on the campfire that's an actual combination of ingredients, is what I like to call my version of a campfire McGriddle. Basically, it's a large breakfast sausage patty with a slice of melted cheese on it, a couple fried eggs, all between 2 pancakes. I do this well, and I take pride in my ability to plate a desirable product that my family wants to eat.

This is why we come home from camping, 10 lbs heavier.

  The thing that has always bothered me while preparing this is that when you fry an egg on the campfire, the griddle surface is rarely flat. This causes my fried eggs to stretch out into unsightly, and unwieldy shapes. I was telling my wife of the grief this was causing me, and how I was going to have to go out to the shop to fabricate a metal ring by cutting a 1 inch metal strip of stainless steel, forming it around a piece of 4 inch pipe, tack welding it into position, and possibly, if I got fancy, fashioning some type of handle out of piece of heavy wire, a sheet metal screw and a chunk of old wooden broom handle.  (The blueprints are in my head if you're interested.)

   She went and got this giant rubber band looking thingy, and said, "here, use this."

  I have to tell you, I was more than skeptical. From a childhood on the farm spent trying to burn things that aren't necessarily meant to be burnt, rubber on the fire, while creating an awesome amount of thick black smoke, doesn't take long to be reduced into an oozing puddle. But because I trust my wife implicitly, and after 20 years together, know better that to question her intelligence, tossed the flimsy rubber ring onto the griddle.

  ............and it didn't melt, not to mention, working exceptionally well.

  Apparently, it's made of silicone? Silicone! The same stuff I use in the shop to glue the differential cover  back on the rear end of my pick-up, and seal the bathtub with. The same stuff they used to make bigger boobs with. They make frickin spatulas out of the stuff! Who knew?

  But more importantly, why did they not make the space shuttle out of this miracle witchcraft-ery!  Female astronauts with giant fake, silicone filled boobs, could rest at jiggly ease during the fiery re-entry through earth's atmosphere without any worries to whether or not they had lost any of the adhesive heat resistant tiles while hurtling through space at 20 000 miles per hour.  Plus, zero chance of dying in a crash landing because silicone is bouncy and returns to it's original shape. The possibilities are endless.

  Then they could go home to their families and make perfectly rounded eggs, every damned time, on open fires with flimsy silicone rings. Or at the very least, have their husbands do it.

  ...............and for the record, as much as I am in awe of silicone, I still like the natural boobs better.

  Joining up this weekend with the Yeah Write Moonshine grid, and the Humor Me Blog Hop. Click on the button to read some awesome blogs that are way better than mine.
Misplaced Alaskan

Monday, July 08, 2013

#161. or, Camping and the Decline of Human Civilization.

 So, we went camping last week. It was our big holiday for the year. There's going to be a couple other weekend camping getaways, but this was the big one. We left on the Tuesday after Canada Day, because it's impossible get a site anymore on a long weekend, arrived in the midst of a terrible storm, and got back home last night. So, 5 nights.

  While we were gone, I did my best to stay away from here. I wanted to recharge my brain and aside from bombarding social media with various pictures of campfire food, I pretty much stuck to that.

  I missed you.........really, I did.

  Anyways, while I was gone, I did write a post on paper, with my pencil, on the beach. Which is something I find I'm doing more lately before I bring it here. Well, not the beach part, that was new. But now, because that post was about events that happened nearly 2 weeks ago, and now feels like ancient history, I'll probably just trash it. Unless I can find a way to resurrect it, that post about the Canadian Football League and Jesus will most likely never happen.

  What you get instead is a post about camping. Because it's fresh, and relevant, and topical as people head out on summer vacation. More than that, it's a post about observations I've made over the last week that hopefully, you might find useful if you find yourself heading out this summer to spend some time in the woods.

  Now, I'm not going to lie to you, we do our camping in a trailer, so we bring along a lot of the comforts of home. I'm not really sure if that qualifies as roughing it? In fact, we park in numbered sites, along side endless other trailers, so it's more like the city than where I actually live, except that there's more trees.......and fires......and outdoor crappers.

  Our trailer has it's own toilet. It's more of a closet, but it still serves the purpose. My family uses it, and it's quite nice to have it there in the middle of the night. Also, since my wife has an aversion to outhouses, it's a necessity. But if I get sticken to do some real damage, I'd rather take my business to an outside source. The thing is, campground outhouse toilet paper is only that in the broadest sense of the term. It's my suspicion, it's created by the same people who would have been in charge of coming up with devilish torture devices if this was medieval times. The same guy who thought of the rat in the bucket, strapped to your stomach, you saw on Game of Thrones. Campground outhouse toilet paper has approximately the same structural integrity, and softness of touch to the skin, as a dried leaf. Use too little, and your fingers crush right through, which is unpleasant as it sounds, and NO amount of squeeze bottle hand sanitizer is going to make OK! Use too much and you get the same unpleasant scrubbing sensation that you would get if you were to attack your backside with a handful of Caesar salad croutons. My advice is to bring your own! Toilet, or toilet paper, I don't care, you're not going to go wrong with either.

  Also, if you're the one who has to empty the chemical toilet, you should do your best to argue against corn being on any part of the menu while you're camping. Trust me on this.

  If you go camping, it's completely alright to spend the whole day in your pajamas. You can wear them to the store, you can wear them to the beach, when you're cooking, everywhere!  It's awesome and it's normal there. But don't forget to wear regular clothes your first day back to work. People will look at you oddly.

  When you're camping, you will see, and be quite alright with, more dudes with big knives than you have ANY business EVER being comfortable with.

  Unless you have an exceptionally big trailer, you are never going to feel comfortable having sex with your wife at one end of the trailer while your kid is sleeping at the other end. Or possibly more accurately, your wife will not be comfortable with it. If you're a guy, and you're in the mood, it probably won't be such a big deal.

  Two things that probably should never go together, open fires and drinking will be common place, and if you're lucky, will happen every night.

   I pride myself a tiny bit on my ability to make a fire in the most efficient manner possible. As a rule, if it takes more than one match, I begin to question my manly fire making skills. (most of which, I learned from my wife) I'm a little anal about it. I'll have kindling of various sizes in small piles, all within reaching distance to use consecutively as I move from tinder to substantial sized wood. Just in case the only wood available is damp,  I keep a supply of dry wood to use to start my fires, in the trailer. Although I'm not so hardcore as to try to start my fire by rubbing 2 sticks together or by sparking a couple rocks against each other, I rarely use paper or a lighter.

  The thing is, I have a bit of a handicap, when it comes to the use of lighters. Not with Zippos or the pocket jet lighters I use to light my cigars with when I'm sitting around the fire at night. Those are fine. I just can't work those long stemmed BBQ lighter things. Those ones that require you to move 2 tiny leavers in opposite directions, while contorting your mouth just right as you squeeze the trigger. They never ever work for me, and on the off chance I do get fire to spew from one end, I'll inevitably let go of one of the levers just before I can actually start the thing I want to on fire. Then I have to begin the whole process over again, only to end up throwing the frickin thing in the bush after about the 8th try.

  My wife keeps saying it's because my penis gets in the way. I know she's mocking me and my ability to operate that damned lighter because I'm a man. I like to think she means that I have an incredibly impressive appendage that keeps getting in the way of my proper operation minor hand tools.

  .....................whichever it is, if you're a guy, hearing an attractive woman tell you your penis is getting in the way of menial tasks, it's probably going to make you quietly nod your head as say "OH YA!" to yourself, rather than be offended for your fellow male, gendered comrades.

This week, I'm joining up with the Humor Me Blog Hop as well as the I Don't Like Monday's Blog Hop. If you like you some funny,or just some darned good writing, follow the links (click on the picture)

Misplaced Alaskan

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#160. or, OH, There Will be Hugs!

  Around 10 months ago, our youngest son, who also happens to be the last of our kids still attending school, started junior high. Over the course of this past school year, he also became a teenager.

  When he started this year, I decided that I was going to do my best to send him off to school each morning with a hug as a little fatherly moral support to help get him through the day.

  Now, we're not an overly huggy family. Besides my wife and I, of course. We're always hugging on each other. Oh, and when I've been drinking a bit, then I'm more than happy to hug on anyone who comes around. I'm talking about doling out the hugs when it comes to my sons.

  I think I may have gotten that from my dad. I know he was fond of me and all, it's just he wasn't one to physically express himself like that to me.  He was more the type to express his affection by taking me fishing with him. Or maybe get some quality bonding time in by going fencing together, that hot morning after I came home a little hung-over from partying a bit too heartily the night before. Things like that, just to let me know he was thinking of me. But not so much the hugging.

  Anyways, as my sons got older and it occurred to me just how fast they were growing up, I've tried to add things here and there to let them know I had an interest in their lives. The morning hug thing I've tried to implement, is my latest attempt to achieve this end.

  The thing you need to know here, and you can consider this the public service announcement portion of this post, is if you are going to one day out of the blue start hugging on your son, you really really need to start doing this before he becomes a teenager.

  I suspect there's the possibility you could trick him into letting you hug him everyday. Maybe if you were to one time give him a hug out of the blue for scoring the winning goal, or after they've excelled phenomenally at some academic achievement, then milked that as an excuse to continue the hugs each day until it just becomes the thing you do? But something like the 1st day of grade 7 probably isn't going to be enough to fool him. Most likely, you're just going to end up with him looking at you with that mixture of fear and confusion as you stand there with your arms wide open, waiting for him to return your embrace.

  Luckily, I have a lot of persistence.

  So, everyday that I was able and in the house when my son left for school this year, I gave him an awkward hug before he left. Probably about 80% of the school days that he had. Maybe it was just that I wore him down or it might have been my imagination, but I thought toward the end of the year, he was actually waiting for me to come and hug him before he went out the door. It could have also been those 2 times I followed him out of the house and half way down the driveway in my pajamas to get my hug when he tried to sneak off without it.

  ..................Maybe having your dad standing at the bus stop in his pajamas with you, waiting for his hug is more embarrassing than just getting it over with in the house?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#159. or, Fireflies (for my wife)

   I've seen pictures, from other parts of the world, where the fireflies dance in the trees like a million stars in the skies. That doesn't really happen here. In fact, I'd bet, that there's a fair percentage of the population in our neck of the woods, that aren't even aware that we have fireflies. But we do. I've seen them.

  I've lived in pretty much the exact same spot for the entirety of my life, certainly for the part that I can readily recall to memory. For most of that time, I had never seen an actual firefly. The first time that I ever saw one, was 19 years ago, this past week.

  That's important, because today is the anniversary of the day that my wife and I were married, 19 years ago.

  I don't recall all of the details of that day the same way that my sweet wife does. I remember being a wee bit stressed. I remember the outdoor ceremony we had, and the bee that kept buzzing around us and wondering if my wife, who wasn't quite my wife just then, was going to bolt, from her terrible fear of bees. I remember drinking a bit and being awesome at the hula hoop game that our DJ sprang on us at some point during the evening. And now that I think about it, I probably recreated some of those awesome hula hoop moves, later that night, after my wife and I stole away for the balance of the night that we had to ourselves. But that's not really where I intended for this story to steer itself.

  What I was trying to get at, was that my wife did the greatest majority of the planning and putting into action of our day, 19 years ago. I was younger and a working fool, and when I look back on it now, I wish that I had taken the time to help her out with all that she had on her plate. Because over the last 19 years, the things that I remember most, are the things we've done together, as the partners that we were meant to be.

  But I have this memory, of a time, the week before this day, 19 years ago. When I'd come home from seeding or working with cattle, and my wife was exhausted from the stress of planning a wedding that was just days away. I remember that her and I went for a walk outside one of those evenings, and for the very first time in my life, while we walked in the dark holding hands, I saw fireflies. Not so many that they  lit up the forest, but a handful, dancing here and there, maybe at most three at a time, but still random enough that it surprised you when you would catch another set dancing in a different part of the woods. It was magical.

  So, every year now, when our anniversary rolls around I try to watch for them. They're not always there. In fact, they're rarely there. But a couple days ago, I came home from seeding, and as I walked up to the house as the night fell, I spotted them dancing in the trees behind our house.

  I've seen nights, when I'm in a field away from any outside lights, and the stars fill the sky so thickly you'd think you could reach up and stir them with your fingers. I've been on a plane in the middle of the night, and looked down to the Earth out of the window and seen lights of houses and towns twinkling like stars, and you would swear that you were looking up instead of down. But my favorite is without a doubt, sitting on the steps of our deck with my wife beside me, like we did a few days ago, watching a hand full of fireflies dance in the trees like stars.

  Because I know, the dance they do is for us.

  ................Happy anniversary baby.

This week I'm linking my post with the Yeah Write Weekend  Moonshine grid, as well as the Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom Blog hop. Follow the links to catch up on a bunch of other fine peoples blog posts!  :) 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

#158. or, My Lines Are Crooked

 Let's just say it's your job to draw straight lines. You've drawn straight lines since you were old enough to pick up a pencil, and learned how to do it from sitting on your fathers lap, watching him as he made his living drawing straight lines.

  So, you come from a history of straight line drawers and you're reasonably good at what you do. Oh, there's others, who can draw straight lines better than you can, but you still do the best that you can and you're pretty proud of the lines that you draw.

  Then, one day out of the blue, somebody invents a magic ruler. A magic ruler that makes every line you draw, a perfect line.

   Every. Damned. Time!

  Then, in the true spirit of the advancement of technology, the magic ruler people come up with a magic pencil, that for the most part, draws the line for you. Which is pretty wonderful, because now, you get to direct all of your attention toward  the little nuances like how much pressure the magic pencil is applying. It revolutionizes line drawing, because now, you're way more efficient and never waste any pencil lead which lets you draw more lines in a day and increases productivity.

  But, say one day the magic ruler breaks, and because the pencil and the ruler work together, the magic pencil won't work either. It forces you to go back to the old method of doing it freehand. And even though it's something you've done all of your life, your freehand lines pretty much suck ass and you discover that you've become reliant on technology.

  That happened to me yesterday.

  When I was seeding, my very last field of the year, my GPS signal cut out. It happened just as I was going to have my lunch and at first, I thought it might have just been a momentary loss of signal so I watched my little monitor, waiting for the icon to tell me my tractor was ready to steer itself again. But it didn't come back on.

  And I freaked out a bit.

  I stopped, shut the tractor off, got out, climbed up on the hood, unplugged the GPS antenna on the top of the cab and plugged it back in, hoping it would reboot the system. Twice. It didn't work.

  So while I was attempting to draw my straight lines in the dirt with my seeder, free handed, (and sucking at it) I thought, I could just get on the twitter machine and ask the good people who supply me with my GPS, just what the heck is happening. But the things that used to be easy. Like twittering and eating my lunch as the tractor steered, which let me watch things like seed depth and that I hadn't picked up a stone in the packers causing them to dig a giant rut across the field are way way harder to do when I have to steer as well.

  Apparently, through the twitter machine, I discovered it was some sort of system wide failure. We just had to wait it out. So for the next 2 hours, I drew crooked, squiggly lines in the dirt, made a giant rut in the field, tried to eat my lunch, type out messages to the GPS people on my phone, and watch for that icon, hoping I'd get my signal back.

  It was horrible.

  But, in the end, the signal reappeared as quickly as it disappeared, and I readjusted my line and everything in my world was normal again.

  Until it rained an hour later and chased me off the field, leaving me with still the better part of a day to finally finish this job.

  ............I hope the wheels don't fall off today. However, unlike magic rulers, I know how to fix that.

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Monday, June 03, 2013

#157. or, Night at The Museum

 I settled in. My spot, tucked in next to the outcropping, gave me a good view of the camp as I unfurled my bedroll and took position to watch over my end of the camp. They made far too much noise for my liking and it made me wary. We were in dangerous territory and I was fully aware of the nest of Hypacrosaur eggs behind me and that the mother would be around to watch over them.

  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I knew that the nest was the least of our worries as I could make out the shape of a Triceratops off to the left of the camp.

   For God's sake, if they would only quiet down, we might get through this night. But most of the crew was young and inexperienced, giddy even, to be out on site. And that might just be the thing that got us all killed. Because now, with my eyes fully adjusted, I was painfully aware that less than 50 feet away stood the fiercest of all the dinosaurs......a Tyrannosaurus Rex, we were all doomed.

  But not really. Mostly that was all me letting my imagination get the best of me,  because all of these dinosaurs were mounted skeletons, and my spot by the outcropping was really next to a giant pillar that held the roof up.  I was part of the grade 7 field trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller Alberta. Which was really cool, because we all got to spend the night in sleeping bags on the floor in Dinosaur Hall. Well, as cool as trying to sleep with a group of 50 some odd kids can be, after them getting up early enough to be at the school at 6:15 AM to get on a bus for a 5 hour ride, then spending the day learning about Paleontology, running them all into town for a quick swim, then getting them back and trying to calm them all into slumber at around 10:30 can be.  But it was all fun nonetheless.

all the comforts of home, without my comfy new bed

  Unfortunately, as it decided to rain on us most of the first day, we weren't allowed to go out on the badlands hike that was supposed to be a part of the tour. It seems, that a good deal of the badlands are made up of Bentonite. Which, while dry, is pretty much mild mannered dirt. However, when it gets wet it turns into, for lack of a better term, snot of the Earth. And as fun as trekking out into that with 50 grade 7 kids sounds, authorities with far greater powers than mine decided against it. Who am I to argue? I was there to drive the bus.

the wheels on the bus go round and round

  On the second day, the weather was a bit better and we took the kids to Reptile world as a part of their tour and to the suspension bridge where they were supposed to study it for an upcoming test on structures. I'm not really sure how they're going to do on that test, but I suspect, if they got tested on running up the hill on the other side of the bridge, they would all pass with flying colours.

  Overall, it was a good trip. I always enjoy field trips. (except maybe the one to the hair show, but that one wasn't so bad either.) Probably the worst part of the trip was having to clean up some kids pee off the top of the urinal in the museum bathroom. How out of control do you have to be to pee on TOP of the urinal. They're grade 7's, none of them are that tall yet.

  Having done a couple of these long trips now, one other observation that I've made is that a kids bladder will shrink, relative to the proximity we get to home, on the return trip.

  On the way down, we had one planned stop to have a bathroom break, refuel the chaperones on coffee, and have the kids spend half of their allotted souvenir money on candy and bucket sized slushies. (the candy and slushies weren't planned, more a side effect of putting 50 kids, free of their parents in a truck stop convenience store.)

  Coming home, we had more than a few kids, my own son being one of them, crossing their legs or doing the pee pee dance when we were still more than 45 minutes away from our scheduled stop. Of course, it didn't really help that everyone that didn't have to go was making wooshy ocean wave sounds and talking about every conceivable water related topic under the sun. Plus, while we were stopped, and it was suggested that everyone try their hardest to empty their bladders because we were pushing straight through to home, the other bus had to make a second unplanned stop for more peeing. Some of the kids (my son) asked if they could pee in an empty water bottle, but one of the teachers said that wasn't such a good plan.

  ............I had to agree. My son has enough trouble getting all of his pee into a 14 inch toilet bowl. Hitting the 1 inch opening of a water bottle on a moving school bus would have been damned near impossible.

Linking up this week with the Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom Bloghop. If you have some time, stop over and read a few blogs.