Sunday, December 28, 2014

#196. or, Merry Christmas.....Shitter's Full

  Back in the day, and now I'm old I can say that because I've somehow blown past that imaginary line faster than an Olympic sprinter burning through steroids like they're froot loops, Christmas was easy.

  I mean, as a kid, the biggest thing I had to worry about was studying the TV Guide to make sure I didn't miss any Christmas specials. And if I was good at anything, it was TV Guide. I could have taught a course. Except, interactive, picture in the corner, scrolling screen guides have made that obsolete, so I'm glad I didn't put all my eggs into that basket.

  Anyway, for some reason, Christmas is a whole lot harder now. Every year, when I park my combine and bring the cows home, I foolishly think that November and December are going to be a breeze. But they never are. They seem to fly by faster than I go through a roll of single ply toilet paper, and before I know it, Christmas is crashing down on me and I haven't even got my holiday lighting up yet.

  Don't get me wrong, I  do love Christmas. It just seemed easier to find the spirit when I was younger. From the time I was a kid, through newly married years, and onto when my own children were growing up, that magic spark was always there. I struggle finding it now, and so, it's also the reason that I found myself racing to clear the snow from our grain bin cabin by the dugout, on the 23rd of December. Even though it's never happened before, someone might want to go out there and do something rustic over Christmas, rather than play with shiny new electronics.

  Because I can't do everything from a tractor seat, I had to get out to chisel some ice away from the outhouse door. After breaking in, I lifted the seat to give it a check, because that's what you do, and I discovered that some burrowing rodent had completely filled in the pit. And an outhouse without a pit is basically just a cold empty closet with a seat. It left me feeling somewhat dejected.

  As I got back to plowing snow, it occurred to me, the unusable outhouse was a metaphor for my fizzling Christmas spirit. Just a hollow empty shell without the ability to contain any substance. The shitter with the filled in hole was proof the universe was conspiring against me to suck the Christmas spirit out of my bones.

  Except, Christmas still came.

  Over the next couple days our house was blessed with family and guests that made me remember what the holidays are all about. It didn't really matter that the outhouse wasn't usable, we have indoor plumbing for Christ's sake! It didn't matter that the lights burned out on the ass half of one of my yard reindeer, causing it to look like some genetic conglomeration, half human/half deer mutant. I was inside happily drinking eggnog paralyzers with my family.

  Regardless of the things I couldn't control, Christmas still came, and I had a wonderful time.

  Today, sitting here thinking about it, maybe I got the metaphor all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, by filling in that outhouse hole the universe was telling me to stop dealing with the shit, and just enjoy what I have? Funny how things work out.

  Of course, when it thaws out this spring, I'm still going to have to dig that shitter out. Perhaps I'll get The Boy to do it

   .............just so he doesn't forget the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2014

#195. or, A Less Than Beautiful Mind

  My cows are finally on the back forty, and their calves are not.

  Every fall, for more than the last number of falls than I care to remember, I've had a plan. Upon returning from pasture, I've wanted to pen the cows and calves into corrals, keeping them in the smaller batches that they spent the summer, and arrived home in. Then, I could bring each of those pens of cows and calves in, one at a time, wean the calves, treat the cows, and turn all of the cows into one bigger pen until they adjusted to being calf-less, then eventually turn them out back where they can crap freely and we don't have to haul it out in the spring.

  This grand plan has worked out exactly......well, zero times. Until this year that is.

  There are a number of reasons for this. Most notably, is that I'm a bit lazy. Other than that, I usually don't have any pens ready when it's time for the cows to come home. Other times, we've gotten a huge dump of snow or it's been bitterly cold and I've sent the cows, along with their calves out back where it's easier to maintain them and I can set up some shelters for protection. We'd bring them back in, sometime in January, and sell the calves straight off the cows.

  However, this fall, like a one time in a 7000 year alignment of planets, things sort of worked out. For one thing, Middle Son now works at a lumber mill, and I got a lift of fence planking on the cheap. Secondly, I was able to exploit the manpower (and womanpower) of my wife and The Boy to drive nails and have most of the pens ready for animals. And thirdly, we were able to get last years manure cleaned out of the pens in hasty fashion, in turn making those newly repaired pens available for cattle.

  Mostly anyways.

  So, even though it did get bitterly cold, and we did get a huge dump of snow, and had to dig out all of our working pens, I resisted the urge to just turn everything out back, yet again. Over a few days about a week and a half ago, we brought those cattle up, pen by pen, and weaned our calves.

   Before turning the cows into the weaning pen, we ran them through the alley and treated them for lice and worms, as well as trimming the hair covering their ear tags for easier identification when they calve.

  It's not entirely the most difficult of jobs, weaning calves. Truth be told, it's actually more difficult to keep them apart once they've been separated. During the process of handling cattle, I tend to see things unfold around me, much in the same manner that complex mathematical equations, and geometric graphs appear in the air around geniuses as they solve, save the world, life and death situations in the movies. Unfortunately, as I'm definately not a genius, me running after cattle, chasing imaginary arrows to gates that haven't been opened yet, most likely has completely the opposite effect. Leaving those around me with the impression that I'm more like somebody that should be eating pastey soup with a spoon sewn to a mitten than someone about to save the world. Or at the very least, handle cows.

  Despite that, everything went quite well and the cows are now nicely settled in the back field without their calves, which are in their own pen in the yard. I've decided to keep the calves at home for a while and feed them some grain to put a bit more weight on them before taking them to market, even though the prices are currently better than I've ever seen in my life. I made that decision based on a set of complex mathematical equations and geometric graphs that seem to be floating in the air around my head.

  Of course, like most of my other marketing decisions, this may not turn out to have been the smartest thing to do, when all is said and done. Maybe I should get my wife to go over those figures,

  ...........I always sucked at imaginary math.

Monday, December 08, 2014

#194. or, Just a Farmer

  You may have noticed,

   or maybe you didn't, it doesn't really matter either way, but lately I've been filling up your timeline with a plethora of articles and links to what I deem to be important and valuable information regarding the job that I do.

  I'm in the business of agriculture.

  And that's the thing. The business of agriculture. I know some of you might imagine me strolling through a field of wheat. Under the noon day sun, arms and fingers outstretched as the golden heads of grain dance playfully off my fingertips. It's a romantic notion. But more often than not, the reason that I'm there wandering through my grain field, whether it be wheat, barley, oats, or canola, is to ensure that I'm growing the healthiest crop that I can with the tools that agricultural technology provides me with.

  Now, I have never professed to be a smart fellow. When I graduated from high school, 30-some years ago, it was with solidly average marks, which I struggled to maintain. Because of this, I tended to gravitate towards the trades courses that my school offered and that is most likely what made my high school years even bearable. And while I never in a million years intended to be a farmer, it's now the job I've spent my lifetime doing.

  Like my father, and his father before him.

  So, I do what I do with multiple generations worth of trial and error type knowledge, and when my father passed away and I was thrust into more of a decision making role, it wasn't like I was starting from scratch. While it was daunting, I still had a wealth of hundreds of combined years of agricultural expertize I could call upon, through a network of rural neighbors and family friends.

  The reason I'm laying this out there is because recently, I've taken more of an interest in defending the thing I do for a living. I feed the WORLD, damnit! At least in some small part, I like to think that. However, there are people who would call into question the practices that I use.

  I use fertilizer.

  I spray my crops to protect them from weeds and disease.

  I use genetically modified seeds.

  And I vaccinate my cattle.

  I do these things, not because I'm evil and my only interest is to purchase a new tractor or something. Rather, it's because I've done the research and made the decision, based on all the available information, that it's the safest and most productive use of the land and livestock that I've been charged with caring for.

  I want your family to benefit from the very best product that I can produce. Perhaps there are those who can do this without the tools that I mentioned earlier, but in all honesty, I can't. I can't, and still provide for my family, while maintaining an acceptable standard of living. Basically, the same thing you're trying to achieve. There are things I've tried, and abandoned because I didn't like what it did to my land. Years ago, we used hormones for cattle, but I don't do that anymore, because while it's scientifically safe, it's just not something I practice. However, I'm still going to give a sick calf medicine because I won't see it suffer in sickness, and in turn, pass an unhealthy animal on to you. It's my job to do the best that I can do. And I try to live by that.

  Yet, there are those who dispute the practices I use.

  I've spent a considerable amount of time recently, trying to decide the role I need to play in defending my profession. I think there's a lot of us in this field thinking the same thing. And while it is most definitely my fight, I think it's a fight, better fought by those in the business of agriculture, who have the benefit of multiple years of schooling on multiple levels. Those who have the ammunition and the knowledge to wield it against people that would dare to say I'm producing a product without the very best of intentions in mind.

  That being said, it doesn't mean that I can't do my part as well. I can share the knowledge of people much smarter than me, with you. So hopefully, when you're faced with a choice somewhere down the road, the decision you make will be one balanced by both sides of the debate.

  Perhaps, I can use my miniscule presence here, trying to come up with goofy stories, to occasionally remind you that when the slings and arrows are being hurled, there are still those of us, on the ground as it were, trying to make a living the best way we know how.

  But, what do I know?

  ............after all, I'm just a farmer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

#193. or, Harvest Beard.

Harvest beard is totally a thing,


  I mean, it's not that much of a stretch to compare hockey play-offs to harvest, as both are the final step toward a goal that you set out to achieve at the beginning of a long season.  A season, generally filled with many trials and tribulations, as you make your way toward that end, no matter how well you think you had things planned before you even got started. Of course, when my harvest is just getting under way and my "play-offs" are just beginning, hockey is just barely crawling out of it's starting blocks, but I don't see it why wouldn't it be alright to steal someone else's superstitious symbol of good luck as a means to an end, as it were, in seeing one cruise to the culmination of their season, without sustaining any serious catastrophe?

  So, as I started my harvest, about a month ago, I made the decision not to shave until that last bushel of grain was in the bin. Even if I was the only one doing it, I was going to be the trailblazer for my fellow farmers and years from now, as richly bearded combine pilots circled their machines and gathered for supper on the edge of some far off field, they'd sip coffee and reminisce about that one brave and envisioned soul who started the whole harvest beard tradition. All the while stroking their glorious manes.

  The thing I neglected to take into account though, is that combining is in fact a terribly dusty endeavour. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, seldom is the day that you don't forget to step to the side when you open up some inspection door and end up with a neck full of barley dust. Added to that, I had this on-going issue of an air conditioning system that annoyingly insisted on blowing warm air at me during the heat of the day, and cool air at me soon as the sun went down. I found myself sitting there with 4 days of beard stubble, sweating and dusty, wanting to scrub my face off with a wire brush.

  After about a week of this insane, self inflicted facial torture, and trying to cram as many usable hours of the day and night toward harvest that I could, it rained. For about a week. And my harvest beard disappeared. It's probably a good thing, as I suspect it's much more pleasant for the guy on the other side of the parts counter to deal with well-groomed-agricultural-professional-guy, as opposed to grizzled-faced-vacant-eyed,-zombie-farmer-guy. But I'm just conjecturing there.

   Throughout the remainder of harvest, I never actively tried to pursue my harvest beard. That's not to say there weren't instances when I was more than a little lax at my facial grooming, but that was more a product of time management than actively trying to perpetuate some sort of new harvest tradition. Unlike the hockey player who is often gone from home for long periods of time, I still saw my wife every day, and it was far easier for me to get her to share her sweet, sweet sugar with me when my face was pleasantly smooth.

  Still though, I have this awesome idea to start a farmer hipster beard trend over the winter, but you probably haven't heard of that yet. It's going to be awesome!

  .............soon as I figure out how to make sitting in a tractor for 12 hours in skinny pants comfortable.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#192, or, Unreasonable Facsimile

  I'm going to go out on a limb here, and even if it is tooting my own horn, tell you that I have a pretty awesome deck. I mean, as far as decks are concerned, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm quite certain that my deck is solidly a 6.5 or better.

  It's a deck that evolved from three distinct phases of construction, the first beginning even before there was a door out of the back of the house to access it. And because any momentous undertaking takes time and care to complete, to the highest of standards, the deck firmly lag-bolted to the back of our house has taken three years to complete. With each of those years matching those distinct phases of construction that I had mentioned earlier. Which probably has more to do with my limited time, and meager carpentry skills, than it has to do with the building of the deck, but by now I'm sure you're all aware of my ineptitude, so I'm not really going to travel down that road, for this story.

  Anyways, aside from a few cosmetic things left to do, last year I reached the point in construction where I stepped back, scratched my backside and thought, I think I might finally be done with this? Which is a rather satisfying feeling to let absorb, while sitting out there in the mornings, drinking my coffee, or relaxing with a beer at the end of the day. And even though it did take me three years, I could revel in the grandeur of my awesome deck and the knowledge that I had actually set out to do this thing, and follow it through to the end. I. Was. Done!

  Then my wife said that we really should stain this thing before it rots off the back of the house, forcing me to start building it all over again.

  So it was decided, sometime in the dead of the winter, when I could only look out into the icy bleakness, through the window in the back door, and dream about the snow melting, and being able to return to my deckly awesomeness, that before we would put out any of the patio furniture, or even entertain any thoughts of entertaining guests out there, we would stain that deck.Which, of course took us most of the summer to complete, and left me covered in a pleasant artificial tan-like amber hue, but  unfortunately, made it almost impossible to shower because the water just wanted to bead up and run off my skin.

  Nonetheless, now in the fourth year, since we began the construction of the deck, the staining was finished, the patio furniture was out, and the weather turned magnificent, as my City Cousin arrived with his family for the week. We spent many hours enjoying our deck, and I made sure that I lit all of the things that burned, cranked all of the things that crank, tilted all of the things that tilt, and used our phenomenal BBQ as much as we could.  We shared laughs, some drinks, and a few cigars on our deck, and the time flew by, until my City Cousin and his family left, and my family and I packed up our things into our trailer, and left on our holidays as well.

  Westward, we headed. For ten hours, until we finally arrived at the newly acquired cabin of my wife's sister and her husband. Which just happens to be on a grand lake. And we spent time with them and enjoyed drinks and good times, on their deck, less than 50 steps from the lake. When it was too hot, we cooled ourselves in that grand lake, or took lazy evening boat rides. Over morning coffee, I watched the ospreys catch fish and fly wonkily back to their nests with a struggling breakfast in their talons. In the evening, we sat as the bats flew all around us, cleaning up the mosquito's. And I may have just spent a little too much time that one afternoon watching the nudists, anchored across the lake in their pontoon boat, through my spotters scope.

  And then, as quickly as it all began, we were back home to the hustle and bustle, and to our own deck in our own backyard.

  Yesterday, as I was back standing on my deck, the deck that has now been a labour of not less than four years, I came to the realization that our deck is missing a key component. A mysterious ingredient that transforms any average deck into an oasis of solitude. That one thing that can take everything that is stressful about life, and make it all disappear, while you enjoy those stolen moments, hidden away on your deck.

  I need a lake!

  In my backyard!

  I think I'll start construction next spring, right after I finish my seeding.

  However, I'm pretty sure that there's a pig barn and possibly an old combine buried in my backyard, so that could pose a problem.

  ...........this could take me a few years to figure out.


Friday, July 25, 2014

#191. or, What'll it Be?

  There are tasks that fall inside my job description, which I seem to be more and more tested by, as they come up every year when the pages on the calendar dictate that they need to be looked after.

  Now, I've always been adamant, and freely expounded upon to anybody who will listen to me over coffee,  that I am not going to be one of the annual statistical seniors, who gets mauled, and hospitalized or even killed by a cow during calving season, because of some emotional attachment to a 1700 pound beastie. The fact is, I don't move nearly as quickly as I did, even 5 years ago, and while I try to make up for that with better corrals and best intentions to assess the situation at hand and act accordingly, cows tend to have an innate ability to bring out some of my less than desirable qualities. So, I've set myself up with an imaginary line on my horizon when I just won't have cows anymore and perhaps my body and my wife's sanity, for having to deal with me when I deal with cows, will all be the better for that end.

  I think that's reasonable? It just didn't occur to me that the act of making feed for those cows might be the thing that does me in, long before any cow has a chance to use me as a bean bag.

  I like making hay. Or, I liked making hay in the past, might be a more accurate statement. I like cutting it, I like raking it, I like baling it. I like the smell of a field of newly baled good hay as I drive by with with my window down. When I was younger, and we cut hay with a tractor that had no cab, I could take whatever the elements chose to bombard me with  and be no worse for wear. I cut hay in heat that threatened to melt me through the floorboards, swarms of mosquitos that left a red streak of blood down my arm when I brushed them off, and clouds of pollen that dusted me with a yellow sheen by the time I ended the day. But now, from the comfort of my perfectly climate controlled tractor cab, as I scan the dial through an endless assortment of radio stations, and adjust the lumbar of my swiveling seat so my back doesn't get sore, I'm pretty convinced that haying is going to kill me.

  I'm not sure why, but this year, I struggled with an allergy to pollen or hay or farming, like nothing I've experienced in the past. At night when I would have normally went out and cleaned off the top of the machine, I was afraid to leave the cab. I would come home unable to breathe, welts all around my neck, a rash covering the upper half of my body, and fricken blisters on my eyelids!

  Blisters. On. My. Eyelids!!

  What the hell?

  So, if this is the fate that I'm destined to endure, even locked inside the relative safety of the cab of my tractor, I may have to consider taking a job in a different field. No......different profession, I tried a different field, with the same results. Trouble is, my resume is pretty sparse. I have 46 years of employment history all in the same place, and no references as to my ability to do my job, other than what I can tell you. Mine would be the resume stamped NO, and shredded for hamster cage lining, after the first glance. So what are the options for a slightly, over-the-hill farmer, with a debilitating allergy to his chosen profession?

  Ideally, I think I'd like that job where they sent the guy around the world with one razor, documenting his travels, and ability to maintain a close, sexy shave without the luxury of a second set of blades for his razor. Or, maybe I could land a few roles as the generic, leather-faced farmer, in heart touching agricultural, television commercials narrated by Sam Elliot. As long as the sets are nowhere near an actual field, I'm fine, and I do leather-faced, extremely well.

  But, there is another option. Recently, as part of my volunteering to run the beer tent at our local community rodeo, because realistically, where else would I be, I was required to pass a liquor servers course and am now a card carrying individual, licenced for responsible liquor sales and service, in the province of Alberta. Ya, me.  I guess they were desperate?

  Although, the beer tent gig, didn't involve much more than popping the tabs on cans of beer, I do have a bit of an interest in mixing drinks, and I think I make a pretty decent mojito. Maybe I could turn my barn into a pub and be one of those friendly bartender types. Despite what my wife might tell you, I am a pretty good listener, and you could bend my ear, while I mix you up a beverage of your choosing., opening beers for cowboys all day, left me with a bit of a callus on the side of my finger, so I think I'm probably already more than qualified?

Friday, June 27, 2014

#190. or, Bagels For Breakfast

  So, the boy wanted bagels for breakfast.

  Despite the fact that my wife and I have now been raising kids for more of the years we've been alive than not, and we may have become a tad complacent in our parenting duties over that duration, we like to give in to the odd one of these little requests, just to keep up the appearance that we're actually loving parents. Not to mention the fact, that the more wheat based products we can force the boy to consume, might be somewhat beneficial in my attempt to single-handedly reinvigorate the grain market.

  Now, I'm hoping that you won't judge me on this next statement but, I had never had a bagel before that point.


   I mean I was aware they existed, I had just never gotten around to trying one yet. Plus, somewhere in the mess of retained knowledge I have rattling about in my brain, I even knew that they were sometimes best eaten with a healthy dose of cream cheese. ( I hope that's not an oxymoron? Healthy dose of cream cheese? Whatever. ) Just know that I have nothing against bagels. I eat all types of breads, and I'm certainly not on some weird wheat-less bread diet. I eat everything I produce, in all of it's genetically modified glory. And there's nothing at all wrong with me. And there's nothing at all wrong with me. And there's nothing at all wrong with me.

  Because of the time of year, my schedule, and the boy's schedule were somewhat askew, and we didn't really meet up at breakfast time. So, when I found myself alone, and looking for something to consume for the most important meal of the day, I thought,'s bagel time!  I opened the bag, took one out and felt its wheaty heft in my hand, separated the halves, and popped them into the toaster. I opened the fridge, and right there, top shelf, front and center, was chocolate flavoured cream cheese. Perfect! And as I spread a nice thick layer of it onto the freshly toasted bagel, I just knew my taste buds were about to experience heavenly bliss.

  Except.......chocolate flavoured cream cheese tastes like shit, on an onion flavoured bagel! ( I spend a significant amount of time way too close to the back end of a cow, so I know. Don't even ask.)

  They say, never assume anything. And they're usually right, whoever they are? I had just assumed that because bagels are doughnut shaped, they would have the same wonderful qualities that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I actually eat doughnuts. I mean, it's just bad form to make two doughy pastries, which look so similar at first glance, be so much at different ends of the spectrum in the world of breads. It's my suspicion, that way back in historical Poland, (I  looked that up) somebody evil invented a bagel, to look the way it does, to trick their unsuspecting children into eating something far less desirable than a doughnut. My Grandmother had a bit of Polish descent in her background and she made freakishly awesome doughnuts! I never had a bagel at Grandmas!

  Apparently, the chocolate flavoured cream cheese was to use on the maple flavoured bagels. And even though that sounds infinitely more appetizing than chocolate flavoured cream cheese on an onion flavoured bagel, the dissatisfaction of the first impression remains, and I've already decided that I'm not all that crazy about bagels.

  Of course, that doesn't mean my mind won't be changed, so I may need to revisit this bagel thing in the future.  My wife has convinced me of a number of things I actually like, that I had negatively made my mind up on in the past.

  .............except for that carrots and raisins salad. That's always going to be nasty.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#189. or, For Better, or For Worse

  So, some of you know this story, or if it seems familiar to you, it was one of my submissions into an ebook, that some friends put together, a couple years ago. Since today is the 20th anniversary of my wife and I being married, I just thought it would be a good idea to post this, somewhat lost story, here. For you all. 

  Thanks, Ken

 When I got married, I knew everything there was to know about being a good husband. I’m pretty sure that my wife knew everything there was about being a good wife.  The thing is, when you get married, you take everything you know about being a husband or wife, throw it out the window, and start writing a whole new playbook.

   I need to back up a little bit here. It’s not like one day I wasn't married then the next I was. Well....yes, I suppose, but not really.  My wife and I had lived together for a while before getting married. Actually, she was pregnant with our second kid when the ceremony took place. That wasn’t quite the plan. It was supposed to take us a while to get pregnant. (HER to get pregnant) We thought there would be a chance at a baby being in her belly by the time the wedding came along in June. Not that she would be visibly pregnant!  Seems, together we have exceptionally fertile, baby-making, super powers.
  The day after our wedding, and after the gift opening, and after everybody left, my pregnant wife and I struck out on our honeymoon to the coast in a 12 foot borrowed truck camper.

   Oh ya, it was raining.

  Now, somewhere along the process of getting married, someone gave us a night’s stay at a hotel in the city that has theme rooms. That was our first stop. Without actually going on a holiday, you can drive to the city and stay in a room that looks like you’re in a jungle, having a sleep over on Gilligan’s Island.  Or, if you have a little redneck in you, you can stay in a room and sleep in a bed fashioned in the box of a pick-up. Classy things like that. For some reason, we stayed in the Igloo room. Because, I guess, nine months of winter isn’t quite enough if you’re a Canadian and we felt the need to recreate the frosty bitterness of the dead of winter by sleeping in a bed shaped like an Eskimo home in the middle of June.  Each room also comes with a hot tub and complimentary champagne for newlyweds. Neither of which we could properly take advantage of because our kid was hitching a ride in my wife’s belly.

   Even though we had been with each other for a few years, this was the first time that we were going off on an adventure all by ourselves.  Together and in love, we headed for the west coast. It’s about a fourteen hour drive straight through. At the time, and because I was the guy, I had a sense of the things I had to do for my wife. Things that are my job. Like making sure that I’m on the traffic side when we’re walking down the street. Just in case I have to hurl myself in front of an out of control car to protect her. Things like pushing the shopping cart so people don’t wonder why the Hell that lazy bastard is making his wife do it. And making the fire if that’s how we intend to cook.  Except I couldn’t make a fire in the rain. My pregnant wife had to crawl down out of the back of the camper to get the fire going, while I watched, so we could cook supper in the campground. That made me a little bit pouty. And also, because it was raining and we couldn’t go for a walk or anything, we found a Yatzee game in the camper and she attempted to teach it to me. Then she kicked my ass at it and that made me even more pouty. I was a little less manly than I thought I was. (because of course, while fire making is indeed manly, succeeding at yatzee is the ultimate test of ones masculinity.)
  For a pregnant lady, a truck camper isn’t exactly the most luxurious of accommodations.  I had a step made but it consisted of about ten different pieces and was wobbly as hell. Not really the sort of thing to go skipping on up to the tail gate for a woman in a family way. And campers can be hot.  Too hot for a belly full of baby. Then there’s the little thing that our bedroom consisted of about two and a half feet of crawl space over the truck cab. Another climb for the pregnant lady.  All that and the fact it doesn’t allow for much room for a couple of newlyweds to fool around on their honeymoon. Although, it occurs to me that there have probably been plenty of kids conceived in those cramped quarters. It’s cozy, I guess you just need to be imaginative?

   Being a farm kid and growing up on a gravel road, I wasn’t really prepared for the traffic in down town Vancouver. Firstly, the streets have names of people and things. This might be OK if you live there and are used to that, but if you aren’t, it’s a horrible nightmare to navigate. There’s probably a good idea why they don’t do it but to me, numbered streets make way more sense.  I think that we might have gotten into a heated discussion about how far we were from Stanley Park because my wife couldn’t read the map since she had forgotten her glasses, which she rarely even wore at that time.  Then, as the traffic crawled along downtown, the truck started to overheat from lack of air movement and we got stuck in an intersection when the light changed and the people started walking across the street and trapped us there.  It was a little stressful for me. There’s a good chance that I swore.

  Something I can do is change a tire. But when you get a flat on the narrowest road in the province that every car in the lower half of British Columbia happens to be traveling on while you are changing that tire on the traffic side, chances are, you’re going to get a little testy.

   We had always said, that the first thing that we were going to do together as a married couple when we got to Vancouver Island, was stop at the first nice restaurant and have a fresh lobster supper. And we did. It was late when the ferry docked and off we went. As the daylight faded everybody else with campers and trailers started looking for a place to camp, we had a wonderful feast of lobster and melted garlic butter. I remember that it was delicious but when you are completely unfamiliar with the area, it’s not a bad idea to find accommodations BEFORE it gets dark and then eat. It was close to midnight by the time we found a place to park and set up our camper for the night. Also, turns out lobsters come from the east coast.

   It wasn’t a complete disaster of a trip. We did fun things and laughed and figured problems out by ourselves. One of my favorite memories is going to Flintstone Park. It doesn’t exist anymore. Most likely a lot of kids don’t even know who the Flintstones were. But it was raining and everyone else hid in the gift shop and thought we were idiots while we played mini-golf in the rain. That memory makes up for a lot of the less than fun stuff that happened.

  A honeymoon is the first step a couple takes together as a married partners. Even marriage is a test at times. Sometimes you win, sometimes you fail. What you take from those experiences and apply to the future, determines whether you will be successful at it or not. Eighteen years since that first trip together, we’re still writing our playbook.  I can make a fire in the rain because my wife taught me how. She wears her glasses all the time now and because of that, together, there isn’t any place we can’t get to with her as navigator. I still try to walk on the traffic side of the street and sometimes, if she wants to, even though it still bothers me, I let her push the shopping cart.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

#188. or, I'm Pretty Sure the Local Mennonites are all Quite Amused With How Long it's Taking Me To Build a Barn.

  So, April was a bit of a blur.

  Because this past winter was unusually cold, and it seems that I'm unusually soft, I didn't really get my ass into gear and begin to make any actual progress on my barn until we were careening headlong into 2014's calving season.

  Fortunately, I had the foresight to hire out the erecting of the building portion of what was to become our barn. Otherwise, I would still be calving outside. My contribution was to be putting up all the pens and to finish the little room that serves as the place where we keep all of our calving and basic veterinary supplies, along with facilities for washing up and hopefully have a handy supply of warm water on hand. Because I know how loving my wife gets when I crawl into bed and rub my cold feet on her calves, it's equally nice to have warm fingers when I reach into the backside of a cow when I go fishing for a calf. That, and cows kick much harder than my wife does.

  Anyways, when I did get down to the business of carpenter-ing,  I made fairly decent progress with the wiring, insulating and sheeting of the room. I had an idea of the layout I wanted, and where I wanted to put the cupboard. It had to fit where the water and drain lines came through the concrete, and I wanted a large laundry sink, because some of the stuff we wash is awkward and unwieldy. To save time, I thought I would just pop over to Home Depot and pick up a pre-assembled cupboard. The trouble with that was, Home Depot doesn't sell a line of cupboards, built to the specific blueprints, filed away in the barn cabinetry directory of my brain.

  Turns out, nobody builds that.

  Now, if I remember correctly, by this time, the first of our calves were already on the ground and while not all the cows come through the barn, some do. So as I assembled pens around the cows that did decide to visit there, I made the decision, almost nonchalantly, that I would just whip up my own cupboard. Like it was an actual thing where I could manipulate wood with my bare hands and turn it into something useful. Or better yet, recognizable. In fact, I'm pretty sure I tweeted that I was going out after lunch one day to build a cupboard. Sort of, I'll let you all know at supper, how it all went down.

  Then I spent the better part of two weeks building that cupboard.


   The thing is, I sort of enjoyed it. Measuring fifteen times and cutting once. A lot of the wood I used in my cupboard was left over cut-off's from when they built the building. I took a bit of pride in the fact that I made very few mistakes and pretty much accomplished what I had intended to do. Even if it did take a lot longer than I thought it would.

  I have no problem in telling you, that in my youth, I was pretty careless with my wood. It didn't matter if I misused it, there was always more wood to try it again. But now that I'm in my mid forty's, for some reason, I've developed a greater appreciation for wood, and in turn, for using it properly. It isn't as satisfying anymore, to try and quickly bang out a project and let a lot of that wood go to waste. Good wood is a bit harder to come by these days, and because of that, I'm finding it's more important to try to use all of the wood for the job, and not finish the project knowing you left some pretty decent wood behind.

  ......Of course, having acquired a nice little line of power tools has made it a bit easier to get the most out of my wood. But it's nice to know that if you apply yourself, you can come up with a satisfying outcome for everyone.

Friday, March 28, 2014

#187. or, Two Pair of Pants

  Contrary to any pre-conceived misconceptions you may have about me, let me set the record straight, once and for all. I am not the Batman.


  I am certainly not a billionaire, playboy philanthropist. I'm perhaps more accurately, lower-middle-classed income, over the hill, average Joe. But I'd like to think, if I had a billion dollars, that I'd be philanthropee-ing all over the damned place.

  And probably own a batmobile.

  Recently, I've made the switch from bib overalls for work, to my "work'in man pants". Which, in truth, are really only pants that are about 5 sizes too big, that I wear over my everyday pants when I do what I do. But I'd been wearing the bib overalls for at least a dozen years, and because I'm an agent of change, the pants seemed like a good way to mix things up. Unfortunately, one of the things I find I'm missing about the overalls, is that I had a lot of pockets to keep all of my crap in. My work pants, being a bit more than just your average run of the mill pants are designed with more pockets, but I've been relegated to carrying some of my gear on the belt I now need to keep pants, that are 5 sizes too big, up around my waist where they belong.

  Because farm/gangsta isn't really a thing.

  So it would seem that I have my own, farm version of The Batman's utility belt. And let me just say, utility belts, while being a cool idea, sort of suck in day to day functionality.

  At any given time, the items with my pants include, a folding Bear Grylls lock blade knife in a pouch on my belt. A Leatherman tool with an added tool attachment along with various tool attachment attachments, also in a pouch on my belt, and my phone, in an Otterbox case, which makes it too damned big, clipped to my belt as well. Not to mention the contents of my pockets, that as a rule, consist of a roll of electrical tape, a jet lighter, my 3x5 inch notebook, and a half a handful of screws, nuts, change, and an interesting stone I picked up somewhere along the way.

  Plus! In the day-to-day pants I wear, because they frown at you if you try to walk around without any pants on, I have a small Swiss Army knife, (lots of knives for some reason) a tin of lip balm, and a different jet lighter. So also redundant lighters for a guy who, aside from the occasional cigar, doesn't smoke.

  I'm finding, with all of this crap wrapped around my mid-section, I'm having a bit of a difficult time bending at the waist to tie up my boots.

  Now, I'm speculating that The Batman finds himself in quite a bit more precarious situations than I do, and that the batmobile is way more cockpity than my tractor seat. I don't know how he avoids stabbing himself in the appendix with a vessel of thermite while driving, or hooking his lock pics or fingerprint dusting kit on the edge of something while he's parkouring about Gotham.

  I can't even drive with my wallet in my back pocket, (and it's a thin wallet) because sitting on it shifts my spine out of alignment and I end up walking like, old farmer.

  Of course, The Batman is in a bit better shape than I am, and his bulges are more muscle, while I gravitate towards the pillowy soft body type. But you'd think soft tissue would be more forgiving at allowing for addition of belt utensils?

  Also, if the work pants end up not being the answer, there's always the Carhartt style work kilt, which I've only ever seen in pictures. But it's going to have to get a lot nicer outside before I drop my drawers and go free-balling it about in one of those. Not to mention, the ladder to my combine is pretty high, and I can't help but feel like I might be at a bit of a disadvantage if my tractor salesman caught me at the top of it, when he came to haggle on farm equipment.

  ...........Like The Batman, some things are better left mysterious, and to the imagination.

Friday, March 14, 2014

#186. or, Shoes.

  It occurred to me yesterday, or it might have been the day before, that it's been a little over a month since I've worn shoes.

  Now, when I say that, in my imagination you have a vision of me wandering about like some free spirit in bare feet and flowing robes, pondering the philosophies of life. Also, you're probably imagining me with better hair than I actually have.

  That's not what I meant.

  Yesterday. Or the day before, I had to go to town, or some place else relatively mundane, that constitutes the connect-a-dots of my uneventful life. Yet still being one of the high points of my day to day existence. And as I sat on the bench in our porch, for the first time in a little over a month, I had a third choice of footwear to decide from.

  I considered wearing my shoes.

  Because, for the last while, my primary choice of footwear has been slipping my feet into a layer of felt and rubber. Unless I've been going to town. Then it was felt and a layer of canvas, or Thinsulate, or some other man-made synthetic, created to look moderately fashionable, but still provide a modicum of warmth while negotiating the outdoors in sub-zero temperatures. And as I sat there, with the shoes tossed into the mix, complicating my decision, that's when it occurred to me that it has been a little over a month since I've worn shoes.

  It was a little over a month ago that I had to make a different footwear decision, which ended up being, I would wear my flip flops onto the plane, and switch to the shoes I had in my carry-on, when I arrived back in the airport on my way home from Cuba. Actually, that was a pretty easy choice to make, because, while I was on holidays, all of the decisions on jobs that I need to make on a daily basis stayed at home. Things like trying to get enough pens cleared of snow so I could bring in the cows and finally wean my calves. Actually wean those same calves, picking out heifers that I want to keep for replacement cows, and getting the rest sent to market, then getting the cows back to the field where they spend the winter. Dealing with frozen watering bowls, frozen toes, falling grain markets, and trying to get the addition to our barn completed so we can use that barn before we start calving in about a week. Plus attending the boy's hockey and basketball games we squeezed in, when we wrangled free time.

  All things I've been dealing with since we got home, and consequently, things that have kept me from writing a post about our trip to Cuba, and doing it the justice I felt it deserved.

  So here's the condensed version.

  Cuba is a really nice place to visit. You should go.

  .......unless you're a US citizen. Because while it's a nice place to go, I think you have to jump through a lot of hoops, if you're an American, to get there. But it's still nice. Nice enough to give it a try if you have the opportunity.

Here's a picture from our balcony

....and a beach,

....and an old fort,

....and a church,
....and a pink hotel.

   Actually, there's a room in this hotel that's preserved as a museum, because some writer guy named Hemingway stayed here. It was also pointed out to us, on at least three instances, bars at which this Hemingway fellow frequented. It would seem, that if you ever want to have some place preserved as a monument to having you stayed there, you should also mark that stay with copious amounts of drinking. At least if you want to be remembered as a writer of some renown.

  Also, if you're an old car enthusiast, Cuba is a place that seems to be frozen in time with all of the 50's and 60's era American cars.

Cars like this......

  Now granted, this one was pretty mint. And I'm not really certain on how they get the parts to keep them running. But there was a lot of them, in various states of repair, as well as a good deal of Soviet era cars and trucks. It's hard not to imagine KGB agents behind the wheel of an early 70's Russian sedan.

  Unfortunately, I neglected to take any pictures of my toes in the sand. That's one of the things I like about being on the beach. Sand between my toes, and the ocean lapping at my ankles. For now, or at least the next month or so, the only thing that's going to lapping at my ankles is the manure I'm slogging through as a winters worth of frozen cow pies and snow melt and combine into a brown/green slop, as I make my rounds checking the calves.

  But when I get the chance to go to town, you can bet I'll be trading in my rubber boots for less practical, and maybe a bit more fashionable footwear.

  .........hopefully shoes.

Friday, February 28, 2014

#185. or, Made in Canada

  It's been almost a week since the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, and I still find myself looking for coverage when I'm surfing the guide, looking for something to watch on the television in the evening.

  I don't really participate in sports. Nothing organized. I played pond hockey in the glow of pick-up headlights with the neighbours. But these days, I'm more of an observer than a participator. I'd have to say that I like hockey only slightly more than CFL football, but I go to the football games because they're affordable. Other than that, I spend a good deal of my weekends, this time of year, sitting in gyms, watching Jr. high school basketball.

  As I get older during winters in Canada, I find myself wishing I was some place warmer. This winter was no different. Yet, it was, because I've been on a bit of an interesting ride over the last few weeks.

  First, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a break from the ice and snow, and travel to Cuba, which was, by the way, lovely. The bad thing about leaving Canada in the winter for Cuba, is that a week away is not quite long enough, and before you're even ready for it, you're thrust, kicking and screaming, back into winter. The difference this year, was that shortly after arriving home, the winter Olympics started, and it would seem, there's nothing better at helping me embrace the climate I choose to live in, than cheering on my winter nation in competitive sport.

  While the games were on, they were the staple of my viewing, and the more Canadian athletes performed with podium achieving ability, the more I wrapped myself in the icy blanket of the "True north, strong and free!" They weren't just athletes from Canada, but somehow, they dragged my tired, un-athletic ass behind them and every achievement they made, became our moment of victory.

  When the smiling Dafor-Lapointe sisters, shared the podium with gold and silver medals, I was there with them. I was on the side of the speed skating track in my rubber suit and uncomfortable looking junk, cheering on our skaters. I was up in the wee hours of the morning, with my face pressed against the glass, screaming at the top of my lungs as first the women's hockey team, then the men's repeated gold medal performances. I would have been squished in between Kaillie  Humphries and Heather Moyse as they came from behind to win gold in the bobsled, but frankly, that shit just scares the hell out of me.

  But it wasn't just the wins. It was the spirit of the games. Like a spot given to a team mate because they had a better chance of winning, or a ski given to an athlete from an opposing country so they could cross the finish line with dignity.

  All of those those things made me relish in my Canadian-ism and when I had to go outside to feed the cows in -30C weather, it wasn't so bad at all, because after all, as the country branded us during these games, we ARE winter!

 Of course, now that the winter Olympics are over for another 4 years, I'm ready to be done with the snow and cold, and any bravado that I may have been riding on over those days has about fizzled out and I'm checking my weather app these days with more of a sigh than a fist-pump.

  .............We may be winter, but there's something to be said for not having to dress in multiple layers.


Monday, February 03, 2014

#184. or, Cuba Dooba Doo!

   OK, I'm back.

   Alright, you're probably  thinking, "What? You were gone somewhere? I hadn't really noticed that you'd left the room."

  But I was. My beautiful wife and I, along with the boy, were living it up in Cuba over the last week. And while I was there, I spent most of my time thinking about all of you, back at your homes, living your day to day lives, wishing I was there with you all, while we try to muddle through.

  Honestly, that didn't happen. Well, Cuba did. But I didn't really think about you guys. You were probably there, somewhere in my brain stew, but in all fairness, I was too busy vacationing to take any notice.

  Sorry for that.

  This isn't the post about Cuba. It's a post about being in Cuba, and I suppose, by extension, it might even be a travel post. That's because so few exciting and noteworthy things happen to me that I fully intend to milk as many posts out of this as I possibly can. Consider this fair warning.

  So, here goes.

  Ken-inatractor's observations about vacationing in Cuba.  (or, anywhere.....or even nowhere for that matter)

  1. When you fly to a holiday destination, then back home from that destination. From the very same airports. The flight home is going to be considerably longer. I know this, because going down took 1 movie and 2 sit-com episodes, while coming home took 2 movies and 2 of the exact same sit-com episodes. It has something to do with holidays and the space-time continuum, and it's the same reason 7 days in the sun, by the pool, actually only feels like 4. It's science and shit.

  2. Just because you flew to a destination with people, stayed with some of them at the same resort, or crossed paths again while on various excursions, does not make it alright to fart on the plane while flying home.

  3. Moustaches and snorkelling, don't go together so well.

  4. Never ever take for granted, the wonder and privilege, of proper and efficiently working plumbing. This is important because a radical change in diet, is probably going to effect you in 1 of 2 negative ways.
   a. You will be awakened in the wee hours of the morning by noises from the bathroom, of sounds emanating from somebody's backside, similar to what it sounds like when your tractor drops a valve at 2500 RPM.

   b. You will be awakened in the wee hours of the morning by noises from the bathroom, with sounds made by someone trying unsuccessfully to get something to exit their backside, similar to what it sounds like when your tractor drops a valve at 2500 RPM.

  Neither outcome is going to be pleasant, and when the plumbing you are using requires multiple flushes at the best of times, it's a mess that nobody should have to deal with. Unless you intend to avoid eye contact with the housekeeping staff for the entire duration of your stay, you better be leaving her a substantial tip.

  5.  While travelling off the resort, people expect to be tipped for everything. Now, I don't mind at all, paying for a service provided, but there were far too many instances where people sat on chairs outside of the public wash-rooms and grunted toward a saucer, expecting a buck because I went in there and pee'd. I'm much happier to leave a tip, if they're at least making an effort to supply you with paper or something. But if I brought my own, and all they're doing is sitting there, I shouldn't really have to pay. That being said, the one woman who came into the bathroom and sang to me while I sat in a stall, went far above and beyond anything that should happen in the crapper. She got a dollar even if having her there created a bit of performance anxiety, and prevented me from doing what I had gone in there to do in the first place.

    a. The same thing applies to the musical groups that travel from table to table, wanting to serenade me while I'm having my meal. It was really nice to have the first 3 or 4 times and I was happy to partake of, and tip for the experience. But, by the 7th time in 4 days, and when our table is having a pleasant conversation and politely decline the service, I don't really appreciate the dirty look when I don't put anything in the basket because they turned around and played for the table adjacent to ours.

  6. A table full of French people is really really loud!

  7. While I'm on vacation, I do try to take time to relax. Yet, I still find time to walk for miles on the beach, check out every available amenity on the resort, go on tours, drink a bit, see an evening show, shop, watch people, and every thing else I can cram into the day. But when I'm at home, every job is a pain in the ass, and I just want to sit down.

  8. When you fly into Cuba, before they can open the doors of the aircraft, one of the flight crew has to walk down the isle, spraying some sort of bug killer, to prevent illegal foreign insects from entering Cuba. However, when you leave, there was no bug spray involved. I suspect this may be part of a Cuban plot to take over the world, one bug at a time.

    a. Speaking of bugs, it seems I may be immune to Cuban biting insects. My wife came home, speckled and itching with numerous bites, and I have none. But that could also mean that I'm just a sour old bugger, and like the mysterious brown lumps in the buffet at the resort, it was better just to carry on and not ask any questions.

  There is probably more I could add here, but everybody hates long posts, so for now, this is the end. Hopefully, over the next few days, we'll get some of the pictures together, and I'll do a proper post on Cuba. It was a wonderful place to visit and the the people were, for the most part, awesome. long as you weren't using the wash-room.

elleroy was here

Friday, January 24, 2014

#183. To Weather the Weather.

  I believe that as a Canadian, something that has been ingrained into my genetic make-up, is an intensive desire to share my views, to whoever will listen, about the woes I have to face day to day regarding the weather. If you add to that, that I'm also a farmer, I have to make a concious effort to not babble on endlessly about what Mother Nature is choosing to subject me to, and how having to deal with the weather is making it more difficult to do what I do for a living.

  However, there's a small piece of me that relishes bundling up and going out into weather so cold that no one has any business trying to function in. And even though I'll complain about it, there's nothing that makes me feel more Canadian than walking across the yard to begin my chores in -40 degree temperatures, thinking "Ya, I got this!"

  It's a pretty safe bet, that winter in Canada is cold. But if you were going to put all of those eggs into that basket, you would be sadly mistaken.

  Earlier this winter, when I was trying to get my Christmas lights up in the bitter cold, I made the decision to scale back my yard lighting significantly. The thing that was going to save my ass was the spruce tree we have in our yard, that I leave the lights in all year around. It's gotten too tall and thick to have to bother with every year, and because I use clear bulbs in it, it's pretty convenient to just add it to the string when I have my Clark Griswold moment in the yard, plugging the cords together, as angels gather to sing hallelujah.

  The tree was heavy with snow, and looked like a Christmas card.  The bulbs were going to reflect off of all the snow, and it was going to look awesome. I burrowed through the snow to get under the tree without disturbing any branches to make the connections. Turning it all on the next day, even though it was less than usual, would still be magnificent. Because of the snow, and the cold, and the lights twinkling off the snow laden boughs. Except overnight it warmed up, and the wind blew, and when I looked out the window with my morning coffee in hand, the tree didn't have any snow left in it.

  It still looked nice, but I had counted on the weather, and it had let me down.

  Fast forward to today.

  One of the nice things about going on a winter vacation, is to be able to get on a plane and leave behind the cold and the snow, and the dark, that is my winter, for just a little while. Preferably, if it's so cold that the airline has to have a bit of a debate about the safety of taking off in it. That's what is required to get the maximum effect of a reprieve from the icy cold. Yet, while most of the USA, and Canada struggle through what has been a long string of cold snaps this winter, I'm sitting at about 4 degrees above freezing, in an uncharacteristic warm spell. It's certainly not something I'm going to cancel my vacation over, but a little bit of wind chill might have been nice.

  So, the only way to turn this all around is for the warm weather to stick around, until I return, boozed, bronzed and baked by a tropical paradise. To step of the plane, knowing that winters back has been broken, and the remainder of it is going to be a cake walk. It shouldn't be too difficult to achieve, as the long range forecast is looking quite positive.

  I'm pretty sure the weather is going to cooperate,

  ..........but I'm not counting on it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#182. or, How was Your Yesterday?

  I want to take a second to apologize to all of my neighbours, who had no internet for pretty much the full day yesterday. That was my fault. Well, not really, but because my yard is the hub for most of the internet signal in our area,  I feel a  bit of responsibility when your ability to update your facebook statuses to the world, ends at my doorstep.

  It was a long day yesterday. I'm not sure when it started, but I woke up to howling winds around 3 in the morning. After losing the argument with myself, as to whether or not I should just try to go back to sleep, I got up, dressed in layers, and headed out to see if everything was alright.

  It wasn't.

  The wind had blown over a section of fence, and I had cattle wandering around the yard. Somewhere during the process of getting them rounded up, the power went out, and didn't return for another 12 hours.

  By the time the sun came up, the wind had blown down the fence in a 2nd pen, and those needed to be rounded up as well. Also, the sun shed light on the reason why there was no power.

That blows!

 Now, I don't want to complain here, because I know there are people out there who still don't have power. Ours was out for around 12 hours, and I think we got a bit of priority because we had live transmission lines laying in the yard. But there's nothing that will make you appreciate electricity more, and in turn, running water, than the prospect of having to trudge into the bush in the winter to take a dump. I'm just saying.

  Also, the winds polished the yard to a solid sheet of ice. So when I woke up this morning with some significant discomfort on my grion-al region, I could only attribute it to having to spend the entire day, yesterday, doing the stiff legged, "I just soiled myself" walk, to keep from falling down.

  And just to be clear, I'm going on memory of the "I just soiled myself" walk. It's been a significant length of time since that's happened, and it had nothing at all to do with the prospect of the having to crap in the woods, that I mentioned earlier.

  So I should thank the linemen who spent the entire day replacing our pole and getting things up and running. When my day was winding down, and they were finishing up, I suspect they would probably be heading off to the next repair. I don't envy them on days like yesterday.

  All in all, I guess I could have had it worse. By the time I got in last night, everything was content. I still have to try to figure out how to replace some fence posts in the frozen ground, to repair the fence, and there's still a yard light to repair, but that's par for the course.

  What's the 1st thing I did, when I got into the house last night?

   .............fired up the computer and checked my facebook. So I'm right there with you.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#181. or, I'm Pre-tanning

  I've started tanning again this year.

  Some of you know I do this, and yes, I've read the giant poster on the wall of the Health Unit that says 10 minutes of tanning can cause cancer, unrepairable skin damage, as well as the early onset of death. But so can trying to lobotomise yourself with a fork because you're about to go insane from not having seen the sun in two and a half weeks. And the death part might not in fact be accurate, because frankly, I didn't get to the end of the poster because my mind wandered off when I got to the picture of the beach. But there you have it, for better or worse, I'm tanning.

  The first reason I'm doing this, is for vacation camouflage. Because I'm going to look bad enough as it is with my shirt off, when we go to Cuba at the end of the month. Having a little colour before that happens, I'm hoping, will prevent me from being the poster boy for pasty white Canadians, when I'm strutting my topless, man-sexiness, around the pool. And by topless man-sexiness, I of course mean saggy old guy torso.

  The second reason, and more importantly, is I tend to burn quite easily in the tropical sun, or any sun for that matter, aside from any exposed skin on my arms below my t-shirt sleeve level. So inevitably, I end up shedding off layers of skin like a snake. And I have this vision in my head of those crafty Cubans creating an army of Ken-inatractor clones, from my discarded DNA, and scattering them across the countryside to perform menial farm tasks for little or no pay. If the world needs anything, it's less of me rendering in the Cuban sun.

 But any ways, the tanning. When I've tanned in the past, I have always used a stand-up booth. I've had friends tell me how relaxing it is, lounging away your allotted minutes, casually laying on a tanning bed model, but I think I still prefer to be irradiated while standing. However, due to a change of ownership at the place I used to do my tanning, there is no longer a stand up model available to use in our town. For the reasons above,  I decided I would give the lay-down model a go, because I have an open mind to try new things, and  really, there was no other option.

  Now, I've heard of prodigies who sit down at a piano for the first time in their lives, and are able to have grand masterpieces of music flow miraculously from their fingertips. Or how evolution has granted certain desert tribes-people with the ability to run endlessly without tiring, in order to be able to cover the ground required to feed their families. I've always wished that I had some sort of untapped innate ability, hiding just under the surface of who I am, waiting to break free and reveal itself at precisely the right moment.

  Unfortunately, my special hidden talent seems to be that I have the perfect storm of excess flab and back sweat to suction myself to the plastic base of a lay-down tanning bed and make horrific farting noises whenever I try to change my position.

  Every time it happens I imagine that across town, at the Spring Sun Restaurant, a group of people are roused from their Combo #2, by a far off and distant rumble.

  Needless to say, my tanning is anything but relaxing.

   On the plus side, I'm up to about 6 minutes at holding my back off the bed with my heels and shoulders, so I'm assuming there's some core strengthening happening.

   ..........I guess that's better than nothing?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

#180. or, Low Resolution

  As is the case, for some reason, I seem to find myself thinking about things I wish I had done differently over the past year when the numbers on the top of the calender increase by a single digit.

  Last year, when my lovely wife was working in town, or more precisely, last spring, somehow through her work, the woman I love acquired a coupon for 2 free rounds of golf. In another town. Forty-five minutes away. Beside a lake. With a golf cart included. For free.

  She said I should take the boy. Which was, I agreed, a magnificent idea. Because while I in no way claim to have any sort of natural ability when it comes to golf, I have enjoyed myself whenever I've gone. And the boy loves to golf, so it would be a nice thing to get off the farm and do something a bit out of the ordinary with him for a change.

  Plus it was free.

  So we pinned that coupon to the cork board beside the door as a reminder of all of the fun we were going to have.

  And then I went to work. Every day. Because the year before, when I was thinking about things I wished I had done differently over the past year when the numbers on the top of the calender increased by a single digit, I had thought, I'm going to try to apply myself to what I do, to the best of my ability, in an attempt to be an even more productive farmer.

  Every day, when I put on my overalls and laced my boots, I looked at that coupon, and thought, we're going to have a great time golfing, the boy and I.

  Slowly, the summer drifted on and fall came creeping in, as falls tend to do, while we try to cling to days of shorts and t-shirts. And that coupon that had been a reminder of the good times in store for the boy and I, became more of something we now needed to squeeze in, between trying to keep my combine running, and making feed for the cows to last the winter.

  Until it was finally obvious that we were't going to be able to go. So I tried to see if one of his brothers could take the boy, but they were busy too, and when I finally couldn't even give the coupon away any more, it got taken off the cork board, beside the door, and tossed into the trash.

  But, I had been productive, and we filled all of our grain bins, and even some bins we had to borrow from our neighbours to store all of that grain we produced. Then the grain prices started to fall.

  And fall.

  And fall.

  So now, even though we produced good quality grain, in vast quantities, it's worth about half of what we got last year.

  I don't know how to budget for that. I don't know how to sit down and say, "I'm going to work my ass off so I can bring home half the pay." But more importantly, how do I justify the time I took from other things, in order to try to provide more for my family, only to come up short in all aspects?

  I don't know what the answer is,

  .........but I wish I had gone golfing.

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