Archive for January, 2012

Goodbye Mom

I heard from a friend early this morning…her Mother is failing and they are taking it day by day.

Only a few words, the message short enough to be sent by text.

It seems wrong somehow, that something so significant can be expressed by so few words.

So often these days the Mothers we are losing have spent their last years in failing health, unable to do and experience all the things that made them who they were.  We their children, struggle with feelings of loss and the desire to keep them close, here with us. At the same time we want to say “It’s okay, Mom, you can go now. ”

We are all grown ups now, most of us parents ourselves.  We have been living our lives and taking care of ourselves for a long time.  Even so, when the time comes to say the last good-by to our Mother we feel like a child again.

A character in a TV program once said “I don’t know how to live in a world that doesn’t have my Mom in it”.  The amazing thing about this life is that eventually we do…we learn to live in a world that doesn’t have Mom in it.

My thoughts go out to everyone who has lost their Mother, is losing their Mother, or will lose their Mother.

I guess that’s each and every one of us….

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The Art of Making Coffee

I am a coffee drinker.  I don’t remember when I had my “first cup” but I have been enjoying that “first cup” every morning for as long as I can remember.  In Chilliwack I had a beautiful, red, Cuisinart Automatic Grind and Brew. I could program this with a timer and early in the morning the coffee would grind and drip and be all ready to drink before I stepped out of bed.  I loved my Red Cuisinart, even though it wasn’t always appreciated by family members that spent the night. They were not used to being woken by the sound of grinding coffee beans.

My electricity is now generated by solar panels or a diesel generator. I no longer receive a hydro bill in the mail, but in exchange I am more careful about how much electricity I use.  The biggest consumer of electricity is any appliance that generates heat.  Needless to say I no longer use a slow cooker, heating pad, toaster, electric wok etc.  And…the last heat generating appliance I gave up when I saw how much power it required was my beautiful, red, Cuisinart Automatic Grind and Brew coffee maker.

Now I make my coffee the old-fashioned way with a glass percolator on my propane range.

There is an art to this…and it took awhile to master it.  The ground coffee beans go into a metal container which sits inside the glass coffee pot.  The glass coffee pot goes onto the propane burner which is initially set on high.  Once the water begins to bubble up and over the container of coffee grounds I turn the burner down to low.

It stays on low until the coffee is finished and then I remove it from the burner and let it sit for a minute or two for any stray grounds to settle on the bottom.  You may wonder how I know when  the coffee is “finished”. Well…that’s where the art comes in. The smell and the color tell me when it’s ready.

I carefully fill my first cup and pour the remainder into a carafe for later.   Ahhhh…that first cup!

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The Scent of Spring


Spring comes early in the Fraser Valley where I lived until last summer.  It wasn’t unusual to find daffodils popping their heads out of the ground by the end of January. My favorite spring flowers were always hyacinths. It will be awhile before spring appears here at the cabin.

Last December when my niece asked me what I would like for Christmas I thought about hyacinths, their scent and beauty and message of spring.  I asked for three hyacinth bulbs.

Christmas Day brought my three purple hyacinth bulbs and on Boxing Day I filled three vases with water and hope and inserted the bulbs.  I placed them on my south facing window sill and every day I turned them and checked for signs of growth.

This morning I was enjoying my first cup of coffee, sitting on the couch next to the south facing window when my nose told me spring had arrived.  The hyacinths had bloomed and were infusing my house with their beautiful scent.

The snow is still on the ground outside and the wind blows bitterly at times…but it’s spring inside my cabin.


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It’s not a mouse!

In August of 2011 I left my home in Chilliwack and my 34 year career as an accountant and moved into a small rustic cabin on 80 acres.  The cabin is my brother’s and I was staying there until my own cabin was built nearby.

It was a significant lifestyle change for me…from living on a city lot with access to electricity, water, sewer and all the amenities of urban life…to a small cabin, off the grid with a generator and outdoor plumbing. In many ways it was the realization of a lifelong dream but whether or not I was able to live up to the challenges of rural life remained to be seen.

The cabin had been vacant for some time and the lack of human occupants had been made up for by a steady stream of mice.  I quickly purchased a live mouse trap (which my sister preferred to call the mouse condo) and so began a nightly check in and a morning checkout of the mouse population.  I wasn’t thrilled with the sound of mice skittering around the cabin while I tried to sleep at night but I soon became used to it and knew it was only a matter of time before I caught them all.

One night I awoke to the usual sound of mouse feet and got up to chase it back to the boot room where hopefully it would check in to the mouse condo.  I put on my glasses, head lamp (essential for night vision when you don’t have electricity), my wool socks and got out of bed to track down the mouse.  It didn’t take long to find him hiding in the corner behind the guitar, but I soon realized by the size of the tail sticking out that this was no mouse.  I grabbed the broom to shoo him out and while I was getting the broom he slipped away into the other room.  I quickly tracked him down and by the sounds I was confident he had crawled into a wooden trunk.  I closed the lid of the trunk and thought “Aha, I’ve got you now”.  All I had to do now was wait until the next day and my two brothers would be called into action to open the trunk and remove the trespasser.

The next day came and brought my brothers to the rescue.  Alas, once the trunk was cautiously opened by my gloved brothers there was nothing to be found except the books and games that were always there.  The conclusion was that it must have been a pack rat and it must have been behind the trunk and not inside it.  Not a comforting thought for me…I was sleeping peacefully while it wandered around the cabin.  Yuck!

Brother Dan immediately brought a live trap…great for catching pack rats.  He showed me how to set it and even brought some apples which he said particularly appealed to pack rats.  Later that afternoon Brother Tom (the owner of the cabin) said “You know, if you really want to get rid of it, you should just shoot it with the pellet gun.” I immediately replied in the negative.  I had never shot anything and was sure that the traps would do the job.  Then once the pack rat was in the trap, the brothers could come to the rescue once again and remove it for me.  The only snag in this plan was that both brothers were leaving early the next day for a visit to Brother Bill.  Unless I caught the rat tonight, they would not be around to come to my rescue.

Brother Tom brought out the pellet gun and insisted I at least attempt to shoot a pop bottle out in the grass.  I did so…and hit the bottle…but continued to insist that there was no need for me to shoot the pack rat.  I would trap it instead.

That night as part of my bedtime preparations, I carefully baited the trap with apple slices and set it in the boot room.  I fell asleep and was awoken around 11 pm by the sound of nails clicking and tail slapping and I knew the rat was in the room.  I quietly held my breath and waited for him to enter the trap.  Yes! I heard the sound of the wire cage scraping on the floor and then silence.  “I got him” I said to myself.  I got up, put on my glasses, headlamp, and wool socks and cautiously walked towards the boot room.  The trap sat empty, completely empty, even the apple slices were gone. Disappointed, I adjusted the trigger of the trap door to make it more sensitive, sliced more apple and left it in the middle of the trap.  This time it would work….

An hour later I once again heard the dreaded slapping of the tail as the rat moved through the cabin.  I waited with baited breath and once again heard the wire cage move.  And, once again when I checked, the apple was missing but there was no sign of the pack rat.  I knew then, the trap was not going to work.

The only alternative was to try to shoot him.  Could I shoot him?  Would I shoot him? I didn’t know.  What I did know was that it was now after midnight; I was tired and frustrated and wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep, which is what I did.

1 o’clock and the rustling, clicking of nails and slapping tail awoke me again.  I knew there was no point in setting the trap so instead I got up, put on the glasses, headlamp, and wool socks and walked over to the corner of the room where the pellet gun rested.  I picked it up, cautiously loaded it with a pellet, pulled a chair into the middle of the room facing the boot room, sat down, turned out my headlamp and waited. Waited and waited and waited until I found myself starting to doze off in the chair.  There was no sound or sight of the rat.  Maybe it had left….

I unloaded the gun, put it away, and crawled wearily back into bed.  Not even 20 minutes later I heard the dreaded sounds again, rustling, clicking and the gross slapping of the tail.  Up again, glasses, headlamp, wool socks, load pellet gun and begin to hunt it down.  Nothing…all remained quiet.  I knew he was there somewhere, probably watching me.  Back to bed, even more weary and frustrated.

3 o’clock and there it was again…the same sounds.  A little different this time…the clicking of nails was more metallic.  I knew where he was!  The metal cupboard in the kitchen!  Up again, quieter and stealthier this time.  The glasses, the headlamp, wool socks and the pellet gun which was right beside the bed this time.  As quietly as possible I loaded the gun and made my way over to the cupboard.  Head lamp on, gun loaded I opened one cupboard door.  Nothing!  Then the next door and there he was!  Sitting with his big tail curled around his body looking me right in the eye.  Blinded by my headlamp he was frozen in place.  In seconds my thoughts whirled from “Don’t miss him. Don’t wait too long, He’s going to move, Shoot!”

And I did…I pulled the trigger, he fell over and I quickly slammed the cupboard door shut all the while saying over and over again “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.

I reloaded the pellet gun in case he wasn’t dead and forced myself to reopen the cupboard door.  It wasn’t necessary…he would not walk the cabin floors again.  I unloaded the pellet gun, found some plastic bags and Brother Tom’s big leather gloves and removed the body and all evidence of the night’s events.  I still couldn’t believe I had actually done it.  I was not proud of the killing but I knew it had been necessary and I was coming to terms with the knowledge that I was capable of doing what was necessary. I had learned something about myself…maybe I would be able to meet the challenges that would arise in this rural lifestyle. With that knowledge, I crawled back into bed…knowing I could sleep peacefully now.

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