Tag Archives: country

Our Massive Mud Puddle

We laugh (and perhaps cry a little) at the irony of spending the time and the money to build a garage, only to NOT be able to use it in the weeks that followed.

This was definitely one of those situations where timing was everything. It’s just that the stars didn’t line up in our favour.

Given the number of homeowners everywhere who actively took to home renovation projects during the pandemic, the competition for building materials was fierce. When the supply chain couldn’t keep up with overall demand, the scheduled delivery dates for our building materials were extended, which staggered the completion of the project. This factor, in itself, did not cause us too much concern. We just chalked it up to our current reality.

But it was the coincidental timing of the completion of the garage with the emergence of spring that became problematic.

The rapidly melting snow (as one typically experiences in March around here) turned the freshly displaced soil and clay around the former construction site into a mud puddle.

We’re not talking a little mud in a few spots, we’re talking an unavoidably massive mud puddle consisting of the gooey, sticky stuff you see in movies that creates that suction effect when you step into it. And if you’re footwear isn’t securely fastened to your foot, it will stay securely fastened to the mud itself.

In theory, this shouldn’t be a big deal given that we are still working from home and only going out for the essentials. But on that first venture out for grocery night, it was an adventure in itself, navigating in and around the mud puddle. Continue reading

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The Wild Life of Living in the Country

But with farm land surrounding us, I didn’t expect to feel quite so unenlightened and “green” when it came to the animal kingdom. It’s like I turn into a kid again when I see or hear things for the first time.

Shortly after we arrived I experienced flying ants for the first time. It was a very weird sensation, as I had no idea an ant could fly, but out here they do. They are quite the annoyance if you are trying to get something accomplished and they persistently fly back no matter how many times you try to shoo them away. Fortunately, the wave of flying ants was over after about two weeks.

When taking a stroll or working outside, it’s not uncommon to hear cows in the distance, a sound that I haven’t heard in ages. It’s a sound that brings me great joy, as a reminder of our more peaceful surroundings. I never thought that a cow mooing would have such a relaxing effect, but it does.

Just down the street, one of our neighbours has a couple of horses. I don’t recall been near a horse since a pony ride maybe 50 years ago. One day I was driving by, only to see one of the horses relieving itself (#1) which totally blew my mind as I finally witnessed and understood the saying “peeing like a racehorse”.

I was surprised that we didn’t have more squirrels and chipmunks, but the ones we have are more than enough as they seem to be in a bit of a “West Side Story” turf war. My partner and I have both seen the chipmunk get very aggressive with the squirrel and even take a swipe at him. That chipmunk is quite a scrapper! Continue reading

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Where Did the Running Season Go?

When I look at the calendar, it blows my mind that we are already at the end of what I refer to as “my running season” (typically, the period from March to November) and yet I still haven’t gone running yet this year.

How did that happen? How did a whole running season escape on me?

Thankfully, it’s not like I was sidelined due to injury or anything like that (been there, done that!), but I think we can all agree that 2020 was far from normal for anyone.

Much like every year, when the ice build-up on the wintry sidewalks was melting, making them less of a hazard for slipping and breaking an ankle or a hip (a legit concern for us folks on the cusp of “elderly”), I had every intention of getting out, building up my walking routine and slowly graduating to running.

At the dawn of the Covid-19 lockdown, I was working from home and during most lunch breaks, I was outside walking two kilometres to get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise. In reality, that wasn’t too far off from my routine had I been working from the office. Over time, my pace increased with no noticeable complaints from the legs, knees, hips, IT bands or shins. I felt like I was making good progress.

Over the span of a few weeks, I had just graduated to the walk-run combo for my two kilometre circuit, so I was almost there and planning to increase my distance. Continue reading

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Country Living: Farm-to-Table

One of the best parts about moving to the country has been experiencing the joy of savouring freshly picked produce.

It is interesting the way that things have flip flopped: When I lived in the city, within a small radius, I had ten grocery stores to choose from, two farms from which I could buy seasonal produce, and one farmer’s market that would set up on Saturdays. In the country, I have one excellent grocery store nearby, I am surrounded by a multitude of farmers’ stands that sell produce, and around here, any day of the week is pretty much “farmer’s market” day.

Needless to say, we took full advantage of this opportunity.

Over the course of the last four months we have enjoyed fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, green and yellow beans, peas, corn, potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, onions, garlic, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and several varieties of apples, all grown locally.

There have been other products available, but there just haven’t been enough hours in the day to try them all.

When you add to the mix a local butcher shop that also sources products from local suppliers, we have found ourselves marveling on more than one occasion at how everything on the dinner table was truly local.

I will be the first to say that I appreciate the convenience of a good supermarket that can sell you anything, anytime, especially in the middle of a Canadian winter when the ground is frozen and growing season is over. The availability of imported fruits and vegetables is certainly a delight to add colour and variety to our diets through the twelve months of the calendar year. Continue reading

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When the House Makes Me Jump

One of the pitfalls of having very good hearing (as I do) is the process of getting familiar with a house’s noises.

In my last house, after almost 20 years, I knew exactly what “normal” sounded like for each individual appliance, sink and toilet as well as for the furnace, the air conditioner and the hot water tank.

I knew that dramatic drops or increases in temperature outside would make the house pop as the building materials contracted or expanded. I was also familiar with the specific creaking noises that tree branches outside would make in heavy winds.

Each sound had a distinct fingerprint, and after 20 years, whenever the house made noise, I could usually pick out the cause and not worry about it.

But in having my radar on like a bat and the ability to filter out common “normal” noises, it goes without saying that noises that weren’t so common and didn’t match the usual patterns, could sometimes make me jump higher than I would when watching most horror flicks.

I wouldn’t chalk up that reaction to perhaps being a little over-caffeinated or being a nervous person by nature. I think it stems from a pride of ownership in my home and any noises that aren’t considered “normal” should be investigated right away to ensure they aren’t a sign or a more serious problem.

When that happened, Ivy the Wonder Cat and I would turn into Scooby and Shaggy (respectively), slowly walking through the house, flashlight in hand, waiting for the noise to happen again to be able to figure out where it is coming from, what it is, how to stop it and if a professional noise-eradicator needed to be called. Continue reading

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Country Living and Non-Stop Pick-Up Sticks

When I first read the real estate listing for our home-to-be, one of the details that stole my heart was the mention of a tree-lined lot and the picture of mature trees surrounding the little house.

Even though I am not what I would consider a winter person, when combined with a fresh February snowfall, the house presented all of the elements of a charming country retreat. A couple of friends mentioned how it looked like the kind of house you’d see in a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Having grown up in suburbia, I wasn’t a stranger to trees. We had a weeping willow, a crab-apple tree, cedar hedges and a few shrubs. There was even an apple tree on the property line with one of our neighbours. But as a kid, I never really thought about them. I just remember climbing them or making them into a big prop in whatever game my playmates’ imagination came up with.

Then came a decade of rental apartments, where trees were there for shade, shelter and beauty, but I never really gave them much thought. Even in the townhome where I lived for 20 years, the condominium corporation took care of the trees. The most I ever did was rake a few leaves.

Now, in a home with a tree-lined lot, I see trees differently, both literally and metaphorically. They are a source of pride and joy and we are so fortunate that our property has such a variety of beautiful trees. But the reality check is setting in: ongoing maintenance.

Sadly, there are a couple that aren’t doing well that will need to be removed, but that’s just nature and the circle of life at work. At the same time, we have a few majestic ones that we were told by our tree expert were probably standing since our great-grandparents’ days and will probably outlive us.

In having so many trees around, in various stages of life, I understand that getting acquainted with each variety individually and understanding their respective needs will be a project in itself.
But the one thing that doesn’t take a tree expert to realize is that when you have mature trees around, falling twigs, sticks and branches are a fact of life. Continue reading

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How Country Living Changed My Outlook on Weather

One of the biggest ironies about moving to the country has been the surprising shift in the way I look at weather forecasts.

Back when I lived in the city, I was not a fan of rain nor snow. The reason was pretty simple: commuting.

After our work team was relocated a few years ago, I had accepted that taking the car to this new location would always be faster and more efficient than dealing with buses or our emerging light rail system. After being a bus commuter for 35 years, I felt justified in taking that decision and in having done my part for the environment.

I occasionally questioned that wisdom when a major reconstruction project on a major artery kept adding time to my commute, but I still persisted.

But when the highway was narrowed not only from the construction itself but from vehicles breaking down in the construction zone like it was the Bermuda Triangle, my patience started to wear thin every day that lanes would be blocked, adding to the commute time.

But when you incorporate precipitation into the mix, whether rain, snow, or freezing rain, it became impossible to predict just how long it would take to get to work. Let’s just say that I restrained myself from drinking too much coffee just in case I’d be stuck in the car on the highway (between off-ramps) for lengthy periods.

Back then, whenever I looked ahead to a forecast with several successive days of rain, I would already start the week with a bit of a frown.

But now living in the country, in the Covid-19 era, where I have been working from home and haven’t had to commute in almost five months, I have had good time to recuperate from idiot drivers, construction, precipitation and stressful commutes. Continue reading

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The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 2)

When my partner first suggested moving to the country some time ago, it really didn’t stir up any apprehensions on my part.

I grew up in a suburb of Ottawa in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, at a time when it had a small town feel to it. In its infancy, our tiny subdivision offered the best of both worlds: the amenities of city living as well as the space for young families to grow and thrive. At the time, it was small enough to have its own sense of community and identity, separate from the city a short drive away.

Even though my memories of “village” life are from the perspective of a young boy, I have often entertained the idea of returning to that calmer, quieter, gentler pace as I got older and as life got more rushed and complicated.

Today, my forehead is chronically bruised from the number of times I smack my palm to my forehead for the idiotic things city dwellers do, whether on the commute to or from work, to deal with the daily reality that common sense is not so common anymore, or for the need to repeatedly set boundaries with certain neighbours (i.e., “No, your dog poop in my yard is not acceptable!”)

This is not to say that moving to the country will completely eradicate these problems, but with less density in population, I’d like to think that my forehead bruises will get a decent chance to heal.

When we went to look at the house in the country that seemed to check most of the boxes of what my partner and I were looking for, I admit that my heart started to flutter. Continue reading

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The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 1)

My sincere apologies to my readers for the break between blog posts. It wasn’t exactly planned, but it was one of those unavoidable cases of life getting in the way of writing.

As much as under normal circumstances, my little writing voice always seems to be talking to me, the little writing voice just seemed muffled by the sudden spurt of activity recently.

While I like to think of my writing as a way to feel grounded and a way to feel a sense of balance when things get crazy, there was simply no time nor headspace to work on a blog post, even if just to edit one that was close to finished.

The big event that ended up being the centre of my universe for a few weeks was the process of buying a home, and then selling the one I currently live in.

Regular readers might recall that there have been a number of posts in the last year about my (mis)adventures in home renovations: “Fixing the Eyesore Door”, “Don’t Touch the Walls!”, “Why Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun”, among others. Those posts were no accident. For the last year, I have hit the fast forward button on home renovations in preparation for this very moment.

Even though I knew it was coming eventually, the moment my partner sent me the link to a house for sale out in the country in an email saying simply “OH!”, something started to percolate in the pit of my stomach. Something told me that this was the one and it was time to pull the trigger on the process.

The housing market is pretty tight these days. To see a charming Hallmark-movie style home out in the country that checked most of the boxes on the list of what we were looking for meant jumping into action. Continue reading

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How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest

The first time I heard about the Eurovision Song Contest was in the late 1970’s when I read an article about my favourite musical group, ABBA. The article credited ABBA’s meteoric rise to international stardom to the Eurovision Song Contest and their 1974 win with the song “Waterloo”.

For this young Canadian, even though I had no idea what Eurovision was, it sounded like a big event! I knew just enough about world geography to know that if a music competition involved a whole continent, it must have been something special.

In the years that followed, and the many hours spent listening to MuchMusic, Eurovision came up a few times, whether in the “Rock News” reports or when the VJ’s (“Video Jockeys”) were presenting a video and providing some background into the song and the artist. I remained intrigued.

In 2002, I was finding myself a little bored with mainstream radio here in North America and found myself searching for other musical options. At the same time, I had changed cable packages and was introduced to “BPM TV”, a new music video channel focused on dance tunes from around the globe.

Over the course of BPM’s programming, I was introduced to the Swedish pop band Alcazar. With their very catchy pop-dance tunes, bright upbeat tempo, and amazing sense of style, glamour and showmanship, they quickly became my favourite band! They still are today!

In the process of getting to know Alcazar better through online research, the theme of Eurovision popped up again. Alcazar competed in 2003 with a song called “Not a Sinner nor a Saint”, in a competition called Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national competition to pick a song to represent the country at Eurovision. This was where the journey began! Continue reading

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