Beautiful winter weekend

Did I just use the words beautiful and winter in the same phrase?  Sitting here on a warm, rainy and very grey city morning, the images of the weekend at Northbrook are looking pretty good.

On Saturday we hit the Cannington Dog Sled Races and Winter Festival minus the dog sled races due to a lack of snow.  The kids still scored a ride around the baseball diamond.  There was lots to look at and do and I even left the house for more than 10 minutes in the winter, which is something of a miracle.

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Sunday was beautiful, blue sky and crystal snow everywhere.  The WorkHorse and the Girl took some beautiful pics.

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Oh, I’m waiting for spring alright, but I’m not above enjoying a little winter beauty in the meantime.



We were woken by the sound of the wind howling, yelping and positively screaming around the house this morning.  The alarm clocks were blinking and, when I got up to see what kind of havoc the storm was wreaking on our rickety old maples, I found that I couldn’t see out of many of the windows for all of the snow blown on them. Here’s a view from this morning:

DSC_0537 The WorkHorse immediately considered the drive home. Not me, I’m just thinking about another day of totally justified laziness.  Yesterday I did so little that if there were an olympic event in slothery I’m fairly sure I would have medalled.  It’s not my fault.  The kids and the WorkHorse went into town to get some raccoon traps (more on that in a moment) and I was gloriously alone in the house.  After an hour of so of reading/obsessing about the garden (my seeds were delivered this week) I flipped on the TV where Patrick Swayze was just about to tell Jerry Orbach that no one puts baby in the corner.  That morphed into the last hour of Becoming Jane, followed by the entire Pride and Prejudice, which I cannot resist ever if it’s on.  So went my day yesterday.  Tough Mudder training started this week, and the additional cardio, plus some heavy deadlifts had left me sore and exhausted.  Thank goodness I have 8 months to get ready for this challenge – I think I’m going to need every minute.

I did pull it together enough to supervise the Girl in making some cookies with a batch of gluten free healthy cookies (they smell like dog food and taste only marginally better) for me.  For dinner I made my new favourite recipe.   I make two chickens because I eat a LOT of meat and the leftovers make me happy.


We get a lot of root vegetables in our winter CSA, so I roast them too – delicious.  And I’ve gotten into a very delightful appetizer.  Have you ever heard of watermelon radishes?  I hadn’t, until we got them in last year’s winter CSA.  I’d never been a fan of radishes, but then I read Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, and I have to admit that she converted me.  There are many radish references in her lovely book and I decided to give them another chance.  Now I’m loving them.  Particularly a watermelon radish, sliced as thinly as my $5 farm mandolin will allow, drizzled with good olive oil and fleur de sel.  I ate this last night while the chicken was cooking.  And then I ate the other half of the radish.  The WorkHorse was in another room and I didn’t exactly offer to share.  Can I justify my radish hogging by whining about my gluten (good cookie) free existence?  I’m going to try.


Today’s adventure had to do with our (so far fruitless) attempts to trap the raccoons who winter in our summer kitchen (it’s an old, uninsulated addition to the house where I guess they used to cook in the summer).  They summer elsewhere, it seems, but in the winter we can hear them going about their raccoony business and we can certainly smell them when we’re in the summer kitchen.  This weekend we decided to try and trap them.  The WorkHorse had read that cat food was their drug of choice, so he got a couple of traps – one where they enter the summer kitchen (under our kitchen porch stairs) and the other in the kitchen itself.  This morning we found the trap in the kitchen politely moved aside and the food eaten.  Under the kitchen porch was a very unhappy trapped cat.  Here’s the WorkHorse freeing the feline offender.


Once released, that cat moved so fast I actually couldn’t capture it on film.  Of course, I’m a clumsy photographer, so there’s that – but that cat was hauling ass off our farm.  At least one of us was moving this weekend.  The quest to become raccoon free will continue.  Mostly it’s just giving me more reason to want to renovate the summer kitchen into something like this.  Doesn’t a big stone fireplace, lots of windows overlooking the fields and endless comfy seating sound better than trapping raccoons?  I think so.



First thing in the morning on the first day of the year and I’ve got the place to myself – for a few minutes until the kids descend, anyway.  This season’s spate of illness and otherwise related guest cancellations meant we spent a quiet New Year’s Eve with just the four of us toasting (bubbly for me and the WorkHorse, gingerale for the kids) 2013.

Our family talked about what we’d enjoyed most in 2012.  The WorkHorse and I both chose spending the summer at Northbrook.  The kids found it hard to pick a favourite.  (I think the perception of time is different when you’re young.  If you think about it, last year amounts to roughly 25% of the life my daughter can remember.  Now try and pick your favourite thing from the last 25% of your life – it’s not easy.)  We talked about what we’re looking forward to in the coming year.  The kids found this a bit easier – everyone is looking forward to some family trips we are planning.

As for me?  Well some of it’s easy. I’m looking forward to training for and completing Tough Mudder in September. And, especially looking out at the sea of snow around me, I’m really looking forward to summer returning to Northbrook.  I can’t wait to implement the garden expansion we built last fall and to start to work on adding some flowers into the mix.  Winter is certainly beautiful at the farm, and I love to see the kids skating on the rink and building forts – but I’m just biding my time until the return of summer.  For me, perfection is a morning on the front porch, a day in the garden and a drink on the side porch overlooking the barn before dinner.


Some of the looking ahead is trickier.  2013 promises to be a sort of strange year for me.  It’ll be a time of upheaval professionally as I hope to make a big change on the career front.  To be honest, while I’m confident in my decision to make a change in my work, I feel less certain of the next step.  I’m a girl who loathes uncertainty and is allergic to change, so it’s been an odd time for me of late.  It’s not a question of lack of interest in my next venture so much as difficulty  picturing my new life.   I know that 12 months from now I’ll have a much better sense of where I’m going, but I expect the getting there to be on the awkward side.  We all define ourselves, at least a little, by what we do.  When we can’t say for sure what we’ll be doing, it leaves a little of our identity floating in the wind.

Things continue to change on the home front as well.  A lot of my energy in 2012 went into securing a spot and establishing the Boy in a new school which is a better fit for the way he learns. The Girl has plans to jump ship this year as well in favour of a specialized program at a new school.   While I know it’ll be a good program for her I am selfishly sorry to see her leave our home school, where I’ve known the other parents, staff and principal for the past 6 years.  My experience with the Boy’s new school tells me that I’ll have very little contact with the communities in the new schools and this contributes to the sort of ‘adrift’ feeling I’m experiencing.

I once read a truly awful novel in which a shy southern beauty is sent to live with her grandma for the summer.  When our heroine meets with some crisis or other, her grandma quaintly explains that in our lives we have sunshine years, rainy years and growing years.  Awful novel aside, I’ve always remembered that idea.  I’ve had a couple of very sunny years lately, but I wonder if 2013 might be of the growing variety.  A growing year isn’t something I dread, on the contrary – it’s exciting and important and always just what I need.  In any case, however I feel about it, it’s coming so I’d best embrace it.

But first, more tea.

Happy 2013 and may your year be just what you need it to be.