This time of year again, and with unseasonably warm weather — it was 14.5 Celsius on Saturday — which is much appreciated. Though not very good for the kids’ plans with the 4H Outdoor club to go skiing.
A little Speckle Park calf,
4H public speaking week is done, in both clubs. Beef club public speaking was last Sunday afternoon, 30 kids and 5+ hours. Oy. Daniel got second place with his speech on the life of Monsieur Bombardier before he invented the Ski-Doo, and after a tie-breaker with a good friend a grade or two ahead of her, Laura got second place for her speech on antibiotic resistance in beef cattle. Friday night we had Outdoor club public speaking; Laura gave a speech about her experience at the Young Ornithologist Workshop last summer, and the boys did a presentation on how to make beef jerky, complete with our big black smoker as a prop. The kids each got first place, but won’t be going to 4H district communications next weekend because Tom signed them up for a six-hour hands-on calving course at the college — more educational and helpful all around, especially with calving season about a month away. And the kids eager to move on, with Music Festival coming up in about a month. We’ll start working on poems and prose on Monday. I haven’t participated in Poetry Friday for eons, but I might put some of the kids’ poems up here if I get the chance.
I finally have my dining room back — it was public speaking central, with the boys’ jerky making set-up all over the table — and it was quiet here today. This is Family Day weekend in the province, a made-up holiday to allow for three days off February. Fishing is free (no license required) for the holiday, so Tom and the kids took off early this morning for an ice fishing derby with some 4H Outdoor club members. I opted to stay home to look after some paperwork and make cinnamon buns, having been inspired by a presentation last night. We have a great recipe from my mother-in-law’s former teacher, Mrs. B. Tom discovered the buns about 15 years ago when he reshingled Mrs. B’s roof; she was around 70 then, and sailed up the ladder one-handed when she deemed it break time, holding a platter of homemade buns aloft.
Otherwise the week was filled with cat-sitting for a neighbor (Laura’s first experience with kitty litter), a blizzard, and lots of curling (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday). The blizzard put a kink in my Valentine’s plans, since I had hoped to be able to pick up some Hershey’s Kisses for the kids and Tom after my appointment that day, but with whiteout conditions the appointment was cancelled. Fortunately, I had a package each of KitKats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups leftover from Christmas (the stockings seemed full enough), so not the traditional stuff but still sweets for the sweet. And yesterday I found special Valentine’s Hershey’s Kisses for more than half off at the supermarket, so all wasn’t lost.
New in our library system — the audio CD of Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time, read by Derek Jacobi, from BBC Audio, unabridged on six discs. But am curious why it’s $65 US at Amazon.com, yikes, and $17.61 at Amazon.ca, very, very odd. I thought Inspector Grant and Richard III would be fun bedtime listening for the kids, especially in light of the recent RIII news.
A friend of the kids, a wonderful pianist, is graduating from high school and moving oversees with his family, so he decided to give a farewell concert on Sunday. A wonderful way to spend Father’s Day and our anniversary. On the way home, we saw a Mule deer doe crossing the gravel road. But she paused and looked back for just a fraction of second, enough for us to realize she was leaving a fawn behind. I looked on my side, and there by the side of the road at the edge of the ditch was the fawn hunkered down, still as a stone. We’ve come across dozens of White Tail fawns in the grass around our farm, but never a Mule fawn before. Photo by Davy.
The other week Laura checked all of our nest boxes to see how the swallows are doing. Some boxes had just eggs, others newly hatched chicks, and others a mixture of eggs and chicks. Photo by Laura.
A Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (I think), on one of the pots in front of house. Photo by Laura, at my request.
Duck family at Bonnyville, north of here. Laura came with me on an end-of-season greenhouse run, to find languishing treasures.
Laura found a stand of yellow lady’s slipper orchids (aka Moccasin flower) during one of her birding excursions around the farm the other week. Photo by Laura.
I’m a bit late with this, but with any luck anyone reading here knows not to wait for official proclamations before reading, enjoying, and being moved by poetry. It’s been a busy and difficult few weeks here. We’ve been busy with calving, one cow (Laura’s very first 4H heifer) lost both of her twins so we are milking her. Or rather, Laura and Tom are milking her, and I am responsible for finding things to do with 12 liters of milk a day. I have been making yogurt, tapioca pudding, cheesy potato soup, and more. I have also realized that I am beginning to slog through the mud of depression and anxiety, not from the deaths of my parents, but from the consequences thereof, which are a mountainous mess.
What kicked me into gear for a poetry month was the news of Canadian poet Gary Hyland, who died last week at age 70 of ALS, or Lou Gherig’s disease. Today on the CBC radio show, The Next Chapter, host Shelagh Rogers replayed her last conversation with Gary Hyland, with poet Lorna Crozier reading his “A Safe and Easy Thing”, which is a marvelous poem for Poetry Month. Pudding on a spoon, indeed.
A Safe and Easy Thing
by Gary Hyland
Don’t stop reading, Mildred.
There’s no need to be afraid.
This is not a poem. Pretend
you can hear me speaking,
pretend I am in a small room
far away playing the music
pictures happy in your head.
See? You don’t need to think.
The words are small and easy,
the lines are short, the print
large, like an advertisement.
Nothing will happen to you,
nothing to buy or believe or give,
like pudding, pudding on a spoon.
No one will ask what this means.
No one will care you’ve read it.
It is almost over and nothing
has happened. Not the sniff
of a mention of something odd,
nothing shifty, nothing fancy,
not one unpleasant anything.
You can be proud of yourself.
Should there be a power failure,
should the bubble puddings stop,
in the cough and shuffle silence
here’s something nice you can say
to your friends who never read,
not even signs or recipes.
Once I read a whole page of words
that my husband set into chunks.
It was easy, really, very easy.
It was about itself and me
and I could forget it right away.
That’s something to flaunt safely.
It’s not as if you’d read a poem.
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Poetry and Poetry Month posts from the Farm School archives (there is also a green “Poetry” tab above at the top of this blog, second from the right):
Something different, a list of poetry books and other poetic resources
A monthlong celebration of delight and glory and oddity and light (National Poetry Month 2008)
Adding even more poetry to your life, just in time for National Poetry Month (National Poetry Month 2006)
That would be me, delighted because Colleen Mondor in her latest Bookslut in Training column recommends as her Cool Read The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: A Birder’s Journal by Sallie Wolf. Delighted because next month is Laura’s 13th birthday, and the book — a “blend of poetry, field guide and nature notes” — sounds perfect for her. Colleen, who also blogs at Chasing Ray, writes,
Wolf arranges her entries by season, and includes bird lists, haiku, observations, ruminations, watercolor illustrations and drawings on every page. Essentially, she is inviting the reader into her life, providing a space at her window and her desk. It is a very personal work, for all that it does not share about Wolf’s actual personal life. You are merely seeing what she sees, and perhaps altering your own conclusions about art and nature through her influence. Teen readers who might be wary of their own creativity, and are reticent to face the blank page, will find a sympathetic fellow artist here — someone who uses the barest of brush strokes to capture the creatures she sees. Exquisitely designed by Charlesbridge, The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound is one of the more elegant books to come across my doorstop in a long time. I hope a lot of young birders and artists and poets find it.
I think the book might be a bit young for Laura but I still think she’d enjoy having it, and she can always use another journal. There’s another bird book I’d really like to get her, too, and while it shouldn’t be listed at an online bookseller for a decent price, it is. I’ll post the title if I manage to get my mitts on it*.
The publisher’s page with various links and downloads is here. Sallie Wolf has a blog and a website (where I learned that much like Davy, as a child Sallie loved Ben Hunt books and wanted to be a Mohawk. Davy wants to be an Iroquois, but why quibble?)
You can find all of Colleen’s warm weather reading titles for your favorite children and young adults in this post, Summertime, and the Reading Is Easy.
* Apparently the book is still in stock and winging its way to me: the hardcover edition of Tim Birkhead’s The Wisdom Of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology, for $10.11 CAN, much cheaper and sturdier than the paperback edition coming out in March. And for some reason the copies at Amazon.ca are $26.92 and $39.57 — odd.
Admonition in January
(On Passing a Florist’s Filled with Pussy Willows)
by Phyllis McGinley
An urban mind has learned to bear
The calendar’s perpetual treason:
Strawberries ripe for winter fare
And skating out of season;
Shop windows of December, bold
With swim suits daringly contrived here,
And August magazines grown old
Ere June has half arrived here.
But pussy willows wake our dream.
They wear a true, a springtime label,
And what necessities redeem
The flouting of the fable?
Here, incubated and absurd,
They droop in shivering sorority.
Their hopeful voices rise unheard
Above the storm’s authority.
And sharper seems the wind, and chill,
With April farther off than payday,
And endless all the days until
They have their proper heyday.
Florists, beware! Amid the snows
Let orchids blossom for the vendor.
Permit the violet and the rose
To thrive in hothouse splendor,
But leave these innocents to sing
An honest prophecy of spring.
from Miss McGinley’s A Pocketful of Wry, 1940
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More poetry, and prose, I’ve enjoyed sharing from one of my favorite poets:
Poetry Friday earlier this month (The Velvet Hand)
A True and Precious Stone, December 2008
Poetry Friday, November 2007 (Engima for Christmas Shoppers)
Poetry Friday, May 2006 (Incident on Madison Avenue)