I did Remembrance Day a day early this year. I was invited to sing with the One Voice Choir in Edmonton, and we performed a medley of 2 songs for the No Stone Left Alone ceremony.
Although it wasn’t exactly like other Remembrance Day ceremonies I’ve been to, there were definitely some similarities. Dignitaries were announced as they walked in (I wonder why they do that? Maybe because in Elizabethan England people would whisper, “who is that? Who’s that with him?” so they started announcing people as they came in to reduce the whispering. It’s just a theory). People held flags. A man in uniform played the trumpet. There were speeches, generally boring and filled with cliches. They go something like this:
To [important person #1], [important person #2], [important person #3], [important person #4]… (until all “important people” in attendance have been listed). We are gathered here today to [insert cliche #1], [insert cliche #2], [insert cliche #3]. (They then proceed to say mostly boring, socially expected things and ramble on for their allotted time. Honestly, my mind wanders after a bit and I usually get sidetracked wondering what strange situation spawned the cliches in the first place.)
I don’t mean to slam all tradition; I know it is important. But,
Here is what I would like to say, on this Remembrance Day.
To the men and women currently serving in any capacity in our armed forces: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it for the money or the fame. So, in whatever motivates you, may there be lots of it. Again, thank you.
To the families of those who serve in our military: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you for living with uncertainty, facing your fears daily, and for all the unseen and unknown hardships that you go through. I’ll never know what it’s truly like for you, and all I can humbly say is thank you.
To the families who have lost their loved one(s) in the line of duty: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
May you have all the support you need. May you never feel alone. May you feel the gratitude your whole country has for the difficulties you have had to face. May you feel as much peace, hope, and optimism as you possibly can. May you remember that your loved one contributed to a good cause, and died in the prime of his/her life doing what he/she loved.
To the wounded soldiers who return to us, whether wounded physically or emotionally: Thank you.
May you have all the support you need. May you never feel alone. May you feel the gratitude of your whole country for the difficulties you have had to face. May you feel as much peace, hope and optimism as you possibly can. May you rediscover how to thrive, how to live a full life, and how to enjoy the freedom you helped to create.
To all those hearing these words, shake the hand of a uniformed person today, and tell them you appreciate them. Hug your loved ones and tell them you appreciate them. Stand and clap with me, if you agree.
[ thunderous applause ]
I am tired of walking 20 steps to get from the kitchen to the bedroom. I know, it’s a horrible first-world problem; people elsewhere have had their houses blown away by typhoons, crumbled by earthquakes, or wrecked by hurricanes. So, I have a lot to be grateful for — I love my house! — but I sometimes do feel my house is too big. I’m sure it’s a sign…
What’s it a sign of? It’s a sign that my innocent fascination with tiny houses, and tiny house-school-buses, has grown into something more. I think we are actually going to do something about it!
Originally, I started looking at tiny houses because of working away from home. Sure, I’ve been lucky to find good places to live, but I thought if it did not last and I wanted to have my own little haven to come home to. I also wanted it to be mobile, so I could camp out at the airport at times or in town at times. I started some surfing the web like a maniac. I did a LOT of research online, and started drawing up possible floor plans. I used to design houses all the time when I was a kid/teenager — it’s a wonder I never went into architecture.
I wanted to find some old sketches from when I was a kid, but that’s going to take a little searching. But here are some scribbly sketches I’ve done in the past couple of years:
Then, I saw a school bus RV conversion, only the people lived in it! Brilliant! So, then I started researching school buses like a maniac, and I even found a cheap one on kijiji I was considering buying. Imagine taking an old bus and turning it into something like this!
So lovely, and their blog is very nice, too!
It is just so much fun to dream of this stuff, and even more fun to make plans. Even if those plans never come true, who cares? I enjoy it!
But, it looks like it might not be just a dream anymore. For starters, I realized the other day that our spare room is about the size of many tiny houses! It would be very workable, in particular if we subtract the bathroom element and just use the house’s bathroom. Bathrooms, and plumbing in general, can be tricky in tiny houses! I mean, I’ve seen showers that were only 2 feet wide — that is awfully skinny even for a skinny person. I’m pretty sure I’d hit my elbows on the sides a lot. And how do you install a waste water tank below the floor? In Canada, it has to be inside the house so it won’t freeze. Gravity-fed plumbing requires a tank up high, otherwise you need a pump… so overall, plumbing is definitely not trivial.
So, here’s my plan: I’m going to make a platform for the bed (which is a double mattress) and raise it up, like the bunk beds people buy their kids. Sometimes, they have a desk below the bed, or whatever. I am going to put a couch or comfy chair below the bed, and my dresser. I’m going to make sure that I can still sit up in bed, and that the window in the room will not be blocked. I’ll have a small counter for a kitchenette — probably just a toaster oven, and maybe a bin for a sink… or maybe I’ll buy a sink and install it with a pail below to catch the water. I should probably add some shelves for plates, bowls, and mugs. Clothes in the closet, and books on a shelf. What else does a person really need? :) Oh ya, space for yarn!
I’m really looking forward to it, to playing tiny house inside the main house. I will have about 85 square feet (11’4″ x 7’6″), which is pretty small by tiny house standards — anything less than 100 square feet is considered “micro!” Tiny house people have such a great sense of humour! But, since I won’t be totally self-sufficient (no bathroom contained), I am definitely cheating a little. And my ceiling isn’t as high as most tiny houses, so the space below the bed will be a bit short — sitting down space only. Which should be fine! Everyone needs somewhere to sit. I’ve thought about making a fold-up bed that can be stowed during the day, but for now, I think I’ll stick to the platform. I love the idea of creatively using the space you have.
I will be sure to post some photos when I’m done! It’s going to be a while before I can get to it — I have to wait for winter. There is still a LOT of outdoor work on the farm that we need to do to prepare for winter! It’s a little overwhelming, but we are finding some people to help and it’s coming along!
I felt like a bit of an astronaut a few days ago. Darren and I were doing some much-needed roofing on the main barn. When my grandpa built it in 1957 or so, they used wooden shingles. Can you imagine nailing one shingle down at a time? Over the years the wooden shingles have been drying out and getting smaller and smaller as they age, so the roof leaks. My dad started replacing the roof with tin, which is a fantastic roofing material, but he didn’t quite finish.
We have two panels 3 feet wide to do, plus three small areas that are odd shapes. Earlier in the summer, I went up and did a little work removing the last of the wooden shingles, but it’s unnerving. Because it’s so high, and so steep, it’s really hard to work. There are no good hand/foot holds, and when you constantly feel like you’re going to slip off, you can’t really do anything. Plus, with nowhere to brace yourself, you can’t really put any muscle into anything you do!
So, my safety-bear of a husband attached 2 solid anchor points by installing heavy-duty hooks from the inside of the hayloft. Once we had those, he googled how to make a rope safety harness and bought rope. So, now, we have a way to anchor ourselves so that we don’t have to worry about falling to our deaths. Don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but it would be quite a fall…
The other night we finally got the perfect night to go up there and install those last pieces, so we set about cutting them and getting everything ready. Ladder, check. Ropes, check. Extension cord, check (we were using an electric drill/screwdriver). Special grippy footwear (Vibrams), check. One at a time, we climbed the ladder with our small pieces of tin, drill and harnesses — with tool belts attached. We clicked into our safety lines, but we couldn’t just walk around up there — the roof was too slippery even with the grippy footwear, so we switched to bare feet. How odd to be safety-minded in bare feet! No steel-toed footwear here! But the sweat on our feet was the best grip-enhancer of all. So, we got to work.
We installed a small, simple piece easily enough, and then moved on to a harder one that required one of us to go onto the very top part of the roof. Darren climbed up there, checking out the 2 small patch-pieces that needed to be added, and then a thought occurred to me: we only have one ladder. What if we somehow knocked it down? We’d be stuck on the roof! Neither one of us had our phones! So, for all our planning, and safety, we had forgotten a pretty major one. So, I put my Vibrams back on and went to get a back-up ladder. It was just around the corner, leading into the hayloft. So, with the second ladder in place, we decided to try install a big piece of tin.
Unfortunately, the last piece my Dad had installed had a gash in it, so we had to take that one off and install one of our newly-cut pieces in its place. So, we’ll have to cut one more another day. I climbed down again and got the piece, which we had washed earlier to get the spruce needles and general grime off. The piece was just over 3 feet wide by 99″ long (8’3″) and although it was not overly heavy, it was awkward. I managed to carry it in one hand and go up the ladder. Once on the roof, I got to put it down while Darren positioned himself. When he was ready, I had to bring the piece over to the upper roof and lift it up about chest-high, so we could slide it into position. This sounds so easy but was in reality so hard! I needed to use both hands, and each of my feet were only gripping onto one screw of the roof I was standing on!
A few minutes later, when I was standing on the upper ladder (sorry to confuse you, there are a a lot of ladders involved!), giving direction and encouragement to Darren, it hit me: this is like spacewalking. Astronauts on a spacewalk are tethered to the vehicle they emerged from; we were tethered, too. All an astronaut’s tools are tethered to them; ours were all attached to our tool belts or tied to the roof itself. Astronauts have no friction in space, and so they have to grip with their hands or have their feet anchored in order to apply muscle; same for us. Astronauts have to plan every move carefully and work in teams; so did we.
Now, I can’t say I have a more profound thing to say than this: It was cool, for an little while on a roof, to play astronaut. In another time, another life, I might have been one… but the top of the roof will have to do for me!
I wonder if Jim Henson — or whoever did the writing for the Kermit character on the Muppets — realized how popular Kermit’s line “it isn’t easy being green” would become! In particular, it resonates with those of us who’d like to have less impact on this planet we live on. I’ve been thinking of ways that I might be able to make a difference, and of course a small difference in something I do every day adds up to a big difference over time.
Take coffee, for instance. For so many of us, it’s a daily routine of brewing, or driving to get our favourite liquid addiction. I’m not even sure it’s as much about the caffeine as it is the sugar — coffee is an excellent sugar-delivery system! In any case, coffee is something we do a LOT of, so I wonder if we could do it more sustainably?
First up, paper cups. Where I work, we have ceramic cups available, but hardly anyone uses them! Why not? I think we’ve just gotten used to paper cups with plastic lids, and a paper sleeve if it’s really hot, but honestly, a reusable ceramic cup is so much better. Everyone knows that styrofoam cups are the worst (although I believe it’s now illegal to use CFCs in their production), but paper cups are lined with plastic. A true paper-only cup would be like a Dixie cup and wouldn’t hold up to coffee very well at all. So, although the cups can be composted, they don’t do it well and we may be introducing microplastic into the environment, which no one wants to do. So, I have been making an effort to use an ordinary ceramic coffee cup or my stainless steel tea thermos whenever possible. :) Just a tiny bit of water and they are clean and ready to go again! Think of how many times a ceramic cup can be reused. A million times!
K-cups. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed how wasteful they are! They are meant to reduce waste in brewed coffee — instead of making a pot and then pouring a bunch down the drain when no one drinks it, use a K-cup (or Tassimo, same thing)! But rather than one large container of coffee grounds, which we scooped out of, we now have many small plastic containers going into the trash! Is a little coffee down the drain really so terrible? Compared to the garbage we are producing in astronomical amounts? I mean, you can take them apart and send the plastic only to the recycling, but if you’re not at home, are you going to do this? Not likely. Although this nifty tool might help: Recycleacup.com. You can buy a reusable K-cup that you can put your own coffee into, and I think that is an excellent option!
And the company that got me thinking about all this? One Coffee!
90% biodegradable sounds more like it, and their website says they are now at 99% biodegradable! And Fair Trade, too!
And after brewing one, this is what it looks like. No mess!
I love to see companies coming up with cool solutions to problems. Here’s another one: Lafarge is burning K-cups and then using the ash in cement mix. That’s one way to keep K-cups out of the trash!
We had a little excitement the other day — hell, we had an alpaca porn show! It started when I went out after sundown to close the barn for Uki and Daisy (the momma and baby — and baby alpacas are called crias), and I thought I saw something black in the barn with them… sure enough, it was Fozzie! He had somehow gotten out of his corral and was in the barn with the two females! Little bugger! Well, little did I know, the “buggering” was just beginning!
I had to get him out again and try to wrangle him back into his corral. All the alpaca books (and breeders I’ve talked to) say that you need to keep the male out for about 2 weeks after a cria is born. So, I opened the gate to his corral and went back to try and separate him from the girls and all three got out of the barn. Hrmf. Well, no sooner were they out when Fozzie started trying to get on Uki. She did what any female alpaca in her position would do, I guess: she laid down on the ground and let him. They don’t do the wild deed stanging up, like horses or cows — they lay down. And I think I know why.
It takes forever! I had read in the alpaca book that it can last as long as 20 minutes, but I’m sure this was more like 45. Little bugger again, I said to myself! So, Daisy (the cria) and I just hung out, with the twilight fading and Fozzie sidling up and up and up onto Uki, and making the most crazy and amazing sounds! “Orgling” it’s called. It’s so strange someone had to make up a word to describe it! It’s like “oh baby, oh baby” in alpaca. Mixed in with strange gasping sounds. Apparently, it’s the combination of orgling and the male grasping the sides of the female with his front legs that makes the female ovulate. So, I think it worked! Way to go, buddy!
It was too dark to take a picture — plus, I didn’t want to leave Daisy unguarded in case any coyotes were around — so, I hope you enjoy this cave-art drawing (by me) of what it looked like. For 45 minutes. (There really should be more cave art in the world, don’t you think?)
The next day, I found the exact spot Fozzie must have jumped over the fence, little bugger. There was fresh broken wood, and Fozzie with a “what’s up?” look on his face kept visiting the spot. (I fixed it right away.)
Now, we’ll know if it worked in a few more days when I let Fozzie back in again to visit Uki. If she spits at him and won’t lay down for him, it means she is pregnant. Isn’t it cool that she knows? I have never heard of an animal like that.
So, there you have it. Porn on the farm. Sex in the corral. Doin’ it, alpaca-style!
Oy, what a life I lead! :-)