Saturday, November 4, 2023


Resilience. I got none. For nearly five years, I've lived alone, happily and healthily, on my five-acre rectangle of rural paradise, untroubled by the cares of city folk and city life in general. I eat well, I sleep well, I go to bed early, I talk to myself, sing to myself, enjoy the company of good friends when they visit, and enjoy waving goodbye when they return to the city. I pride myself on being independent. I'm never lonely. For three years and seven months, I've successfully avoided Covid-19 by avoiding people. My luck ran out two weeks ago. Three friends were coming to lunch. I tested negative beforehand, and I felt just fine. After lunch, we all went through to the living room, sprawled ourselves out on sofas and chairs, and were laughing and talking when suddenly I coughed, just a bit. A minute later, I coughed again. Annette asked if I felt okay. Sure, I did, and I'd tested negative, I replied. After they headed home, I tested twice more, just to be certain. Both negative. Next morning, I felt miserable, but still tested negative. The next test was positive. My friends were perfectly fine. But the worse I felt, the worse I felt. I started to unravel, day by day. Within three days, I was feral. I was trying to do the normal things a person does every day. Make tea. Sweep. Brush teeth. I couldn't. I was in a rage. I couldn't do anything requiring two steps. Like chew and swallow. Like be polite to people who wanted me to fill out a form. Twelve days later, I'm still testing positive. But I've been out in the car twice. I have come to the conclusion that I haven't been changing my mask often enough. It's that simple. User error. I'm sure I'll be testing negative again within the next few days. But it's humbling to know that the resilience I wear with pride most of the time is a pretty thin veneer.

Friday, October 13, 2023


Closing of the swimming pool is set to take place twelve days from now, which means I have twelve more days of trying to keep the pool clean and free of leaves, debris, pine needles and newly hatched turtles. No one on earth is going to want to swim in it in the meantime. The water is 10° Celsius.
Last time anybody went in, it was 14.5° and that was cold enough that I had to warm up a bag of beach towels in the dryer for them. That was September 24th: my friends Finn (on the diving board) and Matt demonstrating their raw courage. Willow, on the left, was supervising the guys. The colder the water is, the easier it is to keep clean. For the last two days, I have been down skimming and vacuuming and as a result it looks like an advertisement for a swimming pool. Yesterday I found three newly hatched turtles at the bottom of the shallow end. That was very sad. As I finished my work today, I suddenly thought: what if an emergency happened and I had to sell the property before the winter cover comes off the pool at the end of June next year? Unlikely, but you never know. So I decided to take some photos of the very clean pool with my iPad, which has a surprisingly great camera. That way, the real estate listing would include pool pics. It is very difficult to photograph a swimming pool and make it look attractive. These photos are what I came up with. If you see this pool in a real estate listing, you'll know that's my place.

Monday, October 9, 2023


Today Ivaan would have turned 79. I woke up thinking that, if he had to choose between being 79 and being dead, he'd probably have chosen death. Nonethleless, it was nice to receive birthday greetings on his behalf from quite a few of his friends. In the 15 years since his death, I've been impressed by the people who continued to remember him so fondly and who never fail to check in on me in case I'm feeling bereft. Ivaan was a very generous soul. I'd be hard pressed to think of a family member of mine who hasn't materially benefited from his kindness. If they wear a piece of jewellery by Ivaan, it was a gift from him. If their spouse wears a piece of jewellery by Ivaan, they received it as a gift from Ivaan. If they went on a vacation to Cuba with their kid, it was a gift from Ivaan. If their adult kids had professional driving lessons, it was a gift from Ivaan. If it was a girlfriend's birthday and they had no money for a birthday gift, Ivaan stepped up. If they planned a trip to the UK for a milestone birthday, Ivaan paid their airfare. If someone needed a place to stay and to be fed during a challenging time in their life, Ivaan made them welcome. Ivaan made a significant difference in my life and my family's life. It was a pretty empty feeling remembering his birthday today. I'm very grateful for his friends' abiding kindness. Happy birthday, Ivaan. I hope they have popsicles where you are.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


The final frontier in home improvements here at Five Acres was to raise the well pump above ground. It's not a project you want to tackle until you have money to burn, because there's no way of predicting what it's going to cost until the job is, basically, completed. It's also surprisingly difficult to find a well company to do the work according to government regulations. It was a piece of luck that brought me to Art. One day in the library I was talking to a former colleague. She also lives on a farm property. I mentioned my well and the fact that I was looking for a reliable well company to raise the well pump. She mentioned a female police officer who occasionally drops by the library, and said that the officer's husband had taken over his family's well company. "Talk to Art", she said. "You'll get the straight goods from Art." So I called Art, and he came over. I instantly liked him and felt confident that I wasn't going to be another woman being talked down to by a man. After all, his wife wears a firearm! It took several months until Art's schedule and my finances lined up, but that day came last Wednesday. A section of the metal roof on the well shed had to be removed temporarily to get the old well pump out of there: it was eight or nine feet below ground level. It took a whole day for Art and his Dad to get the old well pump up. Once the pump was above ground, there was good news and bad news: first, it was steel, so it hadn't rusted. That was fairly essential to getting it out of the well. But it was covered in sulphur, and underneath all that sulphur was a 30 year old pump that could fail at any minute. The warranty on a new well pump is three years, so my old pump was living on borrowed time. Further, the underground cable that connects the well pump to the electrical panel in the house had been mended twice, so it made good sense to replace the cable at the same time.
So Art added "replace electrical cable" to his to-do list. (It wasn't easy). With the addition of a new above-ground well pump, my home improvements are now concluded. Big thanks to Art Holyoake and his Dad for putting this final piece of the puzzle in place.

Saturday, September 9, 2023


One thing that never shows up on real estate photos or videos of my property is the gigantic array of solar panels to heat the swimming pool. No need to explain why. When you see the picture, you'll understand. "Derelict" is the most diplomatic adjective I can think of. Luckily, it's hidden behind a stand of Brandon cedars - a favourite tree of mine - so I don't have to look at it unless I'm feeling self-destructive. That doesn't happen often, which explains why it's still there, four and a half years after I moved here. Two years ago, I was persuaded by the staff of the local pool company that for an investment of a few hundred dollars I could have it restored. That was my first mistake. One of my biggest character flaws is, and always has been, that I believe if I just try long enough and hard enough, I can get anything to work. This belief explains my first motorbike, my first husband, my Camaro, my Cadillac Seville, several chainsaws, and recently, my tractor. I have a nephew who also has this belief. In his case, he actually can get things to work. With me, the odds are about one in four. I should invite him over more often, eh? But I digress.
I'm sure I blogged about the solar array a couple of years back. The restoration was a failure - and I only wish it cost me a measly few hundred dollars. I've tried to move on. Swimming in a bracingly cold pool for two years has refreshed my memory. So last Wednesday I decided that I'd be using climate change to my advantage. From now on, global warming would heat the pool. I texted Casey, a guy from Orangeville who installed my farm gates last year. He was willing to come by on Friday with his tools and do the demolition. Early Friday morning, I called a dumpster rental company and ordered a 10 yard bin. I thought it would be way too big, but what the heck. I have another nephew who is an airline pilot. He had a day off yesterday, and what do airline pilots do in their days off? They go flying with their friends. Sometimes they fly over their auntie's property. Just between Casey leaving and the dumpster arriving, I heard a small plane flying low overhead. Shortly after, I got a text from the pilot nephew with this photo attached.
I've identified the scene of the demolition, so you can get a sense of how big a job it was. Thanks, nephew! I figured it would be a day's work but Casey is one of those nose-to-the grindstone type of guys. Two hours later, it was a pile of rubble.
This morning, Casey came by. Two hours later, the dumpster was full and the demolition site was pristine. And we needed every one of those 10 yards.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


Last week, my nephew Benjamin was visiting. Ben is eight. He's stayed here several times before, and by now he pretty much runs the place. But he hadn't been here since last November, and there have been a lot of changes since his last visit, so one evening he and I were strolling around outside. I was pointing out the changes to the property. We stopped by the boathouse. I showed him the bird's nest positioned in the eaves, just above the boathouse door. I'd been watching the nest for some weeks. I couldn't see inside without disturbing it, but I had the impression it was empty, as it had that dried-out appearance. Ben and I decided to lift it down from the eaves, using a wide blade paint scraper and a hand-held broom to secure it. As we detached it and lowered it to the ground, the nest started to fall apart. Inside were four very newly hatched birds. We put the nest on the patio and while Ben guarded it, I ran back up to the garden shed and brought down two empty bowl-shaped plastic flower pots. I nailed the first one to the doorframe, at eye level. Then we swept up the broken nest and all four hatchlings, put them in the other flowerpot and set it inside the one attached to the doorframe. I had little hope they'd survive the night, being so small, and I felt guilty for disrupting the nest.
Next morning, all four birds were still in their new surroundings and still alive. It felt like a miracle. Once a day Ben and I would go and check on them. And each day they were a big bigger and more mature. I was feeling a bit better about myself, but still unsure they'd survive.
The last day of Ben's visit was Tuesday. I was careful not to draw his attention to the birds, and as he had just learned to swim and dive the previous day, he spent as much time as possible at the pool, showing off his new aquatic skills to his grandfather, who had swung by for a visit. Mid-afternoon, we drove Ben back to meet his mother. Immediately on returning home, I went down to the boathouse, somehow fearing the worst. There was no worst: all four birds had grown new wing feathers and a fair amount of confidence, as they had repositioned themselves in their new spacious abode. Today I took my phone down there to photograph them. As soon as I got in front of the nest and called out, "Hello, friends", it was suddenly like a Hitchcock movie and I was Tippi Hedren. All four rose up in unison on their new wings and flew right at me. They kind of remind me of Ben, only they have a grumpy expression on their faces. Ben is always thrilled to show off his newest skills but, at least when he's at Auntie's, he is never grumpy.

Friday, June 30, 2023


At three a.m., I was grumpily half awake, thanks to an intermittent knocking sound coming from the front of the house. I was pretty sure it wasn't the police, and I wasn't alert enough to contemplate who else might be at my door, For an hour, I ignored it. By four a.m., I thought I'd better get up and investigate, since I clearly wasn't going to be able to fall asleep again. I had a memory of a similar night, a year or two ago, when just before bedtime I'd heard what sounded like a motor running just outside my front door. So I had a sense of what I'd be confronted with. First, I knocked hard on the doorframe, wondering if that would startle any unwelcome nocturnal guest. No dice. Then I turned on the porch light. The knocking sound stopped, briefly, and then resumed. I opened the door an inch or two, with my foot poised to prevent it being pushed open any farther. Peering through the gap in the door, I spied an intruder. It was the same sort of intruder I remembered from my previous encounter, and it appeared to be chewing its way into my house. "Hey!" I shouted. No reaction. So I closed the door, went to the kitchen for a saucepan, filled it with cold water, returned to the front door and poured the water over the porcupine. That succeeded in making it back up, try and squeeze itself through the iron porch railing and climb down onto the garden that borders the entrance to the house. It deposited a few dozen quills as a parting gift. It will take me quite a bit of sanding, priming and painting to repair the scene of the crime. People tell me they're actually looking for salt. This is one of the reasons I don't salt the porch or driveway in winter. Personally I think it had heard breakfasts are pretty good here at Five Acres and it didn't want to be late to the party.