Thank you for all your kind comments and well wishes on the last post. As suggested, I plan to link to my Mothers in Medicine posts from here. There's a new one up today.
Thank you for all your kind comments and well wishes on the last post. As suggested, I plan to link to my Mothers in Medicine posts from here. There's a new one up today.
Looking south from our place this morning. Neighbours staggered up the cliff to the right, Hamber Island to the far left, and SFU/Burnaby Mountain straight ahead, obscured by cloud.
The trails in the woods, over which I've struggled to push a stroller, made for a gentle, undulating toboggan ride to the village. Pete even pulled Ariana down a flight of stairs at one point.
The south shore of the Cove.
Saskia resists heading out to the woods in the snow. She'd rather sit at home in front of the fire, as would I. I explained that it's good to get out every day, whether or not you feel like it, to avoid cabin fever.
I defined it, and she remarked emphatically, "I'm glad no one in our family's ever caught that!"
Well, I'm relieved that those times I've been driven stir-crazy at home with the kids appear to have gone largely unnoticed.
A stop for Honey's doughnuts, that Deep Cove specialty that soaks the little brown bag with grease before you've even brought it to your table, and hot drinks.
Can't think of another place in which I'd rather be snowbound.
It's grey and rainy out there, but berry season isn't over yet.
The wild blueberries on Mt. Seymour don't ripen until mid-September. We headed up the mountain last weekend with some friends to discover an excellent crop. It was overcast and my jeans got soaked from brushing by wet bushes, but the steady plunk, plunk of berries hitting the bottom of the yogurt containers and some quiet conversation made for a lovely Sunday afternoon.
Then we headed back to Deep Cove and had wild blueberry pancakes for dinner.
We've picked blueberries on Mt. Seymour every September for years, and for me, it's the gateway to fall.
What I'll miss most about summer is eating outside. With the exception of rainy days, we ate almost every meal on the deck for the past three months.
We ate breakfast in the early morning sun,
and afternoon snack in the shade.
At dinnertime, as we moved into dessert, a raven would often settle silently on the deck railing. When we brought the kids inside to put their pajamas on, it would hop down and clean up anything that had been spilled.
Last night we barbecued ribs and did up some fries outside, but it was cool enough that we had to put on socks and sweatshirts.
Time to move our meals back inside, I'm very sorry to say.
Since having kids, I've found the most difficult time of day to be between 3:30 and 5:30. Everyone's tired, including me, and a downward spiral of temperament and behaviour inevitably kicks in in those post-school, pre-dinner hours.
I'm loathe to turn on the television and don't want to venture out in rush-hour traffic. I've been looking for simple, restful activities and have recently discovered that a late afternoon visit to the beach can be just that.
The beach has a different mood in September than in summer. The boisterous stretches of sand and water have become serene.
We don't pack a picnic basket or beach toys. There's a lot of gazing at the water, thumb-sucking and quiet play.
We're soaking up every last bit of summer while we can. It won't be long until the afternoons bring wet leaves and early nightfall, and I'll be on the lookout for other ways to occupy three little ones and their spent mother.
The doorbell rang on Monday afternoon, and it was my next-door neighbour with his big shepherd dog on a short leash.
"A bear just passed through my yard," he said, gesturing toward the far side of his house. "It went between the houses there." Geoff is retired, and spends his days walking his dog and trimming the trees on his property. He was acting nonchalant, but I could tell this was the best thing to happen to him all summer. "Just wanted to let you know," he said. "I'll be off now to warn the other neighbours."
I looked from every window, but the bear was nowhere in sight. I settled back at my laptop. It was a gorgeous September afternoon. The sun was golden warm, a breeze wafted in from the water, and the neighbourhood was quiet. The idea of a bear ambling through our neck of the woods, snacking on berries, seemed perfectly natural.
Then I heard a siren. A police car sped up the road, letting out an urgent Whoop! Whoop! in front of each home. It disappeared over the crest of the hill in a cloud of testosterone.
But the bear lay low, and it's still roaming the area. It's inspired a sense of camaraderie among the neighbours. Everyone's exchanging stories: someone stumbled upon the bear in their garage, rooting around in the garbage; it's been peeping in windows; outdoor recess was canceled at the local high school when the bear ran across the playground; it's made several visits to a yard with a loaded apple tree.
My favourite is the one Geoff told me the next day. He called his other neighbour and left a message regarding the bear passing between their houses. She was busy getting a chicken out of the oven, and sent her son out to the car with the bird while she checked her voicemail. Geoff looked out his window and was horrified to see little Ollie, a roast chicken in his arms, traversing the very path that the bear had used moments before.
But everyone's kept safe, including the bear, and I hope it stays that way.
Every day the kids ask to pick blackberries. The streets in our neighbourhood are lined with the wild prickly bushes.
Even when we drive on the freeway, Leif points them out and asks if we can stop to pick them. Not sure why you'd want to pick at the side of the highway with cars whizzing by when we can pick in our own quiet neighbourhood with cliff faces on one side of the road and a drop-off to Indian Arm on the other.
I have great memories of picking blackberries growing up in Burnaby. When I see the branches snagging my kids' shirts, their fingers stained purple and their feet soaked from tramping in wet bushes, it reminds me of being eight in August and riding my bike down the alley with an ice cream bucket on the handlebars.
We made two blackberry pies on Monday, and a day later we were already finishing the second one off. But the minute I need more berries, there will be six little hands eager to pick them.
There's an elderly man in my neighbourhood who keeps the most beautiful gardens. They're not manicured; everything's grown in great wild swathes.
He has a grey pencil moustache and when I've passed by with the kids, he's snipped a large bloom and handed it to Leif. They both know flowers aren't just for girls.
His lot is extra deep, in a spectacular location, with a small old house on it, and he'd make out like a bandit if he sold it. But I suspect that doesn't interest him in the least.
Sometimes he cuts fresh flowers and scatters them next to the sidewalk for the neighbourhood children to find. He's not just deadheading spent blossoms - he picks them when they're at their most glorious.
I don't know his name, but from what little I do know of him, I like him immensely.
The idea of an extended camping trip with a six-, three- and two-year-old didn't appeal to Pete or me this summer, and I thought Pete's suggestion that we postpone tenting until all the kids are out of diapers brilliant.
We decided instead to get a boat and spend the summer evenings and weekends exploring the waters that are a literal stone's throw from our deck. My requisites were: holds all five of us, cheap, runs. We gave ourselves a day to find one on Craigslist, and twenty-four hours later were pulling an old turquoise beauty home through Vancouver rush-hour traffic. We stopped at Leif's preschool on the way and he just about burst with pride.
We schedule our boat trips to coincide with the least busy times at the launch, so as not to embarrass ourselves. The learning curve has been steep.
We figured out what happens when you (it was Pete) launch a boat without putting the plug in the drain hole. Also, what happens when you somehow detach the line running gas to the engine while roaring up Indian Arm. Also, that the large amount of water that pools in the stern bottom of the boat when you pick up speed can be accumulated rainwater from the bilge, not necessarily salt water pouring through a break in the hull. No need to frighten the kids by bailing madly while screaming at your husband to head for shore.
Aside from those alarming moments, it's been quite wonderful. It's beautiful, of course - placid waters with green-blue mountains mounding up on either side, islands ringed with multi-coloured tide lines, waterfront homes with Adirondack chairs at the end of the dock, kayaks and canoes sliding by.
When we launched the boat this morning, a group of old German tourists watched us from the wharf as we puttered away in a small cloud of blue smoke. They gazed after us silently, at Pete manning the wheel with Saskia beside him, me sitting in the back with Ariana asleep in my arms, and Leif bunched into his life jacket. I could almost hear them thinking, 'So this is how the locals live,' and that made me happy.
At one point up the Arm we spotted a bald eagle struggling in the water. It was almost submerged, flailing its wings, and we circled around to see what was going on. It began to do a sort of sloppy breast stroke, awkwardly pulling its wings through the water in unison, and headed for shore, a hundred metres away.
The occupants of a sailboat, an older man and woman with their tea towels pegged up on the railing drying in the sun, informed us that the eagle had attacked a seagull and was dragging it to land. We all sat there silently, watching the bedraggled creature push for shore, his mate waiting up in a spruce tree. He finally got up on the beach, shook out his wings a few times, and dragged the seagull carcass into the underbrush.
At home, eating burgers and corn on the cob for lunch, the kids remarked that the sight of the eagle swimming was the best part of the day, and I'd have to agree. Although the sight of the plug safely in the drain hole where it belonged was pretty sweet, too.
The passage of our Deep Cove summers is marked by the wild berry seasons. We're at the tail end of salmonberries and getting into huckleberries. Then August brings blackberries.
The good thing about walking through the woods these days is that the kids are completely preoccupied by the berries. The potentially frustrating thing is that what is a twelve-minute adult walk to the village, and should be a half-hour walk with children, can stretch out to an hour or two.
So I try to surrender any semblance of a schedule, and enjoy the peace of the forest. I'll admit it's sometimes spoiled by Saskia and Leif shouting, "Hey! This is my salmonberry bush! I got here first! Find your own!" (I actually witnessed similar behaviour among adults at Krause Berry Farms.) And if I'm shouldering Ariana in the pack, she yells for berries and I have to position myself so her little fingers can pluck them off the bush. Still, working our way through the woods while the kids hunt and gather berries is idyllic.
All these berries grow in our own yard, but it's so wild Saskia needs to wear a red coat and carry a whistle when she ventures down there.
To humour the kids, I've made salmonberry pancakes, muffins and milkshakes. The berries are bland and full of pips, but the kids proclaim them absolutely delicious.
I think most at-home mothers have Ma Ingalls moments, when they quite like the idea of airing the quilt from the trundle bed, churning butter and sewing calico dresses by firelight in the evening while Pa cleans his rifle.
I consider myself a modern-day Caroline when I make salmonberry muffins for the kids, or plan how to fill our cellar. Or when I make suet, as I did today.
Discarding bacon or hamburger fat has always struck me as wasteful. I'm not quite willing to do as my Oma did, and spread bacon grease on toast or saute vegetables in it, delicious though that was to an eight-year-old. But I couldn't think of any other use for it until we ran out of store-bought bird suet recently.
"We're not bird people," I reassured a house guest this past weekend.
Throughout the afternoon, our conversation was interrupted by Pete and I commenting, "Check out the one out that side window," and "Hey, is that a goldfinch? Wait, no - it's too big. Where's the book?"
Our friend finally asked, "So, you're only birders from the comfort of your own home?"
"We're 'Don't call us, we'll call you' birders," affirmed Pete.
We have a suet feeder hanging in front of the living room window, and while at times it does strike me as strange that we would choose to have a brick of fat interrupting our view of Indian Arm, I do love the constant stream of visiting birds. And I like the challenge of trying to photograph every species that drops by.
So the Ma Ingalls in me wanted to whip up my own suet, and an Internet search (like Ma would have done) yielded several recipes. I've been saving every spare ounce of fat in a container in the freezer for a few weeks now.
This morning I melted down two cups of the salvaged grease in a pan, and stirred in a cup of peanut butter, a cup of flour, a handful of oats, some stale hazelnuts and some crumbs from the bottom of a bag of tortilla chips. Pete was not nearly as excited about this whole process as I was. If only I got this much pleasure from cooking for my family.
I poured the concoction into an 8 x 8 baking pan and put it in the freezer to set. Two hours later I carved it into four squares of suet, perfectly sized for a standard feeder. Pete was quick to point out that when suet is a dollar or two at Canadian Tire, this exercise is not exactly cost-saving. That didn't deter me for a moment.
It's pouring out, and the birds are nowhere in sight, but I'm sitting on the couch knitting and drinking tea and waiting for the first visitors, feeling very satisfied with myself. Tomorrow's project on the homestead: headcheese.
When Pete got home from work yesterday, he took one look at me and sent me into the woods to unwind. We live a stone's throw from Wickenden Park, and there's nothing like spending a half hour alone in the forest surrounded by massive cedars, wet huckleberry bushes and bird calls to calm oneself.
There's a family of owls that have been living in the park for years, and everyone I've met in Deep Cove knows about them. I headed out with my camera, followed the sound of the screeching, and found them in their usual spot near the bridge.
Pete's been chased by them as he runs along the trail. My fear of having those talons aimed at me kept in check the extremes to which I was willing to go to get a good shot.
We've seen the three owls working together to corner a squirrel. Once one flew over the trail clutching a rat.
Another evening one was perched on a low branch in a tree just outside the park. All the neighbours were milling about, coffees in hand, admiring it. The owl never took its eyes off a cat that was lounging at the side of the road.
I believe these are barred owls. The fluffiness makes me wonder if this one is a juvenile, but I'm no ornithologist.
Somehow seeing these creatures in the forest puts everything in perspective, and I trotted out of the woods refreshed, having only overstayed my allotted time by twenty minutes.
Ariana tripped over the power cord to my laptop yesterday, and I thought to myself - That's one childhood experience I definitely did not have, getting tangled in my mother's computer cables. And that got me thinking about some of the dissimilarities between my childhood and that of my kids.
The greatest difference, and the one that makes me most uneasy, is community. My elementary school was a few blocks from home, and directly across the street from the church. All the kids in my Sunday school class were also in my class at school. Several church families lived within a two block radius from us, so the neighbourhood kids with whom we picked blackberries and rode our bikes in the alleys were school friends. We were all Dutch, and many of us were related. Our family walked over to Opa and Oma's every Saturday morning for coffee, and we saw them again the next morning in church.
But my kids have multiple communities, and none of them overlap: extended family, school, church, neighbourhood and family friends. We live near the school but not the church; none of Saskia's classmates are in the neighbourhood; no family or friends live on the North Shore.
My children are not members of one tight-knit community as I was. And I'm not sure what to think of this. I've often thought that I've experienced small-town living just by growing up in the Dutch Christian community that I did. Sometimes secure, sometimes stifling. Good to be known, not good to be assumed to be known. The experience was a good one for me, but I recognize its limitations. I can certainly see the benefits of moving within several different social circles.
Friends with whom I've brought this up tell me that the kind of childhood I had just doesn't exist anymore. I'm not convinced of that. I know plenty of families where at least their relatives, school and church overlap; or school, neighbourhood and family friends.
But that one layered community doesn't exist for us in Deep Cove. And at this point, I'm not convinced enough of its value to move elsewhere or make other major changes to find it.
We walk to the beach several times a week, year round. In the summer Deep Cove has a few tourists eating fish and chips on the beach, but most weekdays my kids and I are the only souls out there. It is serene.
If you prefer to see the higher-quality images on Flickr, click here.