Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Marriage is About Sharing and Staple Guns

So I shared - my respiratory bug - with my poor husband. Last Saturday he woke up with a bone-rattling cough, which was not fair, since I wasn't quite finished with my turn yet!

He jumped the queue and has been sick ever since. This is one nasty bug. I only quit coughing yesterday, so he has a good week left. I wanted to take him to the doctor yesterday, but he said no. I wanted to take him to the doctor this morning but he said no. When I finally said, "Now will you go to the doctor?", at about 6:30 tonight he gasped yes and I helped him dress and get into the truck.

We waited a while but saw a pleasant young doctor who prescribed antibiotics, a steroid puffer for Tony's inflamed lungs, and something for his cough and muscle pain. He's now tucked back into bed, and we will hope that tomorrow he will begin to feel better.

I had a list of chores as long as a frog's tongue this morning, and after house cleaning, top of the list was to get the netting on the outside enclosure we have been trying to build for Salvador.

He spends about half his time hanging on the screen door howling to go outside. Most of the time he just wants to lie down in the yard and watch the birds, the trees and whatever is going by at the moment, but I can't sit out there all day with him. So we decided to build him a four by six enclosure which he can access with a cat flap in the "garage" door.

The floor and frame have been up for over three weeks, but first it was too cold and wet to work outside, then I got sick and then Tony got sick. So it has sat.

Today it was reasonably warm. The mock cherry trees are blooming like mad and smell wonderful so outside was the place to be. I got out the staple gun and did a temporary "fix" on the enclosure, so Sal can at least use it. We will put a proper roof on as soon as we are up to the task, but for now I put a piece of white tarp on for a roof, and stapled plastic deer netting all the way around, leaving a flap for the door.

I couldn't figure out how to close the flap so he couldn't escape but eventually used safety pins. (Okay, laugh if you must!) The safety pin goes under a staple, and clips through the deer netting. Of course I have to have a pin every two inches so "opening" the door is a bit time-consuming. I already can't wait until we can build a proper door with hinges.

I finished it and let him go in to explore. He cut his nose trying to push the netting aside, but once he realized he couldn't get out he was quite pleased with the space. I put his big litter box (which has a cover) out there, and brought the small one inside. I will put the big cat crate out there, so he has a place to snooze, and to sit on, but it's in the back of the truck and I couldn't reach it.

Sal kept running in and out. After going out and coming back in a couple of times Sal ran up to me in the kitchen, stood up and gave me a big kiss. Then he wrapped his tail around my legs and hugged me. (We call this gesture "love-tail".) He is a happy camper. Hopefully he will not be such a pain in the snout about getting outside now. He'll still get his two daily walks, but this will give him the chance to relax outside any time he wants, during the day. It may not be great architecture, but it gets the job done.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Birdies That Sing in the Spring

Summerland is only about 50 miles north of Oliver, so I have been surprised at the different birds I've seen here. Perhaps it's because of the lake, which is only a stone's throw away. Perhaps it's because 300 ft in the opposite direction we are cupped into the shelter of some high, sandy cliffs. These are absolutely riddled with bird holes. Right next door is a vineyard and an area of uncultivated field, which includes a derelict log cabin and an impressive pile of old trunks and stumps, field debris and dirt pushed up into a 20 ft high mountain.

So the bird population spotted here so far, in no particular order, as much as I remember:

A pair of yellow-shafted flickers. These are lovely big birds with spectacular coloration, and they don't seem to mind being watched from a distance of 10-12 feet as they poke around in the grass looking for worms.

The inevitable pair of almost fearless robins. They love to tease the cat when we are out walking, by hopping just a few feet ahead of him. They let him get within about eight feet and then take off and land in a nearby tree. I saw one teasing the neighbour's cat in exactly the same way, leading the (very fat) cat to climb a tree trying to catch the robin. He was clinging onto the branch with all four feet, only a few feet short of the robin, when it flew into the adjacent tree. (And had a good laugh I presume!)

Canada geese - a mated pair - magnificent birds, but a victim of their own breeding success here in the Okanagan. This spring a team is going around addling goose eggs in an effort to reduce the enormous population. Can't help but feel sorry for the geese. They love their eggs like we love babies. When a clutch has a dozen eggs I don't know why the "addlers" can't leave at least one or two viable eggs for the geese to raise.

Rusty blackbirds with their bright yellow "bead" eye and irridescent feathers. There was a flock of about ten of them outside this morning.

Gambrel quail - three birds - not much of a covey after our hundred or so in Oliver. They live in the field next door and only occasionally come over this way.

Audubon's wood warblers - delightful little birds who for some reason look like giants bees when they fly! They land upside down on branches and trunks, pick at something there and flit to the next branch. They must be eating ants. Listed in my ancient "Birds of North America" as Audubon's warbler, there now appears to be a fair amount of confusion over the name of this bird. It is not the yellow-rumped (aka "Butterbutt") warbler which now seems to be featured in most sources.

Pygmy nuthatches They feed in the same way as the Audubon's warbler, upside down, hanging onto a tiny stem and bobbing in the wind - Alas I found one of these uncommon little birds dead after one of our unseasonably cold nights.

Red-tailed hawk pair They soar up and down on the thermals above and next to the cliffs on sunny days. They are harassed constantly by smaller, more agile birds, who dive bomb them, peck at them in mid-air and generally try to annoy them.

Barn swallows who appear to be some of the worst hawk-bedevilers.

Yellowthroats These lemon-yellow bits of sunshine have little black masks like bandits and a beautiful song!

I have heard but not seen a saw-whet owl in the middle of the night.

Pica pica (aka Magpie) Although they are almost universally despised I find the magpie's exotic appearance and incredible intelligence endearing. We raised one from infancy about 15 years ago, and I'll never look at them with anything but affection again. For the story of our maggie see Magpie Summer.

We also have coyotes, which come quite close at night, and our neighbour says the raccoons ate all the fish from her pond last summer. There are a couple of resident beavers near the beach, dedicated to removing all standing trees in the area. I haven't seen them yet, but hope to at some point when it's warm enough to sit on the beach.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Criminals are Made

I never want to move again! It's not the sorting, packing, cleaning loading, unloading, unpacking, cleaning, etc that I have decided I never want to do again (though it's not a process I'd do for entertainment). It's the thought of going through all the flippin' paperwork.

So far it's taken us three full days to deal with the endless letters, forms and examinations. When did they start requiring a colonoscopy and a full body scan to get a post office box key and a new account at the credit union? (Thanks Dubya!)

At the post office our ID was unimportant. We could have been the advance scouts of Ghenghis Khan's army and they'd not have been concerned. But they suspected we were prevaricating when we told them where we live. With steely eyes and grim expressions they "checked the book" to make certain that the street we told them we lived on actually existed in their municipality.

Then they checked to see that there was a postal drop box at the location indicated and that it covered our "alleged" address. They checked our site rental receipt and declared it unconvincing and unsubstantiated evidence. Despite having the park name, address and phone number, our name, our site number and the signature of the park manager on it, it was inadequate to convince them to part with their precious postal box key.

They required an official letter from the park owner, reassuring them that we were permanently parked on their doorstep. This took a further ten days to acquire, and we had to go through the same interrogation process all over again. Every clerk in the place had to look over both us (hmmmm) and our letter. After 15 minutes of muttering and consultations they consented to allow us a box and key. Then they turned sunny as daffodils and chatted us up like we were all childhood next-door neighbours.

Then we went across the street to the credit union. The woman at the desk looked at us over her glasses and asked for 17 pieces of ID, blood samples and pedigree charts back to our grandsires. She looked over the stack of ID we'd brought and said of her demands (which we could not meet), "This background check is necessary. Everyone knows that the criminals choose small town banks and credit unions to launder their money." (Sheesh, you could launder every red cent we own in a salad bowl.)

By now I was feeling the need to check the mirror to see if somehow I'd morphed into a Hoochie Mama or a Harley Queen. Tony looked the same as ever, slightly myopic, bald as an egg, a little paunchy, and somewhat disheveled after wrestling with the guardians at the post office counter.

I guess we looked the part of the career criminals Ms. Credit Union has personally known and prosecuted. Maybe we resembled the masterminds of some diabolical plot! Two wrinklies, overweight and grey, schlepping into the credit union in our crocs and elastic-waist jeans seeking to defraud the nation. And she and her supervisor were absolutely certain we didn't live where claimed to. According to them, no such address exists, because they don't have their computer set up to accept site numbers. (This is the opposite of "I think, therefore I am". This was "We doubt, therefore you ain't!) She said, "Anyone who comes in and gives us an address like that doesn't know what they are talking about."

She wouldn't give us a joint account because Tony doesn't have a valid driver's license. Well, why would he? He can't see two feet in front of his nose and he hasn't driven in almost 20 years! He applied for a BC ID card three months ago but it's never arrived, and the application itself is not good enough for the citizen protectors of the financial system. All his other ID meant nothing. Passport? Has a photo but it's too old! Canadian citizenship papers? BC Medical card? Birth Certificate? No photos.

We endured the questioning. We cooperated with the authorities like the passive Canadians we are. After removing her latex gloves with a snap, and allowing us to resume our seats, Ms CU marched off to check our credit rating. Apparently you'd better have a good one or they send you and your potentially treacherous money packing. She finally allowed me to open an account, but my husband is not on it. He is persona non identifiable according to the credit union.

We reeled out of the credit union and down the street to face a new pharmacist. We couldn't believe it when they offered to fill our prescriptions, deliver them later in the day and put them on account, which we could settle whenever we were around again. I went weak in the knees and almost cried on the spot.

My tears (of joy anyway) were premature. When they delivered Tony's prescription the dosage was wrong. We had gone to the doctor in Oliver before we moved to get a new prescription for Tony. We asked (at the specialist's suggestion) that the dosage be increased.

No problem said the doctor, tapping his foot and looking at his watch. This is three-minute appointment Freddy. Every appointment is a "quickie" but not half so much fun. He never writes notes, and after a year and a half still does not recognize either of us, or remember anything about our medical histories, although he did say to me once, "Oh, you're the one with that weird stuff." We won't miss him. That day, after a minute of discussion he said, his usual, "Whatever..." like a bored 15-year-old and printed Tony a new prescription increasing the dosage.

We photocopied the prescription for our records and took it to the pharmacy to be filled at a later date. But when the medication came from the pharmacy a few days ago the dosage was wrong. I called and asked why. They said the pharmacy in Oliver had made a notation to halve the dose.

The pharmacy here called the pharmacy there and asked why the notation. They said they noticed the increased dosage and called the doctor to make sure that was what he intended. He said no, and hence the notation. (sigh)

I called the doctor's office and they said to come in. I said we've moved and I can't come in. I asked her to talk to the doctor and get it fixed, because I can't drive 100 miles to spend three minutes with him when he can fix it by simply calling the pharmacy. So far this is unresolved. He's probably trying to remember who we are, but not very hard.

I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning writing and printing letters to various governmental agencies telling them we have moved. The credit union called to say we can't live where we say we live, and we can't get mail at that address. I felt like asking her who delivers the mail, the post office who gave us the address or the credit union? I told her 100 of our neighbours get mail at the same drop box, call the post office and sort it out with them. They can examine each other's colons, mine is still a bit tender.

I am still hacking and blowing like a surfacing orca. I am grumpy, aggravated and feeling very un-Buddha-like. If I drank I'd be after a big bottle of something strong and stupifying. As it is a glass of water will have to do, but I am eyeing that bottle of codeine-laced cough syrup on the counter. Worse, I found a dime which got left in a pocket and went through the wash/dry cycle. Drugs and money-laundering. This is a clear-cut case of the credit union lady's worst expectations fulfilled.

You'd have to get a crowbar under me before I will move again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's Earth Day!

Ah, Earth Day, when we fondle our collective guilt and think for a few minutes about what we could do if we put our mind to it to conserve and recycle. Here the Buddha in our garden meditates on our energy usage, and what can be done about it.

I was reading that the average American home uses 30 kwh of electricity per day. So, in hopes of documenting virtue I sat down with our electricity bills for the past year and figured out our average daily usage in kwh.

I guess we are doing our part for the environment after all. Averaged out over the year we used five Kwh per day this past year. That's going to go up, because it doesn't include the power we used doing laundry at the laundromat. Now with a washer and dryer at home that power use will be more visible. However the new w/d I keep rhapsodizing about has a high Energy Star rating.

According to the sticker, washing eight loads a week at eight cents per Kwh, which just happens to be what we have been paying, costs $11.31 for an entire year! And the dern thing uses a tablespoon of detergent and liquid fabric softener per load, so it's economical on the soap too.

Summerland is starting a blue bag recycling program. Alas, the beach community is not included in the route. Summerland is divided up the middle by mountains and we are sort of in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps later they will come out here, but we are going to call and see if we can take blue bags to a recycling depot. We haven't ever had the extra energy to recycle this way, but we're hoping to make it the next step in our conservation efforts.

The lights in the Beach House are all 12 volt DC and use the same DC bulbs that you'd use in your old Ford's tail lights. DC bulbs use about 30% less power than equivalent-sized AC incandescent bulbs. We are looking at replacing a couple of our DC bulbs with LED lights. I'm not sure how that will work, but they do have advantages. Cost is not one of them. The little bulbs cost over $20.00 each! But they burn for over 10,000 hours and draw less than a watt of power, so the cost of the bulb would be offset by power savings over several years.

I'm buying locally grown produce in preference to stuff flown in from Chili or Zanzibar. The 100 mile limit is pretty tough to stick to in Canada during the winter, and I'm not ready to give up those first fresh strawberries and asparagus from California. But you can buy fresh BC grown apples here all winter long, so why buy watermelons from Mexico that taste like cucumbers?

Canadians use more energy per capita than any other nation in the world. It's time we smartened up and did what we can to put a stop to the waste around us.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Week Down the Tubes

Last Friday, at about 3:00 am, I woke with a deep, bone-rattling cough. It kept me awake for a couple of hours, until I searched through our as-yet-unpacked boxes of grooming aids and health-care products to find a decongestant cough syrup.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday I coughed. I was getting very sore by this point. Monday I... oh cut out the middle part. By the time I got in to see the doctor on Wednesday it was clear that I had pneumonia. I felt as cold as if I were sitting on an ice floe in a raging wind, I was struggling to breathe and felt as if I had been run down by a steamroller. I was too sick to drive so we took a cab to Summerland to the doctor's office.

He took my temperature, listened to my burbling chest, and said, "You have pneumonia." He gave me an antibiotic, plus some hot-damn prescription cough syrup that puts the OTC stuff to shame. He also gave me a requisition for a chest x-ray.

Three days on the antibiotic and I am beginning to feel perfectly human again, though I sound like a rusty gate when I breathe. I had that x-ray today. It was too late in the day to have it on Wednesday and I was still too sick to drive yesterday.

I haven't accomplished much this week other than slumping from the bed to the sofa. My lovely plans to achieve wonders went down the drain.

The only good that has come from it is that I've lost 10 pounds. Pneumonia must be a real energy burner, but then coughing is a good workout. Alas, I know the weight loss will not last. As soon as I am feeling well again the pounds will catch up to me. The last time I had pneumonia I lost 11 pounds in four days. I thought it was the hospital food, disgusting pap that it was, but this time I've eaten my own swill, so I guess it's the bug and not the fodder.

I'm going back to bed now. After I go have another swig of that great cough syrup.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Speaking in Code

Mr. Moo woke me at 5:30 demanding a cat cookie and I couldn't go back to the sleep, so I got up, made a pot of java, hauled out my box of gardening seeds and inventoried them. Hmmmmm.... I have six kinds of basil. Does that say *anything* to you?

I have a boot box full of seeds for plants that demand full sun. I have a very limited amount of space which gets full sun, and it's all gravel. This says "pots" to me. Thankfully, due to the generosity of my new next-door neighbour I have a good selection of *very* large pots. I think these will be just the thing for a few acorn and yellow squash plants, my basil selection, and a tomato plant or two.

I could use a flowering vine to screen the neighbour to the north, as he apparently doesn't know that soap and water applied to the *black* end of his trailer would make it all white and sparkly again. And he has a canoe pulled up there, a pile of hoses, old tools and various flotsam and jetsam. You get the picture. I need a screen. But it needs to be something which doesn't need much sun. That I have to think on.

In the place where I can use a flowering vine which does get sun I will plant scarlet runner beans, perhaps morning glories or sweet peas. The sweet peas might cook in the full sun of the Okanagan. I'll have to ask the neighbour how they do. She is an avid gardener too.

The planning of the garden is a most enjoyable pastime for the gardener. In your mind's eye everything jumps out of the ground and bursts into bloom within about a week. (This is fantasy.) In truth the plants will struggle half-heartedly out of the ground in poor competition with the weeds, attract every insect in a radius of a mile, and flower two days before the first killing frost, if they don't topple over in a windstorm first.

Nevertheless, here I am at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning, trying to decide if there's any place where four-foot tall red poppies would work. At least in my case the word gardener is code for hopeless optimist.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Welcome to the Beach House!

After sweeping up a tub of sand tracked in from the yard, and looking down our "street" to the beach, we decided to call our new home The Beach House.

We are moved, set up, almost unpacked, skirted and worn to a nub. But we are very happy with BH. We have much more room, plus that fantastic washer/dryer and bathtub.

Other things we particularly like are;

1) The bed is high, much easier to get in and out of, and much easier to make. Also comfortable.

2) The wonderful vinyl hickory plank floor which Ian bought and spent four days laying. Not only is it beautiful, it is so easy to care for.

3) Bigger fridge, large freezer!

4) Double sinks, prep room on the counter

5) four burner stove and apt. size (24") oven

6) closets to hang our clothes

7) Comfortable sofa and rocking chair in the living room

8) Comfy banquette in the kitchen. We can actually sit at the table and have our meals!

9) The view out the front window

Getting to this point hasn't been without its ups and downs but in addition to Ian's help we had help from the most wonderful friends Flo, Jim, Pat and Claude, as well as almost 40 hours of paid help from Gary the RV man.

Flo took down the dirty drapery from the BH, mended, washed and ironed it. I was thinking I'd have to replace the drapery right away, now I can do it at my leisure, thanks to Flo. She also carried most of our goods and chattels from the Tinpalace to the BH, and when I went to clean the Tinpalace in preparation for its new owner Flo pitched in with pail and soap and did the work of three people.

Her husband Jim did so much work in the Beach House we were talking about adopting him! He pulled out a cabinet which was very difficult to move, helped put up the wall back up between bath and bedroom and hung the new door.

Pat and Claude also helped a huge amount. Pat broke her wrist and arm very badly shortly after Tony broke his leg, and her recovery has been slow and very painful. She is limited in what she can do with that hand, but it didn't keep her from making and feeding us wonderful treats like cream puffs, brownies, peanut butter squares and other fantastic edibles.

Claude took out a cabinet in the bedroom and assembled and installed a file cabinet. He repaired the sofa, and he and Jim leveled the Beach House, set up the water and sewer systems and spent two days skirting it after friend Mike moved it here.

While the guys were working on the skirting, Flo, Pat and I set up the garden shed, unloaded the truck, sorted all the stuff, put what we needed access to on a frequent basis in the shed and loaded the rest back into the truck. Ian says we can't buy a small car because we use the truck for storage and he's right.

Here Flo holds up their 16-year-old Pom, Dexter. Come to think of it Flo fed us some incredible food while we were working. Her "Sex in a Pan" is memorable. Remind me to get that recipe.

We went into Summerland for lunch both days they were here. We ate at a Chinese and Western buffet place called "Johnnie's". The food is yummy and the prices are excellent.

So, we are off to a fine start. The weatherman says it will soon warm up, and we will be out of this cold cold spell we've been in for the past six weeks. Then it will be time to garden, but more about that later. All this talk about food has made me hungry.