Silver wings

I had been to auctions before. My Dad enjoyed them, and it was a cheap activity to do with little kids. These were country auctions. Outdoors. At farms. There were usually wagons and trailers spread over the yard piled with boxes that themselves were piled with goods for sale.

At this particular auction, there was a wagon full of cartons that seemed to have been packed in the kitchen. There were dishes and spatulas and gadgets. One box was full of tarnished silver dishes.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

I was young, maybe just a teenager. But I’d started collecting a few silver pieces.

This box had a dish that I wanted to add to my collection. It was a silver butter dish. What made it special was the lid, which was capped with a butterfly. My Dad agreed that it was pretty, and he said he’d bid on it for me.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

The auctioneer circled around the wagon, selling off boxes one at a time. Then, he pointed his cane at my box. One of his assistants picked it up. The bidding was on.

My eyes shot back and forth between the box and my Dad. The assistant reached into the box and pulled out a dish and held it up for people to see. The auctioneer kept chattering, calling the next price, driving the bidding on. The assistant pulled another dish out of the box. It was the bottom of the butter dish.

My Dad looked at me. He said, “Are you sure that’s the one?” Nearly frantic, I nodded yes. He bid. The price jumped maybe twice more, and then the box was mine.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

We came forward to take the box and moved off to the side so that we could look at what we bought. The butter dish, including the lid, was there.

People started coming up to us. “I didn’t realize this was the box. Would you consider selling the butterfly dish?”

No, I wouldn’t.

Butterfly topped silver butter dish

Inside, I was gleeful the assistant had only held up the bottom of the dish and not the lid. I was grateful that my Dad had trusted me that this was the box. I was thankful the price hadn’t gone too high (I think my Dad paid just either $20 or $50 for the box). I was excited the butterfly was mine.

I’m still all of those things.


Harold the barn cat

Harold was hit by a car very early Monday morning.

He was dead by the time I found him on my drive to work.

I was not able to bring him back to the farm to be buried.

Although Harold never truly became our cat, I wanted to commemorate him.

I only wish that this scared creature had been able to find a little more comfort and peace in his life.

Fraidy cat

Two cats outside in the snow


At Baxter’s annual check up, I had lots of questions for the vet about ticks. He wasn’t too concerned about them. Then he looked in Baxter’s ear and found “a passenger.” We went home with new anti-tick medication, tick removal tools and instructions to check him over carefully after each walk.

Tick removal tools

Then a few weeks later I felt a bump on my back. I thought, “Gee that pimple came up really fast. And it feels weird.” The mirror confirmed that there was a black dot–not a red one–in the middle of my back. I gathered a container, tweezers and Baxter’s tick tools and went to find Matt. Sure enough, he confirmed I had a passenger of my own.


I didn’t feel the tick bite me, but he certainly had a good lock when Matt went to remove him. It hurt more than I expected. And Matt found that the vet’s tick removers didn’t get a tight enough grip. The tweezers worked best.

The tick (who was still alive–double eww) went into a jar and was immersed in rubbing alcohol.

Tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol

My brother-in-law the MD provided assurances that I probably was going to be okay and gave me the symptoms to watch out for (which caused a Google search that I can never unsee–seriously, don’t look).

It’s been a few weeks now, and Baxter and I both seem to be fine. We’re waiting for Matt to have his turn with a “passenger.”

It seems to be a right of passage in country living.

Anyone else ever been bitten by a tick? How common are ticks in your area?

Service call

Wiley has come of age. Our little Kioti tractor had his 50 hour service. Sniff.

Now, lest you think this is a how-to-do-a-50-hour-service-on-a-Kioti-CS2410-post, let me correct you.

We dropped off the tractor manual with my extremely obliging, mechanically-inclined cousin. He studied it for a few days and provided us with a list of materials to buy.

Kioti CS2410 manual

Matt spent nearly $200 on fluids and filters at the tractor dealership.

Fluids and filters for tractor service

Then, my cousin and Dad came up and did the service while Matt, Baxter and I watched.

Changing the oiil on our tractor

Well, we helped a little bit.

Matt blew the dead grass and dust off the engine screen with my cousin’s air compressor. My Dad and I greased all of the fittings. Matt was responsible for detaching the grease gun when the nozzle got stuck on the first fitting.

Grease gun stuck on a fitting

Then Matt and my Dad cleaned the battery terminals with baking soda. Another use for baking soda. Who knew? (My Dad, that’s who).

Cleaning battery terminals with baking soda

Our little tractor is two years old. We probably should have done an oil change by now, but we were waiting for the 50-hour milestone as instructed by the dealership. Most people would have gotten there sooner than we did, but we apparently don’t use the tractor that much.

However, after making multiple comments about how black the oil was, my Dad has now guilted me into taking better care of my equipment.

Changing the oiil on our tractor

Besides, my cousin volunteered to come up and do it for us any time. He even took our push mower home with him and got it running again (yeah, we’re not at all mechanically inclined and we pretty much abuse our equipment).

Who out there is mechanically inclined? Did you know you could clean a battery with baking soda? Anyone else have a handy obliging family members?

Raised dog food stand

Special occasions should be marked by presents. So for Baxter’s Gotcha Day, I made him a dinner table all his own.

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

I took inspiration from the DIY Pet Food Station that Kim and Scott made for their Jack over at Yellow Brick Home. As much as I coveted the hairpin legs that they used (love the industrial-rustic mix), I didn’t find any at a price I was willing to pay. So I went to the bench I made for the mudroom and adjusted it to be doggie size.

Like with the bench, I dug into my beat-up antique lumber stash in the barn. People, these planks are absolutely amazing. Sure they weigh 3 tonnes and are covered in poop and who knows what, but they’re phenomenal. The plank I chose was too big and heavy for me to move on my own, so I lopped off a 4 foot piece with my circular saw and got to building.

I think the details on the construction are pretty self-explanatory, especially if you reference my bench plans. I used my Kreg jig to attach the legs with three screws each. In terms of finished measurements, the stand is 10 inches high, 24 inches long, and 10 inches deep. The legs are at about a 15 degree angle and are 8 1/4 inches end to end. The bowls are 7 1/2 inches in diameter.

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

Cutting the circles for the bowls was the hardest part. I drew my circles using the bowls for a template. Then I drilled a hole so that I had a spot to insert my jigsaw blade, and I cut along the line. I think I figured out why this wood is so darn heavy. It is super duper dense. My jigsaw blade broke before it was even halfway around the first cutout. Initially the cutting was so slow that I thought my blade was dull. But when I installed the new blade after my first one snapped, it still took a significant amount of force to push the jigsaw along the line ever, ever so slowly. And I had to do it twice! Darn dog needing water as well as food.

To seal and protect my dense, hard, beat-up beautiful wood, I turned to Waterlox, the same solution we used on our DIY kitchen counter. It’s food safe for humans, so it’s an appropriate finish to use on a stand whose sole purpose is to hold (dog) food. Nothing’s too good for my puppy.

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

From my past experience with the bench when it turned black because it sucked up so much stain, I knew that the wood would be thirsty, and boy was I right. It took about three coats before the finish started to build up and look shiny on the wood. Even then, there were some sections (the ones with the most worm holes) that just sucked the Waterlox right in. All in all, I did a total of 6 coats of finish.

After that, it was simply about putting the bowls in the stand and filling them up! Tip: kibble on its own isn’t very appetizing. Sweet potatoes make it much more palatable. (That is, if you’re Julia. If you’re Matt you give in to the sad eyes and put ketchup on it. Yeah, my husband and the dog are totally related.)

Dog food stand made of old barn wood

Bon appetit, Baxter. Or as Matt says, “Mangey, mangey”–as in French “mange” with an “ee” ending. (He and the dog share their own language as well as the same taste buds.)

Do your pets get presents? How do you handle pet food at your house? What’s your pet’s favourite food?

Gotme Day

Hey there y’all,

Baxter here. Apparently it’s been a year since I came to live with Matt and Julia. Y’all must be counting in people years, ’cause I swear I’ve been here for longer than that.

I like the farm. I get to sniff and sleep and sunbathe and walk and zoomies. I get excellent scratches, which is helpful ‘specially now ’cause the mosquitoes really, really, really like me. Like as much as Julia and Matt like me.

Belly scratches

Besides Matt and Julia, I have a bunch of other friends. There’s Frank down the road, Ella, Penn, Cocoa and Chloe at class, and Pinky, Bluey and Monkey at home. My stuffies are special. When I’m really, really happy, like when Matt comes home, I’ll go and find one of them and share her with Matt ’cause he’s special too.

Baxter with his stuffies

The one friend I really, really want is Ralph. She still doesn’t like me too much, but she’s coming so much closer to me now. I still want to run up and sniff her, but sometimes when I’m out, we’ll just sit there and look at each other for awhile. I like it that she doesn’t run away or hiss or scratch as much. I’m trying so hard to be patient with her. Julia says it’s working, but I think it’s taking a dog’s age for her to get used to me.

Dog training class

Out of everybody, I like Julia and Matt best.

I’m Julia’s partner. We do lots of things together, and she says I’m a very good help. We hike, wade in the pond, play in the creek, check the fields, garden, cook, paint, build. She gives excellent scratches. She also gives me baths. It’s usually right after we’ve been playing in the pond. I don’t understand that. I mean, I already got wet. Why does she think I want to get wet again? After a big play, I just want to lay down! I do like the towel part, though. It’s like an extra lot of scratches.

Matt and I are good bros. He and I go for long walks to see my friends the turtles, visit Frank the German Shepherd or check the back field. When he calls for his footman, I go and help him find his socks and get ready for walking. I’m a very good footman. The best thing that Matt and I have in common is that we’re really good relaxers.

Baxter and Matt

I think it’s pretty clear that Matt and Julia and me are all related. I mean, I still say y’all, but last week Julia declared me officially a Canadog.

Baxter wearing a Canada bandana

Doggally, I think I was official after the winter. I went outside every day, no matter how deep the snow was or how cold it was. I think that’s pretty Canadian.

Baxter digging in the snow

I know my accent or my nationality really don’t matter. Neither does the time before or the first year, you know. What really matters is now. Matt and Julia love me. I love them. I’m happy.


Read Baxter’s first post from a year ago

Gotcha Day

Dear Baxter,

Today is a special day. Your Gotcha Day. One year ago you came to live with us.

I know you’re a low-key guy who doesn’t like a whole lot of fuss, but this is a special occasion.

When Matt and I started looking for a dog to join our family, you were the only one who stood out. You looked out at me through the computer screen with your floppy velvet ears and your dark worried eyes, and something clicked.

My dog Baxter's profile on Petfinder

I wasn’t sure Matt would like you as much as I did, but he agreed that we could try to adopt you.

As soon as we brought you home, Matt and I both fell in love.

I realize now looking back at pictures of your first day that you were a little unsure.

Baxter on his first day with us

I saw some small changes in you in the first few months as you adjusted to life at the farm, but it seemed like it took next to no time for you to fall in love with us too. At night when you sometimes have your squeaky twitchy dreams, I hope that you’re chasing rabbits and not remembering something not nice from before. I want only good things for you.

I love that you’re such an easy-going fellow who likes to be with us, whatever we’re doing. You’re content to lay on the grass (or dig a hole in the dirt) and hang out with me while I weed the gardens. You’re also happy to sunbathe in front of the dining room window while Matt works in his office. You’re good at keeping me company in the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner, and you know exactly where you have to lay down to get samples every so often.

When we’re not home, we know that you’ll keep a good eye on things around the house. I don’t even mind that every so often you and the pillows have a party on my bed. Matt and I sometimes make fun of you for sleeping 23 hours of the day, but we really do like how relaxed you are. You definitely make things easy for us.

We realized exactly how easy you are when we started going to doggy class a month ago. I know you don’t get to be the example dog very often, but that’s only because you won’t misbehave and help the trainer show us what to do.

Dog training class

Now that we’ve progressed to off-leash lessons, you’re going to have to work a lot harder, bud. You’re such an independent dude, confident to do your own thing. But last year’s three run-away incidents are quite enough. I hope that you’re able to learn how to focus and ignore your nose a little bit more.

Dog training class

It was pretty much a gong show trying to get four dogs to sit together on a park bench, but everyone worked so hard for this picture that I had to include it, even though you haven’t got your footing.

Classes have also helped me realize what a people person you are. Not every dog would make the effort to greet all of the people as well as each of the dogs the way you do. At the dog park, you meet everyone, whether they have two legs or four. Whenever new people want to say hi, that makes you very happy. The trainer thought you might have potential as a therapy dog.

Baxter at Christmas

One of the neatest things you’ve given me this past year, Baxter, is getting to know a different side of Matt. I knew he was a loving, caring person. But watching him with you is very special. He’ll do pretty much anything to make sure you’re safe and healthy and happy. And you love him just as much as he loves you. You give him your best helicopter tail when he comes home and work so hard to say your very best speak when he asks you to. Sure sometimes I feel left out when you do your manly dude things together, but seeing the bond between the two of you is pretty amazing.

Baxter looking for his best bud

As I was writing this letter, I thought back to this time last year when I was begging our rescue organization to let us adopt you. At the time, I thought my heartfelt pleas were because I’m not good at taking no for an answer. Now, I realize it’s because we were meant to be together.

Happy Gotcha Day, bud.


Later this week you’ll hear from the dude himself.

Baxter’s adoption story

Six-month performance review

Not to alarm anyone, but we’re halfway through the year. (Sorry. Tempus fugit.)

It’s been nearly six months since I posted my home goals for 2014. Time for a mid-year performance review.

I had six projects on my list. Here’s how I’ve done so far.

1. Paint the main floor hallway and kitchen.

Big fat done on task number one. Matt and I knocked this one out in February.

Hallway painted Benjamin Moore Abalone

2. Laundry room.

I haven’t started this one yet. I figure it will be a good fall project when I don’t want to/can’t work outside anymore. Besides, I can’t start anything until Matt digs out the foundation wall and fixes the basement leak. Hello summer honey-do list.

3. Master bedroom.

For the most part, this is another fall project. However, prep starts this month with removing the popcorn ceiling.

4. Furniture.

I’ve done fairly well in this department.

  • Sofa table for the living room. Found this one in an empty office at work (I asked permission before I took it).
  • Narrow dresser for my office. DIYed this one out of two nightstands.

Tall and narrow DIY dresser

  • Cabinet for the laundry room. Bought this one from Canadian Tire. (There was some DIY, since we had to assemble it ourselves).
  • Ottoman for the basement reading nook. Made this one out of a plastic barrel.

How to make a round footstool

I have a few more pieces that I’m still on the lookout to buy or make. Top on the list is refreshing my bookshelves and the living room TV stand. My books have been packed away for more than two years. I want them back.

5. Living room fireplace.

Hope still springs eternal. The fireplace will be redone some day. Whether that day is this year depends solely on how much we’re able to rebuild our post-solar bank accounts.

6. Landscaping.

  • Reestablish the flowerbeds around the house. I’m slowly, ever so slowly, working my way around the house.
  • Continue to plant the turnaround. The turnaround is looking awesome, albeit a bit weedy.

Garden with a brick path and park bench under a big tree

The pond shore is even more overgrown than last year and is pretty much inaccessible. Since this is my favourite part of the property, that is a bit of a downer. I’m willing to cut my losses on the pond this year, but I’m still hoping I’ll be able to clear and fence the vegetable garden before the end of the year.

And that brings us to the bottom of this year’s original goals.

However, there are a few things we’ve done beyond this list.

Obviously, the solar panels are a pretty massive project.

Solar panel array

We’re also revisiting the basement, finishing off the reading nook, adding the ping pong table and making over the doors (in progress).

I’ve had a bit more success this year staying on task thanks to the monthly projects. Thanks as well to all of you for your encouragement along the way. It’s nice to look back and see that I’ve actually made some progress. We have half a year to go, and I have a bit more work to do yet, but I think I’m on the right track.

Have you ever given yourself a mid-year performance review? Who else feels like time is flying by? Is there anything you’d like to accomplish over the rest of the year?

Operation popcorn

You know those things that you have to do, want to do, but don’t really want to do? That’s this month’s project.

The plan is to start our master bedroom makeover. Step one is remove the popcorn ceiling (the fan’s on the list too).

Popcorn ceiling

I’ve been saving this project until I could open the windows, as there is likely to be a bit of dust and mess.

What are you up to this July? Do you have any tips for removing stippled ceilings? In the basement, I scraped some and sanded others. Sanding’s way messier, but I got a nice smooth finish and had to do less patching.