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March 31, 2005

New Arrivals

I have lots to post today – am behind schedule again. Look for lots of garden photos tonight, but for now here's an update on what we've been up to for the last couple of weeks.

Spring is all about new arrivals, and in the past two weeks we've had quite a few. It began with Daisy's two lambs, who are finally developing both the fluffy wool and the gamboling-about-on-the-grass antics that make them look like lambs rather than large chihuahuas. (Unfortunately poor Daisy looks sad and has lost two thirds of her girth thanks to a close shave – about 10 inches worth of wool off either side.) Then, six puppies arrived to Sophie, one of Jonathan's five dogs. Such tiny, soft little things!

At our place, we were gearing up for arrivals of our own. Chad and Maria were heading to Alberta for Easter, and dropped in on me on the 24th, long enough to take a quick tour of the house and unload our much-anticipated weed-wacker. (Thank you!) They continued on and I continued cleaning and painting in preparation for my friend Allyson's arrival on Friday. Richard arrived home Friday morning from his week-long Unimog 2U tour in Roger's Pass and Trail, and was out the door again to go pick up the next arrival: a new dishwasher!

Mar28-Dishwasher.jpgThanks to an unexpected gift from Bev, (a.k.a. Mommsie), Richard also returned home with something as bright, shiny, and much-needed as the dishwasher: a fully stainless Kirkland (Costco) barbeque! He unwrapped that first, of course, as I was finishing painting the new doors and trim down the hallway. Allyson arrived just as I ran out of putty and paint and was cleaning up. Great timing. She and her dad got the tour and Colin and Richard talked Unimogs for a bit while I got Allyson settled in the guest room with her pile of luggage. Then we said goodbye to her dad and Richard took her out back with a handful of carrots to meet the goats and llamas and a few of the neighbours, who were all invited over for dinner Sunday night.

Mar25-SushiFeast.jpgWhile they were out in the yard I started preparing dinner – Allyson requested sushi as she's recently become an addict while living in Vancouver the past six months. We made gomae, California rolls, Dynamite rolls, and seafood and veggie tempura. Allyson e-mailed me a few of her photos today. That began a weekend of decadent eating that I haven't yet recovered from.

After a morning in the garden (see tonight's photos), Richard ran to the grocery store and hardware store on Saturday afternoon, installed my new dishwasher, and eagerly began fixing dinner. Which was, of course, barbecued rib-eye steaks with sauteed mushrooms and caesar salad, a staple in our house that we have missed for a while since our old BBQ fell apart. For dessert, new pastry chef Allyson made a simple but decadent crème brulée, and started dough for Easter Sunday breakfast: croissants. I've never had croissants like that before, amazing! (Well worth the nasty wheat reaction…).

On Sunday night we had several of the neighbours over for dinner; with Allyson, Richard, and I, there were 10 people around the table. Luckily Bud and Maxine were able to bring extra chairs. Richard made ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams and squash with brown sugar, brussel sprouts, "garbage peas", cauliflower with cheese sauce, and gravy. Mmmm. When we couldn't stuff ourselves any more, Allyson brought out the gorgeous lemon and blueberry trifle she'd made that afternoon, and we happily finished that off too. When the turkey kicked in Allyson said goodnight and went off to bed, as she and Richard had to leave at 4am to get her to the airport on time for her flight home to Ottawa. The neighbours had kids to get to bed too, so they left by 8 and Richard was in bed shortly thereafter. At that point I meant to update my blog, but dinner for 10 had left the kitchen a mess, and I was high enough on sugar that I figured I might as well clean up. Using the new dishwasher, which can hold 10 place settings no problem, half the dishes were done in no time, and for the remaining 2 hours it took to clean the pots and pans and the rest of the kitchen I was doing the yippy skippy dance, let me tell you! I'll never hand-wash another fork again!!

Richard was very happy to see the kitchen and dining room clean when he got up to take Allyson to the airport, and it meant when he left for work later that morning, I headed straight outside with my gardening tools without having to slave away in the kitchen first. I worked out there all afternoon despite a blustery wind, and when he got home I took a bunch of photos which I will post tonight.

Tuesday was a long work day for both of us, and the sixth day in which I couldn't maintain my Internet connection for more than 5 minutes at a time, so I spent a while on the phone with Telus to find out it was their problem, not mine. (Thank goodness it's fixed today, finally! Otherwise I couldn't update my blog, or work!) Then it seemed I had housework to do again, because Chad and Maria were coming back for a longer visit on their way home Wednesday afernoon.

Maria and Chad arrived around noon, just as Richard got home from work, driving the Mog so Chad could get a look at it. I left my growing pile of grapevine shoots at the base of the back deck and we wandered around the house for a more in-depth explanation of our plans for the master bedroom and the basement. Then the llamas appeared out back so we took the last bag of carrots out and fed them. Supper has a tick or something so Jonathan shaved his head, neck, and down his spine. Perhaps that's why he was being a bit skittish, not really interested in food; but Cam is very used to us now and was gobbling up carrots as fast as we could hand them to her. At one point all 5 llamas had Richard surrounded, although the brown "wild" llamas were still not interested in the carrots, they just wanted to see what was going on. Maria was a little skittish herself when she and I brought over a bucket of alfalfa cubes and Supper, Smoky, and Cam had us pinned side by side against the fence. But I was thrilled – Smoky obviously likes alfalfa because for the first time she ate from my hand. None of them will allow us to pat them yet, but they come over whenever we show up.

Chad and Maria had to get home that night, but we convinced them to stay long enough to have dinner… because Richard was dying to try a roast on the BBQ's rotisserie attachment. It was amazing, we all ate way too much (again). Then the phone rang, Jonathan calling to say that one of the goats just had her first kid. It was getting late but we went down to take a look, and Maria took a lot of photos of the new goat as well as the puppies and baby rabbits. The kid was 10 pounds and much cuter and livelier than the newborn lambs were. I will try to get some of Maria's photos to post, or take some of my own this weekend. After that Chad and Maria had to leave, and we were asleep on our feet pretty soon after.

Next up, another day of work, more painting, and more visitors! Richard's mom arrives tomorrow night for her first visit. Everyone who has visited so far has said how different the house looks in reality compared to the picture they get of it from my blog, so it is always interesting to show people around. With Richard's trade show and travel schedule, though, Bev will be the last visitor we have for a while. It's been very busy around here the past few weeks – it's going to seem awfully quiet, and no major reno projects either. But there's one more new arrival I'm waiting for… spring flowers! It was snowing this morning, and although a lot of the flowers are well out of the ground, neither daffodils nor tulips nor fruit trees are blooming just yet. I can't wait! I'll get those pictures of the garden up tonight and you'll see what we have to look forward to. Let's hope the spring sunshine comes back in time for Bev's visit… and maybe a blossom or two!

Posted by anita at 2:07 PM

March 17, 2005

Catching Up

Mar5-Hall3.jpgFirst Richard was away for two weeks, and then I was away for a week, so I have some catching up to do on Poplar Road, the blog – but we haven't stopped work on the house, and we had a great time catching up with friends and family this past week. The first week in March was quite productive (involving copius amounts of white paint, of course), and aside from a few finishing touches (when I can stand to open the can of white again), the upstairs is as comfortable and attractive as we can make it for the moment.

Last month I posted a few shots as we began work on the hallway and the 9' x 10' spare room which we've been using as our master bedroom. Here is our progress from the first weekend in March, when we installed new doors in all the finished upstairs rooms along the hall, re-did baseboards and trim, and took care of those finishing touches in the bedroom (like brighter lights!) so we could move back in and free up the guest bedroom for Dagny's arrival on Sunday.

Mar5-Bathroom.jpgHere is a "before" shot looking down the hallway towards the family room. It's astonishing the difference changing out the old dark brown door has made to the feel of the hall. And the white door combined with the stairwell light (thank you e & j) has banished my paranoia at having that door closed when using the stairs. We also switched it so it opens from the left, so when I approach it from the main living area I don't have to get past it first and open it all the way to reach the railing. Can't do anything about the steep steps, but it's an improvement. You should have seen how off square the framing was – over an inch to shim at the top left corner and the bottom right, and jutting forward at top and bottom while sunken in the middle. You'd think the walls were plaster there are so many dips and bulges in it. Typical.

In the bathroom, while I was cleaning off Richard's antique bottle collection to display on top of the vanity, he was delving into another kind of antique: 70's wallpaper, under the molding. No photo this time, but it was classic. A complex linear floral pattern in light and dark grey that must have made quite a show with the original white and blue tiles around the baby blue tub. Hah. By the way, does anyone else besides Mari Ann have a penchant for the old blue fixtures? No? All yours, Mari Ann, just as soon as we get to the master bedroom reno….

Mar6-Bedroom.jpg Mar6-Doorways.jpg

Mar14-Bedroom.jpgIt's hard to tell by these photos, especially this small, but our bedroom walls are a deep reddish-purple to match our quilt. We actually took the fabric in to HD and fed it into a machine they have in the paints department, which tells you which paint chip it matches. Neat service, although we ignored all the suggestions of complimentary colours in favour of white. With the closet freshened up with white paint and new 6-panel doors, white trim and baseboards, the purple really doesn't darken the room that much. The contrast is exciting but the colours are comforting, as you'd want in a bedroom. We were thinking of refinishing our "pearlized" oak furniture, but now it suits this room perfectly. The only thing we still need is blinds. A scrap of fabric is just tacked up there for now.

We tidied up and moved our bed back in when we arrived home from the Island on Sunday night, and set Dagny up in the guest bedroom. She seems to have enjoyed sleeping on the brand new mattress, although the box spring is so thick she almost needed a step stool to climb in. Eventually, this room will be the bedroom half of the new master suite. The existing master bedroom (currently the work room) will be a walk-through closet and dressing room centred on French doors, donating a few feet on the west side to both the existing bathroom and a new ensuite layout. No idea when we'll get to that project, though it's tempting to finish it, rather than the downstairs guest suite, first.

Mar14-GuestRoom.jpg Mar6-Master.jpg

Mar14-Pruning.jpgRather than painting while the weather was so gorgeous, I dragged Dagny out to the yard with pruning tools and we attacked some of the overgrown plants and weeds on Monday and Tuesday. The front yard looks much better, and I can point out some of our fruit trees. We recently found out we had more of them than we thought!

At the east side of the house to the left of the root cellar we have a large apricot tree. I adore apricots. Richard removed a fir and an ornamental crabapple that were stifling the apricot, and discovered another small fruit tree that our neighbour thinks is another apple. I can't wait until these are covered in blossoms! And, in front of the garage off the left edge of the photo is a very tall bing cherry. Other fruit-bearing plants include five or six grape vines, red currant bushes, and the Golden Delicious apple tree on the west side of the property.

Mar14-FrontYard.jpgHere you can see the severely pruned small Macintosh apple tree that gave us piles of fruit last fall, and beside it a large ornamental crabapple (one of several in the garden). Around the edge of the yard was a mess of tall grass and weeds, and an ugly, overgrown juniper. Dagny made short work of it while I razed the grass and thorny weeds to the ground. This southeast corner will be perfect for wildflowers (thanks Warren and Melissa for the seeds), and one or two plum trees that Dorothy next door is giving us from their over-crowded orchard. At right just at the start of our driveway are a small maple and signs of possible blackberries – though I'd try to move those to the back fence where the goats, llamas and deer can keep them from getting out of hand. But cutting all that stuff down with a pair of shears was hard work and I've given up the thought of doing the same around back. We pruned the lilacs and mountain ash instead. Chad and Maria, if you're reading this, could you stick Richard's weed-wacker in your trunk when you come visit? Thanks! This yard looks a lot bigger when I'm cutting 2 foot long grass a few blades at a time. Thank goodness we own a rake! (The one we bought for wheeling trips, to level the ground for our tent.)

Well, the owls are saying "Who's that still up at this hour, scaring away all those fat juicy mice!?" so I'd better finish up and get to bed. Have to drive Richard to work so he can take the Mog down to Chilliwack for the day tomorrow. Just wanted to share a wonderful moment from last night.

Dagny, Richard and I were sitting watching a movie when we got a call from Jonathan down at Goat Haven. Daisy the long-pregnant sheep had dropped the first of her lambs. In the time it took to put coats on and walk two doors down, she birthed the second, and when we arrived in the barn she was watching Jonathan's wife Sandra towel off its head while the first one quickly learned how to walk. We watched the second lamb try again and again to get its legs beneath him and stand. Daisy showed no concern, carefully licking both of them clean between mouthfuls of water, grain and hay. She hadn't had much of an appetite earlier in the day and was making up for it as fast as she could chew. She made a constant sound the whole time, between a bleat and a grunt, that apparently helps her bond with her sons.

Mar15-Lambs4.jpgI worried for the second lamb when he kept tumbling over into the tray of grain; but he got his legs steady and we cheered. It took longer for them to figure out how to nurse, especially with Daisy turning from water bucket to hay and knocking them off their feet, but they managed it. In this photo the younger one is less than 20 minutes old, and both a bit gruesome looking, but by this afternoon they were drier, cleaner, and absolutely adorable. I fed Daisy some lettuce and we watched them for a while.

In another two or three weeks, there will be other new arrivals as several goats, one of the llamas, and two of the dogs are nearly ready to give birth. And most likely all coinciding with the blossoms on the trees. Spring is on its way. Hurrah!

Posted by anita at 12:14 AM