Archive for August, 2008

Forty years of wedded bliss

August 23, 2008

It felt like a task of Biblical proportions. For forty days and forty nights, Kay cleaned her house for visitors of the non-familial sort.

“First impressions are lasting impressions” Kay’s goaded herself for the entire prelude to the Fortieth Wedding Anniversary Tea for Heather and her husband. The phrase could have been used for the chorus to a feminist opera, with women on their hands and knees, scrubbing in unison, round and round., rubbing windows round and round, sweeping side to side, hanging the laundry on the line in a repeated stretching arabesques, and breaking into an operatic dance with feather dusters.

Kay mused on the Walt Disney production of Fantasia and replaced the frentic dancers with house cleaners, their heads topped curlers, covered with scarfs that looked like Oriental potentate’s turbans. Drifting into these absurd fantasies was the only way Kay survived the drudgery of housework.

Kay lay on the carpeted floor, stretching to hide boxes of papers under the studio table thinking of the saucy stretching cats and Andrew Lloyd Webber. With the house now full of family – eight, to be precise – at least she now could call on assistance.

“Whistler,” she called.” Could you please run down to the basement and bring me up the hand vac?”

Whistler did as she had bidden and brought it upstairs. Kay, in her supine position, was closer than anyone to the electrical outlet, so she sidled to it and plugged it in.

With a deafening whine, the minor appliance went into action; swiveled and shifted along the carpet, vacuuming, snorting the dust into its belly with a ferocious suction. The upright one had quit on her two days before leaving bizarre polka dots of dog hair deposited on the rug. This was Kay’s last chance to provide a good impression. She sidled along to reach underneath the table, to reach around the borders of the carpet on the bare hardwood floor. The carpet was changing colour from a dusty grey to creamy white as she wove the vacuum back and forth across its pile.

“My lord!” she exclaimed under her breath in amazement and a modicum of disgust. While she had been moving furniture and laying carpet in the basement, while she had been painting walls and unpacking boxes; while she had been cutting back the jungle of a garden and planting perennials, she had ignored housework. “Oh well,” she consoled and forgave herself philosophically, ” it’s only worth doing when you can see you’ve made a difference.” Kay was making a difference.

“That’s it!” she announced firmly. “That’s the last act of cleaning I’m going to do before the party begins.” She awkwardly rose from the floor, wound the long black cord around the vacuum cleaner head to put it away. “What time is it?” she called out to anyone who could hear.

“That gives me ten minutes to get dressed,” she announced, equally firmly, when she heard the response to her query. She was tired.

She put the vacuum in Whistler’s hands as she passed him in the hallway.

“Hide this somewhere , would you please?

Whistler raised his eyebrows, taken aback. His clear blue eyes seemed to pop, then he started to laugh.

“Anywhere it can’t be seen” Kay instructed and started to laugh herself.

She was slipping her dress over her head when the doorbell rang. She listened with a cocked ear. Someone was opening the door. Someone was greeting the comers. She wasn’t going to rush. This was the party. It was time to relax. But good grief! Where were her good shoes? They’d disappeared in the clean-up. She put on an old pair and hoped no one would notice. Surely the good ones were in the study where everything else that should not be seen and did not have a regular putting-away place was stacked.

Only last night, Kay had been worrying that there would be no guests besides family. She had received a reply from Linda and her husband, but of the other ten couples Heather had given invitations to, only two had replied, out-of-towners, who could not attend. So the count was eight of us and two of them.

“How on earth did I allow myself to spend two months renovating and cleaning for two non-family visitors?” Kay groaned. She had phoned to the people on the list still without response. Perhaps the mail had not gone through? Could that be possible? It was summer. Were they away? And then two other invitees had called last-minute. Now the number of invitees coming was six, with family, a total of fourteen. That was more like it!

Kay had stewed over having too much food. Now she stewed that there was not enough food. Whistler offered to take her on a food run which resulted in a purchase of a food tray of chicken wings and another of raw vegetables. Party or no party, they would get eaten.

And here was Kay now, coming down the stairs to greet the guests some of whom she had never met before whom had been greeted by Heather, all standing in the front entrance, packed like a herd of sheep not knowing where to go. With a sinking feeling, Kay realized that although she had cleaned her house and laid in a feast, she had no idea what to do at a party. When it came right down to it, she was shy and retiring. She felt awkward. What were all these dressed-up people doing in her house? What was she going to say to them? She had to think quick. They were all looking at her waiting for her to do something. Ack!!!! Double Ack!!!

Like turning on a light, her social upbringing switched on and she went into motion, introducing herself, greeting those she knew, herding them into the living room, encouraging them to sit down. In a bubble of time that seemed to form itself over her, everyone was in motion except her and Heather.

In that second of sheer panic, Kay turned to Heather and whispered. “I don’t know what to do? What do I do now? Do I give them all drinks? I forgot to get the drinks out. I’m not ready.”

“I don’t know,” shrugged Heather. “It’s your party. You do what you want.” Kay fled to the kitchen. Abandoned Heather. Those people all knew each other. They would manage. They could talk to each other. The awkwardness would pass. Hers. Theirs. At least she had something to do. She could get glasses, get drinks.

Soon everyone had a drink in hand and Kay turned her efforts to passing around food, while in her mind she continued to dither. These people were here for two to three hours. They were all sitting in her living room in deadly fixed positions, but now that she thought about it, she hadn’t really wanted them in the living room. She had wanted them in the garden. She’d prayed for a lovely day despite the forecasts of heavy rain but the rain had dutifully stayed away and it was beautiful in the backyard.

Now that she had them all sitting solidly in the living room, how did she get them out of there? At least they were beginning to talk together.

Piece by piece the food was disappearing. A good sign. The nephews and nieces were passing plates, refilling glasses. They too were looking for a way to fit into the unknown present. Don, a former teacher, came into the kitchen and started a conversation. Soon a few more came. The party had changed from static to mobile. Time flew. Migration to the garden occurred. Whistler took the tray of champagne glasses to the garden. Toasts to the bride and groom were made. Heather’s dauntless husband came prepared with a tribute to his wife and to their married life that made us all weep at the depth and the joy of it. Heather cut the Mango Passion mousse cake and portioned it onto plates. Sister Lizbet posed groups for pictures, flash lights flashed, photos were taken. Four hours had gone by.

Then on some magic cue, the guests left, two by two. It was over.

Kay slumped into the easy chair. Lizbet brought her a cup of coffee. The relatives sat down, one by one. Just family. And that, my friends, is what it is all about.

Family.

And Kay has a clean and tidy house.

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Lizbet takes a bath

August 21, 2008

“I’m going to take a bath in your big bath tub”, Lizbet announced to Kay. It was Wednesday night. Thursday, a family of six was coming to stay. “I’ve always wanted to have a bath in your claw footed tub.”

There would be no peace for the next week as their preparations for a family gathering culminated in an afternoon tea and then a dinner out. It was a two bedroom house and the second bedroom was a child’s bedroom tucked under the slant of the roof. Three of them – nephew, his wife and grandnephew- would occupy this room. They were used to small spaces, coming as they did, from Japan. There was a futon in the cupboard that they could unroll and once it was out of the cupboard, they would have room to hang their clothes.

Lizbet would sleep in the sun room recently refurbished by Kay with a day bed and an orange oriental rug. It was fine for summer but would be to cold and drafty in winter.

Whistler would sleep on the living room couch; the honoured guests would have the big room; and Kay was going to flee to Mrs. Stepford’s place. It might be the only place to find a minute of calm.

Lizbet locked herself behind the very solid panelled door and was blissfully quiet as she read a book, steeping in the hot water. Tomorrow, everything would be shared. There would be no long soak. No long, luxuriating read. There would be cries of “how long are y’gonna be in there?” “are you coming out soon” “can you just pass me my hairbrush?” coming through the door, and “Auntie Lizbet, can I go out in the back yard with the dog?” Ken, the grandnephew was eight now and full of energy.

Kay thought nothing of it that Lizbet was taking her time. It was Lizbet’s way. Anyway, Kay was trying to vacuum the living room floor to rid it of a week’s accumulation of dog hair. The little clumps of it were tenaciously clinging to the rug in curious little black spots.

Kay sighed. There was something wrong with the vacuum cleaner. It seemed to gather the fine black dog hair that Siena-dog was shedding in little black patches and depositing them back onto the rug pile. Where the rug had been a unified blue, it now had polka dot patches all over, a little tipsily, like the patches had been out for a drink before they got organized.

Kay took apart the vacuum hose and cleared it out. She dismantled the filter and gave it a good few flicks with her third finger, watching the fine dust raise in a little cloud and then settle into the waste basket. She put it back together and tested it. The suction had gone. It was a fine time for the vacuum cleaner to quit.

Kay was about to start all over again with the hand vacuum, bending double to the floor to brush and scrub the drunken polka dot marks from the blue rug, but she heard Lizbet call.

“Are you there, Kay?”

“What’s up?”

“Can you bring some old towels? A few of them?”

Lizbet stood at the bathroom door, the door only open a six inch crack. She had a large leaf-green bath towel wrapped her and tied like a sarong just above her bosom. On her head, she was sporting a matching turban that was keeping her curly red hair from dripping.  She peeked out tentatively and the dog who had been laying pensively on guard in front of the bathroom door rose to greet her.

“I’ll have to go up stairs’, Kay replied, doubtfully. There was a hint of annoyance in her voice.

“That’s alright. I can wait,” said LIzbet hovering, not moving from the partially opened door.

Kay climbed the stairs slowly and creakily, “I’ve only got good towels” she muttered under her breath. She’d thrown out all the ragged edged ones when she had moved.

Kay selected two mid-sized towels from the stash under the bathroom counter and returned to Lizbet.

“What do you want them for? What’s happened?” said Kay.

“The drain isn’t connected from under the taps,” she replied. “It didn’t sound quite right and I looked over the edge but couldn’t see anything wrong. Then when I got out I saw what had happened.”

“I took a deep bath. When I got in, the bath water rose, you understand,” said LIzbet.

“Oh, Archimedes!” Kay groaned silently to herself.

“I’ve just figured it out.” Lizbet continued. “When they refurbished the old tub, they only connected the taps and the drain but not the safety drain just below the taps that deals with overspill. There’s no connection at all. When I got in, it raised the level and some water flowed out.

The floor was awash with water. Water had soaked into the hallway carpet.

“I’ll get it. I’ll fix it up,” Lizbet promised; and Kay sighed internally with relief. The next she knew, Kay saw Lizbet sitting on the floor sidling around to the puddles, cleaning around the washbasin pedestal, getting in behind the porcelain fixtures, mopping up water.

What an end to a luxuriating bath! thought Kay. Poor Lizbet!

Visitors

August 18, 2008

It’s getting more difficult to write these days with all the visitors arriving.

Heather’s 40th Wedding Anniversary is coming up in September but all her kids and their progeny are here in August, so we are hosting a party. Thing is, we will have 8 people living in the house for a few days. It’s a small house with 2 bedrooms. I’m having to be creative.

For the younger folk, the floor is good. Collectively, we have an air mattress , double bed size which is very comfortable and a small day bed which I’ve installed in the tiny sun room at the back of the house. Whistler travels light usually, but comes with his own ground mattress – a camping thing in foam no thicker than an inch. Whistler’s a hardy outdoors type.

So if I don’t post much, you’ll know I’m out scrambling to figure out one more sleep solution or one more collective meal.


Rain

August 9, 2008

It’s been brilliantly sunny for the last ten days. It’s a special day for the Haney Farmer’s Market down at the Laity farm. There are ponies for children to ride and a small maze of hay for little ones to negotiate. There are local farmers and artisans – bread makers, jewelers and the like. I thought about going and still will, but I’m waiting for the rain to stop.

At midnight there was a light haze in the sky obscuring the stars. At six this morning, the rain was coming down in a steady stream – the kind you need a rain coat for – and it hasn’t stopped. I keep looking out the window to see if it’s easing off.

But, no.

On one of these rain quality assessments, I noticed a baby stellar jay huddled under some rhododendron branches. I had to look twice to figure out if it really was a jay or not since the brilliant blue feathers don’t develop until later in their adolescence. It was the crest that gave it away. A huddled crow and a huddled baby stellar jay look much alike from behind.

He ruffled his downy feathers and scrunched tighter into himself as if to say, “Why was I born into this wet, wet world?” The rain wasn’t getting any quieter and the broad waxy rhodo leaves were taking direct hits of rain and then gathering them to drool onto the poor bird’s back. When he finally caught sight of me, he flew off. And by the way, the picture I’ve added above is of a stellar jay, but not this one. It’s just to give you an idea of their magnificent blue feathers.

Meanwhile, out in the backyard, there was avian convention and it was snack time. It’s quite unusual to see crows, robins, stellar jays and starlings all placidly high-stepping about together, cocking their heads, waiting for worms to appear.

I was out there in the late afternoon just yesterday pulling out clover when an earthworm came directly out of it’s hole, straight up, just like an automatic car radio antenna. I’d never seen a worm do that before.

I touched it’s pinky little body with an ever so gentle touch and the worm went straight back down again, quick as a wink. These are good guys in the garden, aerating the soil, munching up organic matter and converting it into rich humus. When it rains, the theory goes that they are drowning in the soil and have to come up for air. Their subclass in animal nomenclature is Oligochaeta. I’m going to call my wormy guy Olig from now on.

When I’m gardening and I move a pot or rake up leaves, often I find Olig and company struggling to get back to a protected shade area, so I help them out by picking them up, usually with a stick because I’m squeamish, and landing them back on garden soil or grass where they can get back to work.

I presume this morning’s peace conference with the multi-variety of birds (who usually dispute territory quite vociferously) were there not so much for subject matter as for the cuisine.

Now it’s eleven fifteen and I can’t see steady streams of rain coming down. I guess it’s time to get on my galoshes and my rain gear and get down to the market.

It’s their special event of the year, so I hope it clears up by noon and gives them at least a few hours of Mr. Sunshine.

My Narnia cupboard

August 8, 2008

Have I told you about my Narnia cupboard?

It sits under the slope of the roof behind a pale yellow plaster wall. The last owner of the house was fond of stenciling patterns on things and this yellow wall has a grape leaf border in a soft green running the length of the hallway. With the sloping roof and the spindled banister, it’s all appropriately designed to agree with this octogenarian house.

The door to the cupboard has an old brass handle that has become black with age. Though the door is smooth on the outside, on the inside, you can see that the door was made with interlocking floor boards. there are crossbars four inches from top and bottom and a bar connecting the two that transverses from left to right, making a “Z’ shape to brace the boards. It’s a solid door, the kind you would see on old farmhouses, which I think this house might have been.

It looks quite odd to see a handle on the wall that seems to go nowhere and that’s why I think of it as my Narnia cupboard.

It’s a shame really that our country is so new that people didn’t think to record the history of these pioneer homes, but I suppose they were so busy carving out a living that they didn’t have time to occupy themselves with such things. Now curators eagerly search out scraps of information from official records and saved letters, but the people who lived here first are gone; their memories are gone with them.

When I moved into the house a year ago, there were priorities. All the things that were to go into this storage space were parked in front of it, not put away at all. Being under the slope of the roof, the cupboard is not easy to access. Every time I thought about putting the things in there, I remembered that I would not be willing to do that until I felt it was clean; but that was not going to be easy.

First of all, the cupboard had been painted sometime in the ‘Twenties or ‘Thirties and even then, it may have been done with surplus paint. It was a deep avocado colour that had gotten grungier with age. I wasn’t going to be able to see that it was clean unless it was white. If it was going to be white, I’d have to crawl in there and paint it white.

In winter, the project was a non-starter. It was dark in that hallway and daylight lasted only from eight in the morning to five a night. I had no intention of putting myself in a gloomy space on a gloomy day. Besides, one has to open windows wide when painting, even with acrylic paints.

Now, in July with the temperatures up in the early thirties and the sun showing from five in the morning to eight at night, the sun comes in that side of the house relatively well. I’ve got visitors coming – not just family who are very understanding, but I’ve visitors from Japan. This will be the first time my niece-in-law will see this house and she’s a home economics grad with a bent for neatness. I’ve got twelve days until they arrive.

With the illogical time clock of a retiree, I looked at that pile of stuff this morning and said to myself, “This is the day”. I got out my cleaning equipment, donned my painting attire complete with trophy paint from previous jobs, and went to work.

It wasn’t nearly as dirty in there as I had suspected it might be and that was a bonus. It was an awful colour, but it was clean and dry. I rinsed everything down with trisodium phosphate and then got out my pail of paint.

I can’t imagine how cast in paint my hair must be at this point. Despite my good intentions to work from the farthest corner to the front, the steeply sloping ceiling was a challenge. Every time I made a gesture to stretch my poor curving back, my hair would pick up a fine layer of white paint.

Everything was going well until half an hour ago. Going from dark avocado green to white needs two coats. There is no way around it. I had done most of the cupboard once and was leaving that which was closest to the door for the final paint so that I wouldn’t encrust myself with white.

When I went back in, I must have stepped in a puddle of paint on the plastic tarp I had put down. Then I went back to the bathroom to get some water and found I had implanted white prints on my blue carpet. Sure enough, on inspection, I had three large wet paint blobs on the bottom of my foot. I went hop-hobbling back down the hallway on a single clean foot and balancing with the tip of my big toe of the other to get a cloth to wipe off the decorator foot (feet are not recommended for stenciling) and back to the spots on the carpet to erase them. That was worth stopping for coffee; I’d earned it.

Now the lower part of the cupboard needed to be done. I took a plastic wrapped coverlet that I’d recently brought back from the cleaners as a cushion. It was sure to give my arthritic knees some relief while I tackled the lower shelves; and it did.

I was successfully painting away again, when the whole pile of stuff that had been balanced all winter without mishap decided it was vertically challenged. Gravity rules. It all slid in a disheveled pile onto my legs that were sticking out of the cupboard, onto the floor behind me. The icing on the cake? The top item was a sewing basket and it unlatched as it tumbled – right into the bucket of water I was using to clean the spots off the floor!

Ack!

Now the cupboard will have to wait for me. I’m having coffee. The pins and needles are drying in the bathroom on sheets of Kleenex. Velcro strips, seam binding, elastic are drying on the towel rack. The felt needle book decorated with a cat’s face is seeping green dye into the counter top. Buttons are spread out tor dry. And I’m here writing out my frustrations.

Could you please tell me again why the cupboard has to be white on the inside?

Blueberries, painting and a bike ride

August 6, 2008

It was the British Columbia Provincial holiday and August 1st long weekend and my friend Dorothy came out from the city to stay for the weekend. She’s preparing for a two hundred kilometer bike ride early in September so she brought her off road bike. I don’t do that kind of valiant exercising, so she was on her own for four hours doing the lovely dike roads and trails that go along the Alouette and Pitt Rivers. I agreed to meet her up at Pitt Lake but I’ll never do that again on a long weekend.

The lake is a popular place to go for canoers, kayakers and speed boaters. The place was crawling with half clothed, well-tanned people. I guess one of the reasons it was so popular this particular day was that we’d just gone through a week of summer rain that felt more like late September and everyone was very glad to have that burst of hot, hot weather and brilliant sunshine again.

I took my paint box, a selection of watercolour tubes, a desk easel to prop my painting on and a folding director’s chair. When I got up to the Lake parking lot, it was packed. Cars were circling to get a space in case someone left mid-afternoon. I circled three times before I parked in a five minute zone for kayak drop off and then stayed ten minutes. Dorothy still didn’t show.

I was a bit worried about someone getting on my case, or worse, giving me a ticket, so I puttered with things in the trunk of my car, bringing the bag of painting supplies to the front seat, shifting the remainder of things around, getting out my camera, et cetera, et cetera. I took some pictures of a young lad at lake shore standing in the water, picking up stones and throwing them in. He was about five and he had a rather admirable persistence in his task and a dismal record at distance throwing. Most landed just inches from his feet.

On my fifth tour of the parking lot, perspiring away in the humid heat whilst stewing, so as to speak, cooking on slowly but inexorably in my black, heat absorbent car, I decided that I’d missed Dorothy somehow. I hadn’t seen her on the road in and the hour I had spent moving from one illegal spot to another in the gravel car park was not productive, not to mention the waste of carbon fuel. She goes on these lone bike rides often. She’d just probably lost her way. It was only slightly possible that she’d gotten there before I did and given up waiting for me.

A park attendant came up to my open car window and reminded me that I couldn’t park at the stop sign. I had been waiting, wasting a few more anxious minutes, figuring I’d move when a car came up behind me and needed me to move on.

“You can’t park here, y’know,” she said gently.
“I know. I’m just leaving,” I replied faking a bit of chagrin. However, her softly spoken reminder was my signal. I wasn’t staying any more.

“Oh, you’re leaving then?” she said, still gently.

:I’m on my way,” and I put my car in gear and drove out the parking lot and down Meaken Road. About two kilometers out, there was finally a parking space. I shook my head at the persistence some people have to get their boats in the water, then go park their car far away, then walk back a kilometer to their launched boat and then go rowing or speeding around as an afternoon diversion.

Two kilometers down the road, I found a shady tree with room for about three cars to park. I got out to explore. It would have been a safe and flat enough place to sit out and paint but there was no view. I crawled through the metal tubing gate and walked a few feet up an unused road but found nothing of paintable interest. The grasses were beautiful and tall, a whole field of them. It was a crop, but I couldn’t identify it.

So I drove down another bit of the road and found a drainage ditch, a dike perhaps, filled with water reflecting land and sky. I followed that for another short way. Eventually there was a space for about six cars to park and I stopped in the shade of a tall cottonwood tree. The colours of the ditch water were simply beautiful. My photos, when I saw them later, simply did not do them justice. I did a painting there of the ditch water. It’s one of three times I’ve stopped to paint in the last year, so I can’t say it’s wonderful, but I’ll share it with you anyway:

and

As I was painting, Dorothy rode up a little worse for wear, struggling with the heat. Thirty degrees Celsius is not really an advisable heat to go cycling in, in my opinion, but she is a hardy sort and rides in all weather. She’d missed the turn off that led to access Pitt Lake but she’d found another way to get there and all was well. Not counting where she had ridden through brambles, nor where a branch had whacked her on the way, she said it was quite easy. She had a large black grease spot on one leg which belied her bravado. She had fallen. Like all good athletes, she had just gotten back up again and continued on.

She’d only done twenty six of her eighty kilometer goal, so she only rested a half hour while I continued to paint and then she was off again. I stayed and painted these two sketches before I went down by the Little Red Barn fruit standing hoping to find some fresh yellow beans and some juicy blueberries for dinner.

and

We met up backat the house three hours later, both within minutes of each other. I was unloading the director’s chair and the paint pots from the trunk when she called urgently to me. She stood only ten feet away on the asphalt of the round-about.

“Look at them!” she said. I couldn’t tell if she was gloating or amazed or disgusted. Besides, I couldn’t see anything, at first. And then I saw this creepy but amazing convention of little flies amassed on the ground, swarming apparently aimlessly. There were so many of them they were bumping into each other. I could just just hear the conversation down there.

“Excuse me, just, get out of my way!”

“You bumped me.” (peremptorily) “Can’t you look where you are going?”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to. We’re supposed to be going south, y’know.”
“South? Our directions were north. Did you see the queen? Some babe, don’t you think?”

“Nah. Royalty is royalty is royalty. They all look the same. Big, important, lazy, making the rest of us work for them.

And all the time these fly-like creatures are swarming, bumping into each other, squirming their way around each other like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was as if the tarmac itself was coming to a boil.

Dorothy is scientific. She’s done lots of lab experiments and observational studies. I’m a gardener at this point. At the same time as I was watching. fascinated by this horde of winged creatures which we decided were adolescent ants. I didn’t want them in my lawn and I didn’t want them in my garden, really. I started to stomp them out and got quite a few of them, they were so closely packed. They had no sense of impending danger and so the foot fell and slid across their bodies them into oblivion.

“Are you disgusted with me for squishing them?” I asked Dorothy.

“No. I’ve done enough lab experiments to know what they are all about. It must be the heat and the fact that they have graduated from their larval stage. But to see them all at once, it really is quite tremendous.
“No. I think it’s quite alright. There are certainly enough who escaped your heavy footed-ness. They won’t be missed.”

We went in after that. I cooked steak and steamed a corn cob each. I sliced a few tomatoes and a bit of cucumber and that was it. On a hot day, it’s no fun being in the kitchen. Simple is best.

Mrs. Stepford next door is alone for a week while her husband is away traveling, so she came and shared the repast with us. We had a hilarious conversation over dinner and a Tom Hanks, Julia Robert’s movie – Charlie Wilson’s war that kept us engaged for the evening.

Now, I have to go backwards to go a bit forwards.

Before Dorothy came, I was doing my usual cleaning for a guest routine. I changed the linens on the beds. I started noticing spots on the bathroom mirrors, so I wiped down the mirrors. I had to find something for lunch and for dinner. It’s blueberry harvest time so buying some of these was a must. I drove down into the farmlands that lay beside the Alouette and Pitt Rivers. It’s bucolic and redolent of new mown hay. Because of the heat, the grasses are looking golden and ripe. A second haying is in process although I don’t see any of the giant marshmallow-looking covered bales of hay I that saw earlier in spring.

I’ve got two favourite farm places I like to go. There must be at least eight, maybe ten, of these along that one stretch of road. Purewal’s blueberries are always good and ripe, cleaned of all leaves, stems and miscellaneous debris. They’ve got a giant blower that keeps the leaves and twigs afloat while the berries spill onto a conveyor belt The daughter and the grandfather sit on either side of the belt picking off the green, the tiny and the squished ones.

At two dollars a pound, you can’t lose. I bought seven pounds for me and I picked up blueberries for Dorothy as well. The farmer didn’t have enough for my large order so he excused himself and went out to the fields in his little tractor to get me another ten pounds worth, leaving me with his daughter, a child of about ten, and his father who tried to have a conversation with me, with great difficulty. I wondered if he had suffered a stroke, so difficult it was for him to form words.

When the farmer came back, I asked him what he did with the culls. They looked perfectly good for jam with a bit of cleaning up. There were little stems and twigs in amongst them. There were absolutely green ones that would have to go, but there were lots of plump soft ones and some little to mid sized ones that were perfectly good.

“Oh, those? Those go to the jam factories. I can’t sell them. They’re no good. Not firm enough. Not big enough. Green ones.”
“I’d gladly pay you for some, for making my own jam.” I offered.

“Nope. Nope. The berries are no good. If you want some, I’ll just give you some.”

I took about five pounds to try. Later in the evening as we sat watching Tom Hanks acting as a cowboy (and maverick) senator from Texas and Julia Roberts in a ghastly wig acting as the sixth richest woman from somewhere (The United State? Texas? The world?), I cleaned up the box of berries.

I’m an impatient woman. I couldn’t stand not knowing how they would work out. So I put them in a large Pyrex bowl and covered it over with a dinner plate so that if it splurted, I wouldn’t have a mess to clean up. I set the microwave for five minutes and presto, I had jam! It was incredible. A quarter of a cup of sugar stirred into the piping hot mixture and, voila, the berries were an nice sweet sauce.

At the Little Red Barn across the street, I bought some fresh peaches, apricots and green plums for dessert.

Monday morning came early. Dorothy had to get back into town to get ready for her next work day. She took her car and I took mine. We went back to Purewal’s berries and I loaded up on a ten pound box of berries of the cull variety. She bought some fresh fruits at the Red Barn for herself and went on her way. I went back home to sort out my box of free berries. With such a short cooking time, it took me just a few hours to freeze the good berries for winter and to make blueberry jam and ice cream sauce with the remainder.

It was a happy weekend and I only wish I could send you all a little taste of my blueberry surprise! That’s one of the failings of the Internet, so far. But you never know. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have thought it possible for a computer to take dictation, but they do, with voice recognition. But Cyberspace still has a bit of difficulty with sending jam. So, like the little red hen, I’ll just have to eat this up all by myself!