Friday, October 26, 2012

Pt. 3- Auroras and Husky Mutts

I know I left the whole James Bay topic hanging on kind of a worried tone, so I just wanted to share some of the things I'm really looking forward to.

I'm looking forward to my sweetheart feeling a little more balanced and at home in his skin, finally doing the job he knew he was meant to do from the time he was a little boy. I can't wait to see the cloud of anxiety drop away from him, and the "whew, I've made it" attitude peek out a little more often. Not that he's melancholy at the moment or anything. He has a great smile and wonderful laugh and finds reasons to use both often, but I can see there's a little something missing, and I know that sometimes he worries about providing for our family in the future. I'm looking forward to him feeling a little more secure and content.
And yeah, I'm looking forward to him having rotating shifts again. I get that working nights has been a good thing for him these past couple months, at this company, but sometimes a morning snuggle and half dozen sleepy words is all we exchange for days. I miss going out with him, or playing games with him. It still happens, but not very often.

Up north is the ideal place to view the Aurora Borealis. Around the Moosonee area, the northern lights show their face nearly every night to some degree. Aside from a slight greenish tinge along the horizon, I can't say I've ever seen them. I've spent a lot of my life in places too bright to see the show, even if it was going on all around me. Up there, miles from any cities, there is virtually no light pollution. I look forward to clear crisp nights, with the stars so thickly encrusted on the heavens you wonder how you ever thought the sky was black at night. And ribbons of green, blue and even purple light that dance across the sky like the inside of the plasma lamp I had as a kid, but on a much grander scale. I picture late nights drinking hot chocolate in our back yard, wrapped together in a big thick blanket and watching the show while we talk about our day.

And night time won't be the only time for amazing views. The landscape is striking, the wildlife is abundant, and the rivers are gorgeous. I've been camping since before I was born. The novelty of getting to sleep out in a tent wore off around age 8. The novelty of sleeping in my own tent wore off around age 14, and now, after working two full summers at a camp where I slept in a tent nearly every night, setting up a tent and sleeping on the cold ground seems more of a chore than fun most nights. Why do I still camp? To see these remote, hidden wildernesses in our midst. To slow life down, take in the scenery, watch the birds, scare the fish and smell the air. I camp for the lifestyle of the great outdoors. We're talking about having that right outside my door. I don't need to go sleep in a tent to get that up there. I can roll out of bed, with it's plush pillows and feather duvet, and take my dog for a hike while the morning coffee percolates. If that's not the best of both worlds, then I don't know what is.

"What dog?"you ask. Well, certainly not Taffy, she's my family's dog and no questions asked, doesn't matter where we end up, shy of something tragic happening to my parents, she stays with the family. Besides, I don't think she quite has the constitution to handle the wilds. My little inbred, poodle princess, with her monthly grooming appointments, irritable tummy and seasonal allergies that require prescription medications... Not quite cut out for the great white north. However, the one request I made is this: if we do go all the way up to the middle of nowhere, and he's going to have a job that leaves me alone for 12 hours at a time, we're getting a dog. I've done lots of reading about various rescue groups that save puppies from up in that area and find them homes down here. They all agree on one thing: they make some of the best dogs. It makes sense in a way... up there, they get taught social skills, and how to be a dog, from other dogs, unlike some of our pets down here that get taught how to act like a small child by a human. No wonder they tend to be highly sociable, balanced, adaptable, laid back dogs. When we get up there, we'll likely take in a stray pup and give him a good home.

I'm already reading about what kind of foods will grow well in that area, and planning ahead to plant a big garden next spring. Fresh produce is a problem you say? I say so change that! Ideally, I'll welcome help from anyone in the community who wants to lend it, save seeds carefully, and hopefully the bug will be catching and some of these northern communities will start to produce a little more of their food themselves. I'm only one small person, but sometimes that's all it takes to spark change.

Also, as much as my future in-laws are wonderful people and I'm more than thankful that they've invited me to move in, it will be really nice to have a place of our own!

So you see, I'm still a little nervous alone in the dark at night, but I'm also really, really looking forward to this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crafts and Updates

  So I've been a little pre-occupied with the whole James Bay thing, but here's what else has been going on in my life. I finished the owl embroidery I was working on and I must say, I think it's ADORABLE!! I've considered framing him up and sending him to Jenna over at Cold Antler Farm, and I've thought about turning him into a tote bag embellishment for a friend who is an "owl" or leader in our local brownie unit, but the truth is I just can't part with him. Not sure what he'll turn into yet, but for now I'm keeping him. This whole picture just screams October to me... The pears feel more like August... Maybe I'll make a quilt that's a giant embroidered calendar, one square for each month of the year... hmm... I'll think about it.
Isn't he just the cutest though!  Look at that face... could you give him away? He needs to be on display though, not just sitting at the bottom of my sewing basket. 
This one has a totally different feel to it. The other pieces were about trying out fancy stitches, and playing around with techniques. This is pretty much just an outline done in a simple back stitch, all in one colour. I'll use french knots for the eyes and buttons, but that's about as complicated as it's likely to get. Would I include this in the same quilt? It could definitely say January, but it's so much simpler than the others I'm not sure it would quite fit in... Maybe I'll alternate between loud and simple blocks... hmm... food for thought for sure.

Tuesday my mom, mother-in-law-to-be and I started looking for fabrics for the wedding. We were hoping to find materials for the bridesmaid's dresses, but nothing was quite tickling us. Finally, just before we were ready to head home so I could get ready for Pathfinders, a fabric caught my eye in the corner at the fabricland we were in, and when I unwound a bit off the bolt, I actually started tearing up. I won't really describe it in detail, that way people I actually know in real life will still be in awe at the wedding, but suffice it to say it's BEAUTIFUL! But not for the bridesmaids... oh no. This fabric is snowy white. I've found the raw material of my wedding dress, and the three of us nearly cried right there in the store. It may slightly bend the rules of what's period appropriate (we're having an 1812 themed wedding of course), but it's close enough for me! So, that's one item ticked off the list. There is still lots to do, and if we end up going up north there's a lot I'd like to have kind of settled before we take off, but hey, one more thing ticked off is great.

Work has been busy this week. Saturday morning I had two clients, and then rushed home to help Dar out with her Brownie camp. I think a snot nosed 7 year old gave me a cold for my troubles... thanks sweetie.  Sunday morning after packing up and saying bye to the Brownies I had two horse clients, and Monday was a bit of a welcome break, but I did some running around just the same. Tuesday I was working down in Richmond Hill, then fabric shopping, and then I had Pathfinders, and yesterday I had a whopping 5 clients here at the Newmarket office. Keep in mind the cold... I was dead on my feet by the end of the day despite sucking back vitamin C and herbal teas all day. Today I slept in, curled up in my pj's and watched Glee all morning, took an afternoon nap, and am almost starting to feel human again this evening. This is good, because tomorrow I've got a couple more clients, and some Saturday too. It's a welcome change from sitting around twiddling my thumbs in the beginning of the month, but boy when it rains it sure pours!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pt. 2- The Hard Facts

Remember when I said I wasn't running for the hills yet? This is where the "yet" part comes in. Don't worry, I'm not bowing out or anything, but these are some of the things that I'm giving a lot of thought to at the moment. There isn't a lot of sunny sides in this post, those will come later... This is about the stuff that scares me a little. We're in for a bit of a culture shock I think.

There are six communities that the James Bay ambulance service covers. And although they are all very far up north, places like moosonee at the top of the train track are going to have more in the way of people, tourists, and amenities, than places further along that are only accessible by air, and only have airports big enough to land a four seater Cessna. In general, fresh produce up there is abysmal, and virtually non-existant. Non perishable items are much easier to come by, because there is less chance of them being expired or spoiled by the time they get up there. The fresh foods that do exist in these northern communities are generally hardy, relatively tough, and naturally have a long shelf life. Things like potatoes, squash, onions, carrots and other root vegetables, and things like apples. However, in some communities, a 3 lb bag of apples costs over 13 dollars. A jug of real juice might cost 23 bucks in some places. I will be bringing some varieties of cold hardy seeds with me, but we'll be arriving in December or January, so I'll have to wait until spring to do much of the growing. Apparently the prices aren't so crazy when it comes to things that come in a box and can be stored at room temperature, but really most of those things aren't good for you. Diabetes and obesity are rampant in many of these communities, because the people simply can't afford to make nutritious choices for their families. Hunting and fishing are both important parts of their culture, and wild game should be plentiful. I'll have to pick up a couple of wild game cookbooks.

Water has historically been an issue in some of the communities, things like e-coli are fairly common due to inadequate, or lacking waste disposal programs, whether it be garbage, or sewage. We have been assured that all communities are testing safe currently. Very reassuring.

Alcoholism can be a big problem up there too. Consider, however, the price of juice (over 20 dollars), while the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) regulates their prices province wide. Why buy a liter of juice for 20$, when 15$ can buy you a bottle of cheap vodka? I have to say, I kind of understand how it happens.

The northernmost veterinary clinic in Ontario is in Cochrane. You can bet that the locals up in James bay aren't in a hurry to take a flight or train ride down to cochrane with their dog to have it spayed or neutered. Again, the cost is prohibitive. Occasionally the SPCA sends mobile vets up to the area to run spay and neuter clinics, but in the meantime the dogs breed like rabbits, and there is a real problem with strays. They make a nuisance of themselves around the garbage dumps, and make it difficult if not impossible to keep livestock or their feed outdoors. Periodically, the animal control officers round up and cage as many dogs as they can, and shoot them. Puppies often starve or freeze to death in the snow. Or succumb to larger threats, like bears, wolves, and big cats. I know for sure there are black bears, I couldn't actually tell you if there are polar's, but I would imagine so. I'm packing my bear bell, and maybe even some strings of sleigh bells, though I don't know how much this will really help.

75% or more of the population will be Cree in the areas we'll be traveling to. In many towns, the locals shiver through the winter in small basic houses, shacks, trailers, or even built up tents, while the (often white) professionals who have been brought in to look after the communities get bigger, warm, proper houses, with electricity, running water and all the amenities. People like nurses, teachers, religious leaders, and paramedics like Andrew, to name a few. I don't feel very good about that. As much as it will be nice to be safe, warm and secure, I don't thing that us having, while the others have not, will exactly foster good relations with our neighbors.

Mail arrives once a week, and sometimes is just delivered to the post offices, not individual homes. Letters probably won't need a specific address most of the time, a simple
Sam Murray,
Attiwapiskat, ON
will likely suffice.

Basic services like cable, mobile phone service, and internet may be a challenge in some areas. Apparently there are providers providing these services up there, but they are all small, local companies. Certainly I won't be able to show up with my Fido iPhone and just continue on my merry way. Perhaps things like "data plans" don't really exist up there and I would be smart to drop down to a basic phone for a while. Wow, that'll be a switch. I live for/with my iPhone! But life in general will have a different pace up there, and maybe I'll find I don't need it as much as I think I will. There should be internet, but I'm willing to bet it will be quite slow. We are planning to start downloading seasons of various shows, and a bunch of movies as well while we can down here, and bringing them north with us to give us something to do on long cold nights.      

I don't know how much there will be for me up there in the way of work... Certainly I'll bring a table, and perhaps be able to make a little income serving the professionals in the communities, but in a town of 900-3500 people, how many people do you think will want massage? In moose factory or moosonee it would be fairly easy to get a job of some sort working in the hospitals, but what about some of the other communities? I doubt there are much in the way of local classified ads.

I have a whole lot of questions, so far more than I have answers. So, I keep reading, and looking, and believe it or not, eagerly anticipating what the future might hold. Right now, November 20th (When Andrew writes the test) seems so very far away.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Considering James Bay, Pt. 1

Andrew has been invited to the hiring test for the James Bay Ambulance Service. Jobs in this area have been hard to come by, and the longer he's been out of school, the less optimistic he's been feeling about his shot at getting hired up against all these starry eyed kids fresh out of georgian or centennial or wherever else they went to school. He's been losing hope, he's been losing direction, and drive. And this is his dream! There's a little bit of his self worth and personal identity tied up in being a paramedic, and it's been really hard watching him get squashed down time and again. So, he's started looking a little further afield. He and his work buddy Andy have both applied for jobs up in James bay.

For those of you not so familiar with the geography of this great land of ours, let me walk you through how to get to James bay. Start in Toronto. Hop on the 400, and head all the way (about an hour driving time) north to Barrie. OOh, rural Barrie. Torontonians are already calling this "up north". Then keep going about the same distance and you hit Orillia, and keep going through places like huntsville, gravenhurst, etc. The lily dippers among us might already tentatively be calling this northern ontario. But we all know we're not really there yet. Around this area, 400 changes into Hwy. 11. Stick with it, and keep on trucking north. Unless you need to pee. Do that here, because it's two hours to North Bay, with little in the way of polite rest stops in between. Plenty of trees though. So, North Bay. This is bonafide Northern Ontario. You get the tax credits that say so and everything. Normally, when we go to visit grand mamman we stop for lunch here, it seems to be the half way point. No coffee though, oh no. I bet that there are two toilets between here and grandma's house that are not inside a private dwelling. Then we hit the road again for grandmamman's house, which is in New Liskeard. Easily another 2.5-3 hours, sometimes more since in places the road is a single lane each direction, and there are lots of farmers, loggers and miners up here, and all of them have road hogging, slow moving vehicles. Whew! We've made it to New Liskeard, and let's say for argument's sake that it's taken us around 7 hours. Now drive about another 3 hours north to Cochrane. Here Hwy 11 veers off west, and travels all the way to BC. We stop the ride at Cochrane. After about 10 hours in a car, we're ready to ditch the car. Actually, we have to. There are no roads north of here. We've run out of civilization as we know it (ok, dramatic, but we've run out of paved road). There is however, a train station. That's right, we're going to hop aboard the iconic Polar Bear Express, and sit on our asses in it for a further 5 hours. When we hop off in Moosonee, we will be 150 km north of those paved roads. Now sit down, look around and sigh. We've maybe made it. Moosonee is the southern most town where Andrew might get posted. The other five... er... well settlements anyways, some don't deserve to be called towns, lie along the western rim of James Bay, with the northern most place (Attiwapiskat) another 150 km or so north of Moosonee. Yeah, that's up north. Attiwapiskat requires a flight, unless you're in the magical season where one might traverse the ice road. Scary thought.

So you think I'm cringing in a corner, right? Hell no! At least not yet. See, Andrew really needs this I think, to help bolster his confidence. I think it will be one of the easier jobs to get. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think when it comes to going aaaaaalllllllllllll the way up there, pretty much showing up for the interview will get ya the job. I don't see there being a huge queue clamouring for the the opportunity to move up there. And up in James Bay there will be all kinds of opportunities to do upgrades, like the chopper medic stuff that he couldn't afford to do if it weren't for the service paying for them. So, we head up to Moosenuts, Northern Ontario, spend a year or two making friendly with the locals, and then when we come back south, my honey bear will be super hire-able, and hopefully finally land his dream job with Toronto EMS. I really don't want him to give up on his dreams, but at this point, I think he's getting close to doing just that.

At first when he was contemplating this move he had a very lone ranger attitude towards the whole thing. I guess he figured I'd either stay here or move back in with my folks while he braved the wilds alone. I'm not that girl. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty and live without certain modern conveniences. And I sure as hell couldn't stand being away from him for over a year. I'd be worried sick... and I would miss him like crazy. I've said more than once that I'd go to the ends of the earth for him. I never thought it would be tested in quite such a literal way, but there you have it. I love that man like crazy, I'm going to make a husband of him shortly (gosh, won't that be fun, planning a toronto wedding from the arctic tundra... hmm...) and darn it all, if he's off on an adventure, well then I'm coming too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Got the Bug

And it turns out that Andrew's mom and grandma made it their mission a few years ago to collect every colour of embroidery floss put out by a certain company. I've got a lifetime supply of floss in every imaginable hue available at my disposal. Guess I know what I'm doing for christmas this year! So far I'm drawing all my designs freehand in pencil, on a background of muslin. I think after I finish this handsome fella I'm gonna try my hand at fancying up a pillow case. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


... now what do I do with myself... hmm...

Project for a Rainy Day

I've doodled up a little pear design to work on as an embroidery sampler. Grandma dusted off her old reader's digest complete guide to needlework, and gave it to mom, you know, for safe keeping. I've since borrowed it from mom. I would love to be able to do a bit of fancying up on my wedding dress which my mom and Andrew's are working together to create for me. But in the meantime I've got a lot of learning to do. I've tried out all kinds of new stitches that I would never have even thought of. Each leaf, pear, twig and flower will probably be worked slightly differently, so I practice a wide spectrum of skills, and get a feel for what kind of stitches I like using. This bit here is the culmination of about four hours work last night and this morning. The pic was taken around noon, I'll take another one in a little while. The rain is pattering against the window, Andrew's ma is puttering about in the kitchen, and I'm curled up in an arm chair stitching away and humming to myself. Not a bad Wednesday.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Fall is harvest season, and usually in the fall I get the hankering to do a bit of pick-your-own. Usually at an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch, except in years of great success when I've had a lucky bounty of these things in my own backyard. Sadly the garden at mom's house fared poorly this year between pesky rabbits and dry dry weather. We've not got a single pumpkin. Even the zucchini plants (which I was sure would be hanging out with the cockroaches in the post apocalyptic world) died on us! As for the apples, two years ago we trimmed the trees back too hard, last year there wasn't a single apple, and this year there were and encouraging number of blossoms, but a late frost killed all but two.
 So, I headed over to Brooks Farms in Mt. Albert to get in on the harvest action today. I learned two discouraging things: that same frost also killed their whole apple crop, and it was half an hour until closing, which is not nearly enough time to select the perfect pumpkin! Not by half! However, the nice lady went on to explain that in their berry patches they've selected everbearing varieties, and the berry picking is still on until the first hard frost. Right on! Earlier in the summer we picked a boatload of red currants and gooseberries to make wine out of, but we didn't get enough for the recipe and while we have them put away in the freezer, our excitement has waned somewhat, so I though we'd use some of them to make a raspberry and red currant jam. I asked the lady to weigh my basket and set out to pick my fill of raspberries.
The rows of bushes didn't look too impressive, but once you got closer they were absolutely drooping under the weight of fat, sweet, jewel toned fruits. They taste like summer in a way I though was long gone for this season. I was allowed to pick from row 1 through row 6, but in half an hour one can only do so much.
This is about half of what I ultimately ended up with. The basket pictured is my market basket that I take shopping when we're doing re-enactment events. That's a white irish linen napkin that I use to cover the contents of my basket, which aren't always period. There are now some interesting pink blotches on said napkin, which is really only to be expected, but now I'm considering swishing the whole piece through my juiced fruits when I make the jam. Surely anything that can stain it can dye it, and then it will be a more robust colour that I won't have to be so careful with in the future. That's the plan... I'll post the results when we get there.
In the mean time, we'll have to pick another day to pick a pumpkin. Perhaps we'll find a day where Andrew can come with me. It should be a tradition. Yes. We'll make it so... ok, I'll make it so. hehe...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Power of Intention

Let me let you all in on something I've known about myself for years now: I am often at my happiest with a lead rope in my hands, and warm smooth horse flesh under my palms. I love being around horses, whether it's for work, or play. Any and every opportunity to be around horses is one I relish.
So, I'm gonna say this "aloud", because I believe in the power of intention, and I believe that the things I ask for and believe in and work towards will come into my life. Three months from now, I want to have an equine client on most days. Five months from now, I want to have an equine client for every day of the week. Now, I might not necessarily treat one horse per day, but I want to be treating at least 7 horses a week. It's work I love doing, it's work I'm great at, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment like nothing else. I truly make a difference in their lives, and that's why I became a massage therapist. I want to help people heal and get better. At the time, I just didn't realize that my true calling was with four footed people. Sure I still massage lots of two legs like us, but more and more my techniques are developing in ways that reflect my work with animals, and it suits me fine if there are some clients that don't care for my technique. Because mark my words, by this time next year, the majority of my income will come from treating quadrupeds, you'll see. I'll make it happen. Also, a horse owner/trainer will come into my life who is happy to accept treatments for themselves or their horses in exchange for giving me riding lessons. On the ground I have such an amazing connection with these animals, it's really about time I left terra firma and got a better grip on how to ride one! Tonight I am finally ordering the business cards I designed a while ago. They emphasize the animal side of my practice, I figure it's important to advertise for precisely what I want to be doing, not just everything I'm capable of. Money's been tight and I didn't think I'd have room in the budget for a lot of new business cards any time soon, but the folks at Vistaprint practically give them away [and they're a Canadian company, so I don't mind promoting them for free ;-)], an additional coupon for their products has fallen into my hands (thanks Danielle) and an unexpected equine client this morning are all contributing to make it happen. My time is now, and I plan to seize it!