some (kids) books we love. 2017 edition.

 

One of the perks of having kids is hands down getting to read oodles of kids books. The combined joy of relatively short reads, simple word play, pleasant repetition, and colourful illustrations, make this genre one of my faves. With less traditional books you also get the bonus of a conversation starter, of a place saver. To talk about race and poverty and residential schools and transphobia and all of the rest.

I got really lucky with these kids of mine, they happen to both really love books too and are happy to spend hours being read to.

Here’s our shared shortlist of the more political books we’ve really enjoyed these past months. En français et en anglais.

 

Niko Draws a Feeling. Written by Bob Raczka, Illustrated by Simone Shin.

This book is such a gem. A young child is misunderstood for drawing feelings instead of things. He draws an even bigger feeling, which is later understood by a new neighbour friend. It’s totally endearing, beautifully illustrated, and if you’ve ever felt like an oddball, this one will make you smile.

 

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Something Beautiful. Written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet.

The story of a young girl going around her neighbourhood asking people about their « something beautiful » after talking about the courtyard of her building, which is littered with trash, broken glass and aggressive graffiti. It’s the story of a kid who wants to make her environment her own, who’s surrounded by beauty, and who’s asking the right questions. The illustrations are gorgeous. The text is powerful.

 

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Manchots au chaud. Écrit par Andrée Poulin, illustré par Oussama Mezher.

Inspirée d’une histoire vraie, c’est l’histoire d’un petit Matéo qui, suite à une terrible marée noire demande à sa grand-mère de lui apprendre à tricoter pour qu’il puisse fabriquer des chandails pour les manchots qui autrement, moureraient de froid ou d’empoisonnement. Utile pour celles et ceux qui veulent apprendre aux enfants que le tricot est révolutionnaire.

 

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Little You. Written by Richard Van Camp, Illustrated by Julie Flett.

This is the book I give to all of the new babies. It’s perfect. It was also my youngest’s fave for a time, so we know it by heart and recite it. Other collaborations of Van Camp and Flett that we love (but that I keep giving away): ‘My Heart Fills with Happiness’ and ‘We Sang You Home.’ If you want to introduce elements of Indigenous culture to kids, these books are sweet intros.

 

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Clive and His Babies. Written and illustrated by Jessica Spanyol.

A board book filled with kids of different races and boys who take care of their dolls. Those things shouldn’t be noteworthy but they are, so this is a good book to gently challenge stereotypes, already so painfully present in board books.

 

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Les Papas de Violette. Écrit par Émilie Chazarand, illustré par Gaëlle Souppart.

Un super livre sur une famille homoparentale. Violette se fait agacer à l’école, se demande quelle « maladie » a ses papas suite aux moqueries des camarades de classe. Elle ne veux pas décevoir ses papas donc n’en parle pas, et raconte comment elle les veux les deux présents à ses trucs d’école, comme ils font plutôt le relai pour ne pas « lui rendre la vie trop difficile. » Vraiment touchant. Un bon rappel aux parents en couple hétéro de parler des différentes compositions familiales à leurs enfants–pour que les Violettes ne se fassent pas intimider de la sorte par des enfants qui ignorent que d’autres sortes de familles existent.

De par le passé, j’évitais les livres avec des moqueries écrites dans le texte, parce que je trouve ça dur à lire, et je trouvais pas ça nécessaire pour faire passer un message. Par contre mon grand m’a surpris en appréciant particulièrement Boris Brindamour et la robe orange.

 

Boris Brindamour et la robe orange. Écrit par Christine Baldacchino, illustré par Isabelle Malenfant.

Un garçon qui aime particulièrement la couleur et le frou-frou d’une robe orange et le tic-tic de souliers « de madame. » Les enfants rient de lui à l’école. Ça persiste et un matin, il dit avoir trop mal au ventre pour aller à l’école. Finalement, il s’affirme en tant qu’astronaute qui porte une robe et les amiEs l’accepte. En fin de compte, je pense qu’avoir les vraies moqueries qu’un enfant entenderait (ou entend) sur la cour d’école, ça aide.

 

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L’Étrange É. Écrit par Grégoire Aubin, illustré par Roxanne Bee.

Les E aiment jouer à cache-cache mais un jour, se retrouve devant un É. Un beau texte qui raconte ce qui peut arriver quand on se retrouve devant l’Autre.

 

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The Peace Book. Written and illustrated by Todd Parr.

A sweet read. « Peace is everyone having a home. » « Peace is reading all different kinds of books. » « Peace is having enough pizza in the world for everyone. » Le livre de la paix, en français, et tout aussi adorable.

 

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When We Were Alone. Written by David A. Robertson, Illustrated by Julie Flett.

I don’t know how to do this one justice. What I first loved about it was that it dealt with the challenging issue of residential schools through a conversation between a grandmother and a grand-daughter. The curiosity of the child and the power and strength of the grandmother are palpable. It makes the injustices and the hardships so relatable for young kids who have never had to think about not being able to speak their language, to have their hair long, to wear colours. It’s very gentle and my 5 year old enjoys the book (despite the fact that maman always tears up). I wish I could buy cases of this book and make sure that every school library in this country has a few copies.

I wrote to the author not long ago and he told me a french translation would soon be released by Les Éditions des plaines. Une bonne nouvelle.

 

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Ada La grincheuse en tutu. Écrit et illustré par Elise Gravel.

À bas les stéréotypes sexuels et les rôles de genre! Un bel album avec des Poum! Bam! Tchac! qui font rigoler les enfants à chaque lecture.

 

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The Big Book of Families. Written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith.

Some people have sisters, some people live in apartments, some children live with their grandma and grandpa. Some families celebrate this or that, some go on vacations. A solid book that shows that there are so many ways that people can live, and love, and transport themselves.

 

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Joy. Written by Joyce Carol Thomas, Illustrated by Pamela Johnson.

Another favourite board book. This book is a poem, through the seasons, of a parent telling a child the many ways that she/he is her joy. A great read-aloud book.

 

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Deux garçons et un secret.Écrit par Andrée Poulin, illustré par Marie Lafrance.

La belle histoire de deux jeunes garçons, des meilleurs amis, qui s’aiment et qui se marient avec des bagues empruntées. Les parents d’un d’eux les oblige à se « démarier. »  En racontant que ses parents lui ont dit que les garçons ne peuvent pas se marier ensemble, une copine lui répond, « Les parents ne savent pas toujours tout! Des fois, ils se trompent. Maman me l’a dit. Papa aussi. » Un message important. Un autre bon livre à offrir aux bibliothèques d’école pendant les semaines pour contrer l’intimidation.

 

 

Sophie et sa courge. Écrit par Piet Zietlow Miller, illustré par Anne Wilsdorf. (Traduit de l’anglais, Sophie’s Squash).

Si vous voulez inspirer vos enfants à dessiner des visages sur vos courges pour des années à venir, c’est l’ouvrage parfait. Bon pour promouvoir le jardinage et la confection de jouets par soi-même aussi.

 

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Quel génie! Écrit et illustré par Ashley Spires. (Traduit de l’anglais, Most Magnificent Thing)

Le meilleur livre d’enfant que j’ai lu sur la persévérance et la frustration. Il nous a beaucoup servi.

 

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Harlem’s Little Blackbird. Written by Renée Watson, Illustrated by Christian Robinson.

The illustrated story of Florence Mills. A lovely book. Has been a great tool to start talking about segregation and to keep talking about racism with my 5 year old.

 

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Bonjour l’ami. Écrit et illustré par Kang Full.

Un roman graphique qui raconte l’histoire d’un enfant qui tente d’aider un chaton à retrouver ses parents la nuit en pleine tempête de neige. L’enfant sait poser des questions qui aident son ami chaton à penser autrement son rapport aux autres. Très touchant comme ouvrage.

 

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Trompette,petit dinosaure au grand coeur. Écrit par David Bedford, illustré par Mandy Stanley.

Le livre préféré de mon petit de 2 ans. Je trouve que la générosité dont fait preuve Trompette est un peu poussé (spoiler alert: il donne son doudou!) et que lui et Pelote aurait bien pu trouver une solution un peu plus créative au problème du trou dans la montgolfière, mais c’est très doux comme histoire et mes deux enfants connaissent le texte par coeur.

 

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Sex is a Funny Word. Written by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth.

The sequel to « What Makes a Baby » (actually!) and the book you wish you had had when you were 7 or 10 or 12. It’s a pretty solid read when you’re in your thirties too. It makes me really happy that books like this exist.

 

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Amazing Grace. Written by Mary Hoffman, Illustrated by Caroline Binch.

Grace loves stories and dress-up and make-believe. When her class puts on the play Peter Pan and she raises her hand to play the lead role, she’s told (by class-mates) she can’t be Peter Pan first because she’s a girl, second because she’s black. She proves them wrong. Gorgeous illustrations.

 

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Y’a pas de place chez nous. Écrit par Andrée Poulin, illustré par Enzo Lord Mariano.

Un livre à propos de deux jeunes réfugiés dans un bateau en mer. Ils tentent d’accoster sur différentes îles, différentes rives, mais on les refuse, et avec une intolérance pas mal haineuse. Je le trouve dur à lire et je trouve qu’il ne va pas assez loin pour entamer une discussion sur les droits des réfugiés ou notre responsabilité humaine d’accueillir les individus et les groupes qui quittent des situations de guerre. Mais c’est tout de même un livre qui aide à expliquer la situation de tant de gens dans le monde et il laisse beaucoup de place à l’adulte qui en fait la lecture.

 

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Haïti mon pays. Poèmes d’écoliers Haïtiens illustrés par Rogé.

Un beau livre à feuilleter. Un bel aperçu poétique de la vie d’enfants.

 

Le bain d’Abel. Écrit et illustré par Audrey Poussier.

Un livre rigolo où un jeune Abel se retrouve dans un système d’épuration d’eau pour retrouver son « bon bain bien chaud avec de la mousse et des jouets dedans. » Si l’idée de parler d’eaux usées et de ruisseau qui mène au fleuve qui mène à la mer t’emballe, c’est l’ouvrage parfait pour toi.

 

Thanks to Octopus Books for ordering all of our English language books. Merci à leslibraires.ca pour la possibilité de commander en ligne de libraires indépendants. And mostly, to the Ottawa Public Library for having non-resident library memberships–for $50 a year, we borrow as many books as we want. So grateful.

 

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on hanging up the skates

some days we joke about throwing in the towel.

and some days the joke has a harder, sharper edge.

 

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(from La ferme des dinos, écrit et illusté par Frann Preston-Gannon aux Éditions Père Fouettard, 2017).

these past months, it’s been the ever-present financial worries; the life and farm infrastructure that keeps crapping out on us; the wet, cold summer that has left an important portion of our herds in less than optimal health; the marketing that we aren’t getting to and the inventory we have yet to sell.

it’s knowing that so many farmer pals are in the same boat.

it’s thinking too much about climate change (or the apocalypse), knowing that what we’re doing is part of a solution–that we’re not opting to tinker with a broken system but to offer up and create something that can be sustainable, sustained and sustaining. it’s knowing too that we’re building soil, practising animal husbandry, and selling meats and eggs in a way that’s deeply respectful but certainly not cost effective.

 

I look at photos of the kids growing up in this place, the knowledge and competence they carry and hone daily (and I know I’m learning too even if my growth isn’t so carefully photographed and documented).. and I see all the food and energy this farm can produce–with our market gardener and co-farmer pals here, with the workshops and free school we’ve hosted, with carving out time and space for political community engagement, and I know it’s worth it. I know it.

but the exhaustion is wearing on me. on us.

 

(farming with soul is a public service, damn it. it can’t be a struggle every step of the way.)

 

 

 

 

sweaters and spinach and sticky egg shells.

 

Woke up to the crisp coolness of autumn. To the reality of being the mother of a school aged child.  To the feeling that the season sped by too fast, that the stress levels have been too high, that relational strains take their tolls.

Nevertheless, grateful to be buttoning up sweaters, to be watching this big kid eagerly get on his first big yellow school bus, to be rummaging through to find tuques, and to making our home smell like stewed apples.

 

 

In the midst of it all, somehow the garden grew (even the peanut plants this year).

 

 

A kind farm dog joined our family, we seeded a lawn (that took!), fed animals, lost track of a few (self-declared free-range) hens given the tallness of our grasses and the low voltage of our fences.

 

 

We learned that taking the key out of the quad’s ignition is now a good idea, we hosted a successful pizza oven making workshop, built and played, and used our welding mask to catch glimpses of a solar eclipse.

 

 

September brings our freeschool, (unfortunate, unexpected, expensive) foundation work on house #2, trying to solve the lay rate and broken egg dilemma (with more numerous daily visits to gather eggs, and white golf balls in the nesting boxes to maybe confuse them), taking down some old fences, wood pile stacking, and cleaning this place up.

 

 

May I get to fall spinach and kale seeding, to blanching bunches of chard, to try my luck at canning, and find peace in a new season’s rhythms.

june.

 

 

In early June, we were able to start moving the chicken coop with the 4×4 instead of the tractor (water logged pastures + wagon tire ruts = impossible in May), the whole farm team took in a mob grazing workshop which inspired us and helped us to hone our grazing plan, the grasses grew and grew, as did the pigs.

 

 

With all the rains we’ve had (a state of emergency was declared in our area), our co-farmers/second house renters started to notice that not just water was coming into the basement, but soil was as well. Super sub-optimal.

 

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Turns out the cinder block foundation was starting to curve inward. As we’ve done time and again since moving here, we hired a local contractor with an excavator to dig all around the building to lessen the pressure on the compromised walls. Turns out, yes, you can back fill too much.

 

 

After many phone calls, evaluation visits, and much form filling and waiting, we learned that the insurance would not cover any of the costs. I won’t lie, it was devastating.

 

 

P. & I opted to make massive farm investments this year, mostly to start doubling the cow herd, to be able to hire the lovely (and competent!) employees we’ve been working with since May. For our quality of life, having this farm provide an income for our family plus full time staff is key. It means more manageable workloads, time for both parents to see these beautiful kids grow, and better work-life balance for all.

All this to say, the next two-three years were already going to be quite tight. This massive new expense, and these structural problems that can’t be ignored if we don’t want to lose the house entirely, feel a lot like another truckload of straw trying to break the camel’s back.

 

 

Despite the growing anxiety, the hope and beauty of this place live on and carry me. Our beloved Ayrshire dairy cow, Jo Petra, had her calf, Frankie. The kids’ tenderness around fresh life is forever heartwarming. As is their utter lack of surprise or disgust as they discover and inquire about the after birth, the placenta. (It would seem that the time is ripe to plant their placentas under trees).

 

 

As we had planned to last autumn, yesterday, our excavator pal came back to dig our new entrance way. Instead of having our entrance come up right next to the house, it’ll now come up on the other side of our kitchen garden. This means that all of the large trucks, farm machinery, etc. will be further away from our daily outdoor living/playing space.

 

 

For right now though it just means more mud, more forever-construction-feel. Some of us enjoy that more than others.

I take solace in the thought that we’re single-handedly creating a whole lot of jobs, contributing a great deal to the local economy, and to rural life at a time when governments seem intent on driving all rural dwellers and agricultural people to urban centres.

 

Here’s hoping for some sun to keep the basements dry, the germination rates from plummeting, and our herds’ health where they needs to be.

 

May.

 

The grass is growing. The pastures we left to rest last year are coming alive. After going to a conference on mob grazing last summer, P. opted to ask the seed salespeople if they’d take our order back and proposed that we instead leave the pastures be for a season and start mob grazing and winter bale grazing there. The results have been solid (and affordable to boot).

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Our tractor broke down early May. Instead of trying to borrow a tractor to feed the herd (hay), the team started the rotations. The animals were more than happy to start grazing. The 140+ strong herd rotates through 350+ acres, which includes crossing the highway.

 

Despite being stressful, and despite a small handful of calves (who can easily walk under the temporary fences put up to keep them to a narrow path over the culverts) and the sheer size of the herd, these moves have gone well.

 

 

The hens are now also happily back on pasture and their eggs’ yolks have already turned a deeper yellow.

 

 

Sixty piglets have joined us. They’re being fed soaked organic pig feed, mixed in tubs, until we sort out our cheese whey situation.  For the time being, they’re hanging out in a cathedral-sized barn space. Once the pasture rotations and fencing are planned and built, and once the piglets are fence trained, they’ll be brought out of doors.

 

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It’s been a bit of a shock to the system to hit the ground running (as springtime farming requires), but our bodies had craved the warmth, the crispness, the movement.

 

 

We’ve also been blessed to have friends come spend time with us. Seeing our rolling hills, our herds and our days through their (urban) eyes is always a solid reminder (of the beauty, the luck, the opportunity). And knowing that our community is more vast than these acres and acres of pasture grounds me to no end.

 

 

On the construction front, I’ve been flabbergasted by the amount of waste, the sheer volume of garbage that’s created during home renovations. Sorting through it to recycle and keep as much as we can from the landfill has been a depressing task. Luckily our co-farmer friends at Rooted Oak Farm have been getting their gardens ready, and the juxtaposition of garbage to future beds of luscious organic vegetables has tipped the hope scale.

 

And since good friends were coming our way, the impetus to get it done was real. Having a warm, dry, welcoming living space has been a good culmination of a long autumn and winter of construction.

 

The yard space is still quite unfinished but the kids are making the most of it–appreciating that it’s all one big sandbox, and that some of the rubbish is actually quite good for making small catapults and starting collections.

 

 

Finally, the four (sterilised!) cats are doing well and have decided to stay put and be our barn cats. They don’t all show up every day, but they’re around and might one day be pettable.

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Here’s hoping.

early april.

Our snowbank pastures are almost no more. The puddle play is going full force. The frozen ground is letting up and making it possible to use temporary fencing again.

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Given the shoddy spring/winter infrastructure, the hens have been pretty free range as of late as has been their laying, which got old pretty fast. Now I’m just waiting for the ground to dry up and firm up some to wheel the coop out on pasture.

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The big news around here is that two vegetable growers have joined us on the farm as part of our Incubator Farm Project, and that a third farmer is arriving soon to work with us. Not only does this mean that I got to end and delete the airbnb at our second farm house–which was celebrated, to be sure (Take that endless laundry! Take that random broken things I kept stumbling upon!), but it also means more people, more elbow grease, more projects, more ideas, more diverse and integrated land use. It’s very exciting for us. I’m hoping the land and seasons will be good to them, and that the landscape–paired with our stunning summer sun downs–will sustain them through the harder days. If you’re in the Ottawa area and looking for a vegetable CSA, check out Rooted Oak Farm.

 

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After years of inner turmoil, we’ve managed to put an end to the endless cycle of cat reproduction, abandoned kittens, and frail/unwell cat population. With the support of the SPCA, we managed to trap them all, to bring them in to the SPCA in the city, and to adopt four of them once they were spayed/neutered and were given basic immunisations. I managed to keep a descendant of our beloved Olga (whom I named Helga), our eldest named two others Spaghetti and Migrak, and one (pictured above) is awaiting a poetic name. They’re still fairly wild and unapproachable, but I hope we’ll get to a friendly place with them. They’ve been back a week now, and we cross paths every other day at least, so I hope this means they’re still interested in being our resident barn cats. This place sure felt eery without them.

 

The melting snow means we finally found our wood pile (insulation for the win–those face cords sure last longer than they used to). We also sadly found that a bunch of the fruit trees we planted were damaged beyond repair by rodents over the winter. As we were originally going to be planting the fruit trees here and there in a windbreak with many other tree species, we didn’t take the time to read up about how to help fruit trees make it through the winter–a devastating oversight given that 90% of the trees were planted together in one field. They were clearly a quick and easy snack.

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Despite the mud and manure, and the febrile work of trying to get all of the web and newsletter and computer tasks done before outdoor spring work starts anew, I am savouring this hopeful time of year.

 

spring and snow and slowness.

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The first calf of the season was born. After spending a day trying to coax the mama and calf up to the barn from the back pastures (instead of say going to a cool local farming event, or doing any family day activities), this healthy, strapping calf was called Dimanche. A good early-in-the-season reminder that weekends are not guaranteed.

 

 

A week later, he’s still in top form. He still disregards fencing to hang out in the hay shed, but is venturing out further with his mama and is gaining well.

 

 

Thanks to three wily calves forcing their way through the flock’s netting repeatedly last week, the coop area’s fencing kind of screams « optional » at this point and they’re often out exploring.

 

 

The new snow, covering the deep mud field around our (construction zone) house and putting a pause on the Manure Smell of the spring thaw, made this place gorgeous for a slow weekend.

 

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Proof. The quick-sand-like mud was (and will be) real. But on that note, we made the decision to move our driveway to the back of the garden this year, between the garden and the corral in front of the barn, so this will be grass and play area later this spring-summer. It’ll up our safety game ten-fold to not have large farm machinery/farm traffic/any traffic so close to the house.

 

 

Sun times and pasture play. Complete with my 1.5 year old walking away from me to (try to) go hang out with our dairy cow.

 

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« C’est un soleil qui fait plisser les yeux, maman. »

Indeed, mon coeur. Indeed.

 

trauma and p.o. boxes

 

A few days ago, a three year old was found in a second story apartment with the corpses of his caregivers, his father and his father’s girlfriend. They had been dead for at least two days, according to reports. The cause of death appears to be overdose.

I can’t stop thinking about that three year old. I can’t begin to imagine the trauma inside that little body. Walking around that apartment alone for so long. Dark overnights by himself. Distress I can’t even fathom. The whole thing is just so tragic.

 

I wish there was a way to store all the warmth and thoughts people are feeling for that little person right now. Wish there was a way for that care to be bottled and saved for him, so that he knows down the road, when things get hard(er), that so many of us just wanted to hug him to safety, to bring him to the people who love him and to support those individuals as they mourn and struggle too. Or to be those loving people should he need them.

I wish Canada Post had p.o. boxes for stuff like this. To hold those messages for 5 or 10 years. Prayers. Words of solace. Drawings from other kids. Cheques for post-secondary education. Whatever people felt compelled to send.

I wish we, as a society, were better at dealing with trauma and addiction. I wish so many didn’t have to go it alone.

 

Dear world, please look out for that kid.

 

 

 

 

winter number three.

I still remember bracing myself when the first snows started at the end of our first autumn on the farm. A friend who grew up on a farm had told me, every season brings its own, and winter is a special kind of desolate. And it was.

It’s gotten better. We have the ropes down a bit better. We’re anchored in this place a bit more. My winter driving confidence has grown. But it still feels like a feat some days.

Waterers freeze. Electrical fencing in snowbank pastures is sometimes a bust. Doing a bunch of book keeping and accounting at a time of year when there are many bills to be paid and just about zero money coming in. It can wear on me.

I try to take in the landscape as often as I can.

 

The biggest winter challenge has been twofold. The number of freezing rain days and the degree and length of kid sickness this winter. The youngest was ill for 43 consecutive days with 3 different viruses/illnesses and there was, much to my dismay, a fair amount of in-house sickness sharing. While book keeping and hen tending isn’t a piece of cake with a feverish or barfing kid on your back/in your arms, my heart goes out to parents of young kids who work outside the home. How you all manage to keep your jobs when you have to stay home So. Much. with ill kids is impressive.

I drove one too many times on our (undivided, two lane) highway during freezing rain and decided that it wasn’t worth the ulcers I was giving myself or the nail prints dug through the steering wheel.

I drafted many a haiku about the very isolating qualities of barfing children and freezing rain.

 

Much of the season felt like an exercise in letting go and making peace.

Just like I let go and let all of the kids mix all of the play dough. (which just confirms my good sense in having my own secret stash of felt tip markers).

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My wood working project this winter was to up the perch to bird ratio in the coop. A number of the hens had been intent on sleeping on the straw and I wondered if it was because of the terrible criss cross perch pattern we had going on. That perch motif also made gathering eggs like playing the game Operation–the terrible buzzing game we played as kids. No fun.

I wanted to build this contraption with hinges to be able to fold it in to clean out the coop, which more or less worked. That is, it worked but it’d be too high up off the ground and would take up 3/4 of the coop. I ended up folding up the legs and just letting it rest on the straw bedding. Onward (for me) and upward (for the hens).

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I read that, for winter, rounded perches were less desirable. Apparently, a flat perch allows hens to warm their feet with their feathers as they sleep. I hope that isn’t hogwash.

 

I had been wanting to launch into a carpentry project of my own and on my own for a while. There always seemed to be something in the way. Too small of a car to bring the 2x4s home, space in the shop, consecutive hours sans kid.

I totally appreciate that so many of these challenges are my own mental blocks.

I thought about the wood projects as I would a wool project–which I typically have a much easier time to just plunge into. It takes a fair amount of time to find the wools, the needles, other assorted supplies : stitch markers, cable needles, pencils, etc.; to choose the right pattern, to make sure you have all the abbreviations down, that your sizing is correct. But once you do, it’s fairly smooth sailing. And often just the meditative hand work you need.

That being said, I started this knitting project back up as a way to deal with the stress of the sickness. I started it when I was pregnant with my eldest as a way to force myself to slow down. I was working and biking a lot then and was too exhausted at the day’s end. I bought the supplies and started knitting it four weeks before his due date. He was born a week later.

It feels very lovely and historical to get back into it. Thinking about what I was weaving through those threads then. The hopes, the unknowns, the energy too.

 

Here the hens pecked through a raw milk puck, preferring the fat content of the Jersey milk.

Our snow mountains are (surely) the envy of the land. And the warmth from our wood stove, post insulation renos, is remarkable.

 

 

In other news, the accounting work allowed me to see that the egg CSA business did actually make some money this year. I am grossly underpaid for my time, of course, but it is not the money sink and expensive hobby I feared it would be. The flock’s lay rate is still quite high despite the cold (around 80%), to boot. I really look forward to wheeling their mobile coop back out on pasture. Wet, damp, frosty spring is the worst for them. I’d bring them all in the house during the thaw if it wouldn’t be just 50 more (non-house trained) beings to clean up after.

 

Now the kids are healthier. The ice is starting to give way to the sun rays. The hens seem to know that soon they’ll get to exit the hay shed to pastured freedom. And thinking about seed catalogues and fruit trees hiding in the snow is fostering hope.

Dear creators of Paw Patrol

 

My children love the characters and stories you’ve created. They watch the show in English, which isn’t their mother tongue, and hearing them retell the plot lines in our family’s main languages is a really interesting and adorable time for all of us.

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That being said, we’re working hard to raise our boys to know that girls and boys have the same value, are capable of the same feats, can be interested in anything and everything independently of their sex, and that gender stereotypes limit everyone.

 

When I read the recent study by Andrei Cimpian out of New York University that showcases that girls as young as 6 doubt that women can be brilliant, I took a long hard look at the books and media that we have in our home. Countless studies have shown that representation is key—that Black children, Indigenous children, children with disabilities (etc) need to see themselves and their realities reflected in books, in movies, in songs. Historically, girls have not seen women excelling as super heroes, as engineers, as politicians to the same degree boys have. In fact, I say historically, but looking at recent programs and characters created for kids, I’m left wondering why the writers/illustrators/creators have shown no signs of moving away from casting almost exclusively boy or male characters as leads and of keeping up the practice of including a single token girl/pink/eye lashed character.

 

There appears to be a lasting, and I believe very destructive, belief that while girls can and will be interested in boy characters, that boys cannot possibly be expected to be interested in girl characters. I know from experience that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

My boys know that half of their classmates at school and at daycare are girls, that half of people, of dinosaurs, of animals on our farm (give or take) are or were female. I’m having a really hard time explaining to them why girls are so absent from Paw Patrol.

 

You have it within your power to help teach a new generation of boys and girls that girls are equally interesting, equally capable of saving the day, equally capable of being brilliant. I think it’s high time Ryder, Sky and the whole gang had some more girl company on your show.

 

Kind regards,

 

Josée Madéia.