20 March 2010

Moving Manure Mountain

The previous owners of our house had a horse. And you know what horses do? That’s right, they make manure. And when the horse left the premises, a whole lot of that manure was left behind.

With spring on its way, we thought it might be nice if our guests didn’t have to walk past a giant pile of dung every time they wanted to go for a walk in the woods, so Milé, Guy and I decided we would tackle manure mountain and relocate it to the other side of the horse pasture. Eventually it will break down enough to make great compost in our gardens, but for right now, that mountain had to move.

Guy sends a text message from beside Manure Mountain, quite possibly ‘H-E-L-P’.

We started bright and early. We had two shovels, a pitchfork, and a couple of wheelbarrows that we named Old Bob and Vincent. Old Bob was another inheritance from the previous owners; his wheel was flat, he was held together with bits of wire, and he tipped over from time to time, poor old fella. Vincent, on the other hand, was raring to go. This was his first real job, as we’d just adopted him from County Farm Centre in Picton.

Shovel by shovel we loaded up the wheelbarrows, time and time again. Now, you may think that this sounds like pretty rotten work for recent city transplants like us, but it wasn’t so bad. We approached the task like we do any other: with humour, creativity, and an eye for the absurd. We composed rap songs in honour of the dung, we marveled over the variety of colours, we laughed and made jokes and actually managed to have a really good time.

Back and forth across the pasture we hauled those wheelbarrows, carving out a path in the grass which we christened ‘The Pony Express.’ We grunted, we sweated, we developed blisters. And yet somehow, incredibly, the mountain seemed to be GROWING.

But it’s really just a matter of perspective. Because sometimes you’re on top of the pile…

And sometimes you’re underfoot…

And sometimes you're just waiting to transform and take flight…

Moving manure mountain wasn’t nearly as bad as a lot of the work that I’d done living in the city. Besides, I’d rather be shoveling literal shit over figurative shit any day of the week.

16 March 2010

Blackbird Before Breakfast

Early this morning I was working in my office, when Milé shouted from the dining room, "Someone is trying to get in through the vent!" Uh, what?

Our house has several old chimneys where wood stoves used to be. One of these vents into the dining room, and is covered by a removeable pie-plate-type cover. And now something (someone?) was pushing against this cover, trying to get in.

Milé left me holding the plate against the wall while he went outside to see what he could see - which was nothing. He came back in and grabbed a garbage can and a cookie sheet to try and trap the invader. Guy came downstairs, having just woken up, and put on his safety goggles. I got the video camera. And this is what ensued:

There's nothing like a blackbird before breakfast to get your day off to an interesting start!

14 March 2010


When Krista and I first came out to have a look at the property back in the fall of 2009, we knew it was 87 acres, but we didn't really have a concept of just how big that was. About a month after that first visit, I came back to the County by myself and (with our phenomenal realtor Mark Gardiner) drove along two lengths of the property. That sure seemed big, but it still didn't give me a good sense of the area. Yesterday afternoon, Krista and I went on a little walkabout with our current houseguest, Guy Doucette, to see what we could see.

Here we are (Guy with umbrella, Krista with hood, and me with camera) at the  threshold of our adventure of discovery. That last white carpet of snow seemed designed just for us, beckoning us to walk deeper into the woods. On the other side of the trees on the right is Clarke Road, maybe only 20 metres away but, except when the rare car drove by, it seemed to me that we were already deep in the woods.

This is what that pathway leads to: a giant open field. Perfect for UFO landings.

This is a different field. I thought I saw remnants of crop circles but Krista assured me it was a deer route and that it was just trampled grass.

Same field as above (I think...there are a lot of fields broken up by lines of trees); the first field pictured is visible past that first line of trees. This one is good for lying down in and looking at the stars. Until the UFOs land.

Guy heads back to the house. He'll be staying with us for the summer to help us establish Small Pond Arts during its first year, but he's already eager to get to work. His talents and skills are many, and you'll definitely be seeing more of him on this blog --and certainly if you visit us in person.

Just to the left of Guy you can see the silo, and just to his right is the roof of the former horse barn. This is our backyard. Or the backyard of the backyard of our backyard.

Signs of spring on a rainy day: moss and fungi on a fallen fence post. Our property is alive with vegetation and wildlife; we've only seen deer tracks and poops, but the birds are beginning to nest in the nearby trees...and spring's greening effects are just around the corner.

This would be the backyard of our backyard. The actual backyard (as reckoned by suburban standards) would usually end at the back of the shed just to the left of the house, next to the pool.

Even though it was a little chilly and drizzly, our walkabout was wondrous, elating, and it gave us a pretty good idea of how big our Small Pond is.

11 March 2010

Going to Town

I’ve never been a driver. Until our recent move to the country, I’ve always lived in cities, and have never felt the need to drive. I’m a walker, a transit user, and not just a cyclist, but something of a cycling activist. So how does a girl adapt to these new, more remote, surroundings?

A few months before we moved out here we bought a van, and with some reluctance I set about the process of getting my driver’s license. At 37 years old I am learning to drive, a somewhat nerve-wracking experience unto itself.

Yesterday while Milé was at work with the van, I was painting one of the bedrooms when I ran out of paint. Determined to be as self-sufficient as always, I pumped up my bike tires and headed towards town.

It was another glorious spring day, perfect for a bike ride in the country. I relished the fact that for the most part I had the road entirely to myself, unlike the constantly perilous city riding that I was accustomed to.

Biking to Picton was easy, half of it spent cruising down the steep and scenic Macaulay Mountain. I made it to Main Street in only 20 minutes, including a stop at the slightly anticlimactic Millennium Lookout and some brief bush-whacking while pushing my bike in search of a non-existent shortcut. I headed for Canadian Tire on the far edge of town, and was surprised to find there was a bike rack outside the store (only enough space for three bikes, but hey, I was impressed there was a bike rack at all).

In my 15 minutes at Canadian Tire, I had conversations with three different people. That just wouldn’t happen in Toronto, or most big cities, where people are so busy busy busy they don’t have time to talk to strangers. It’s incredibly refreshing, although it does require a change of my own mindset; I have to keep reminding myself that strangers talk to each other here, and that means I have to, too.

So, with a gallon of paint in my bike basket, I headed home. Going though town was easy and pleasant, but once I reached the foot of that mountain… I knew there was no way I was riding up it. So I got off and walked my bike at the side of the road, sunshine on my face.

All in all, the trip to town and back took about an hour and a half, at a relaxed pace with several stops along the way. Not ideal if you’re in a rush, but that’s okay. I’ve been rushing my whole life. It’s time to slow down and smell the country air. And I love that I can do that from the seat of my bicycle.

Sign from Main Street Picton

07 March 2010

From the Shoebox to the Silo

For the first time in my life, I have my own front porch. And from this porch, oh what a view:

But it's more than just a pretty view. It's the culmination of years of hard work, dreaming, scheming and planning. One week ago my husband Milé and I moved from a shoebox apartment in downtown Toronto to an old farm house on 87 acres of land in Ontario's Prince Edward County.

The last week has been gruelling: lifting, sweating, stressing, painting, fixing, shopping, driving, going up and down thousands of stairs, all on very little sleep. And it’s been one of the happiest weeks of my life.

Why “meet me at the silo?”

One of the buildings on our property is an old concrete, roofless silo. In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would one day own a silo; but this one literally came with the territory, so a silo is what we’ve got.

And you know what? We love our silo.

Our friend Mike and his son Lucas came over yesterday, saving us from a messy marathon of wallpaper removal. We opened a bottle of wine - and the lone can of Sprite – and gave them a tour of our disheveled, mid-move home. It was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon, so we put on our boots and waded through snow and mud puddles to explore some of the property. Milé and I had been so busy moving, we hadn’t even had a chance to walk around since we bought the place in October. It was every bit as beautiful and intriguing as when we first saw it.

Stands of red cedar, clearings and trails, deer tracks in the snow, a cluster of ladybugs hiding under an old piece of wood, clean air and country quiet. And there were also tires, car parts, an old couch, and an overgrown swing set. Apparently acquiring loads of junk is a commonplace occurence when buying a place in the country. I don't mind too much, we'll work all of it into some sort of sculpture.

In my mind, I remembered the silo as having a door. It doesn’t. It has a low window that you can crawl through; that is, once you hack your way through a bunch of bushes. So, the four of us climbed into the silo, wine glasses carefully passed in once the threshold had been crossed. A silo – and one with no roof, at that – is a pretty cool place to hang out. First off, it’s just an unusual shape to be in. When else do you get to hang out in a giant cylinder? Secondly, the acoustics are amazing. When your voice sounds that good, it imbues every conversation with a sense of importance. And laughter sounds really, really good as it echoes up to the sky above; and that afternoon there was a lot of laughter.

Milé and I contemplated the name of this blog for a long time. The writer in me relishes naming things. A name is like an ultra-short short story. What kind of story do you want to tell with the name of your blog/play/song/company/baby? After our afternoon of adventure with Mike and Lucas, the image of the silo become obvious; as you approach our property, it is the first building that you see, an unmissable landmark that tells you that you've arrived.

And why do we want you to meet us at the silo? Well, the story of our company, Small Pond Arts, is a story about visitors. It is about the artists and art-lovers that will come to visit us, and leave a beautiful little piece of themselves behind. So meet us at the silo, and together maybe we'll sing to the stars.