Chicken Soup: Spirit of Canada

With all the Canada 150 celebrations it might not be surprising that the Chicken Soup for the Soul publication jumped on this opportunity to publish a book dedicated to stories about Canada.  Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of Canada includes 101 stories of what it’s like to be Canadian.  What does that mean? Think snow storms, cottages, hockey, kindness, small town living, exploring nature, and all the other feel good moments that are associated with living in Canada.

My story “Temporary Town” about my experience moving to Northern Ontario, discovering Thessalon, and falling in love with a surprisingly vibrant rural community is featured in the book.

And Then There Were Chickens

Chickens!

Chickens!

One of the unexpected parts of our move from Oslicken Acres into the Soo was the acquisition of a small group of chickens.  The family we bought the house from had a small group of chickens they were keeping in their backyard.  Rather than moving the chickens in the middle of winter they asked us if we would be interested in having them.

When Andrew presented me with the idea of having chickens I was not all that enthusiastic.  I was thinking of all of the stress associated with moving and having one more thing to look after during the move. I’m also the kind of person who wants to learn a lot about an animal before getting one and I knew virtually nothing about chickens.  Enter Google and book purchases to help us up our chicken game.

The only black chicken among the seven might be my favourite...don't tell the other chickens.

The only black chicken among the seven might be my favourite…don’t tell the other chickens.

Despite my initial reluctance I’m really enjoying having our small group of seven chickens.  They are surprisingly friendly – though I am the one that feeds them so that

might be part of their friendliness.  And yes there is a little bit of extra work associated with keeping but hem I’m getting a whole lot of joy out of visiting them every morning and evening.  Plus they make tasty eggs!

I do realize that given the cost of their feed, bedding, and the time required to take care of them we aren’t really saving money on eggs.  But I think the enjoyment factor is

a pretty key reason to keep them.  It’s also teaching Little Miss about caring for animals and where her food comes from which I think is a really important life lesson.  We moved from the country to the city and became chicken owners in the process – a little backwards but definitely fun.

On the Road Again

Part of my daily work routine includes spending two hours in a car.  I am a commuter and I drive one hour each direction as part of my work day.  I commute from rural to urban and public transit isn’t an option.  I have carpooled in the past but I’m currently driving solo.  The drive is in Northern Ontario so I actually cover about 100 km of road in an hour, it’s mostly highway and other than the occasional snow storm it is generally an easy drive.  I sit on cruise control and listen to a lot of podcasts, books, and CBC.

Office Space Commute.  Not an accurate representation of my commute which has no traffic.

Office Space Commute. Not an accurate representation of my commute which has no traffic.

I know that many people commute, sometimes for their entire working career.  It’s fairly common in urban settings that commuting is an accepted part of life. That’s a less common mentality in Northern Ontario and I occasionally strange looks when people find out where I live.  And I do love where I live – it’s rural, we have a huge amount of space for gardens, forested trails, and I like the laid back pace of the small community we live in.  It’s 15 minutes to the cottage and family is a short drive away.  In some ways I can’t imagine living anywhere else – we got married in a field at our house and there already so many memories attached to this space.

In November I will have been doing this drive for six years.  On the conservative side this means I’ve spent over 2,600 hours in my car, driving on the same chunk of the trans-Canada highway. I struggle with the cost, the time, the environmental impact and whole range of other factors associated with the drive (animal run-ins included).  On the other hand, I do like the decompression and listening time I get in the car. But I’ve been struggling a lot recently with a sense of disconnection from community that seems to be aggravated by commuting.

At times I feel like I don’t spend leisure time in the city where I work and I also don’t spend quality time in the rural community/small town near where I live. It’s a bit like living in between spaces, being part of both but while simultaneously feeling like you’re on the outside of both communities. Partially it has to do with exhaustion and there only being so much time in the day.  I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling this more so since Little Miss was born. I want to spend time with her and she currently goes to bed crazy early, if I come straight home from work I get about 1.5 hours a day with her — which is a drop in the hat on the grand scale of things, but is better than nothing.  If I do errands after work, have coffee with friends in the evening, or anything else in the city there’s a good chance I don’t see her at all that day.  I know this will change as she gets older but I imagine things also have the potential to be complicated in terms of juggling my commute, after-school care, and her extra-curricular activities (especially if those activities take her into the very city I’m commuting from).

I also struggle with participating in evening activities in the small town, mostly because of the burned out feeling that comes with the drive. There’s a much more limited selection of activities in that small town, so staying in the city is the only option is you want to do something like catch a movie or eat takeout pizza (yes, really – the nearest pizza place is an hour away from my home).  A similar thing often happens on weekends – there may be an interesting culture based activity on the city, but by that point in the week I have zero desire to get back into the car and drag the whole family on a drive that feels all too familiar.

I’m genuinely curious about how other commuters bridge that connection gap and how they find balance in their driving/work/leisure/family lives.  Perhaps I’m simply not doing a good job of seeking out meaningful connections in those two different communities (or picking one to focus on) and using exhaustion is an excuse – I don’t know.  And I’m not sure what the right answer is to finding balance and I’m sure it’s different for everyone and might change depending on life circumstance.  Back in the car I go.

Around The Apple Trees

The property we now call Oslicken Acres has some interesting stories attached to it. As we spend time in the house and around the land we sometimes get a feeling of that history coming to life, as well as physical reminders of those who came before us.

A year or so after moving in I noticed a little clearing visible in the forest beyond an open field area. Upon closer inspection I found in that clearing a stack of rocks and a small plastic box. On the bottom of the box was stamped the words “Cremation Services”. The box was laid back on it’s spot on the rock pile where it now remains.  It’s still a mystery as to who is eternally resting there.

It has also been said that one of the couples who owned the property are
buried under an apple tree here. There are a number of apple trees on the property so we try to avoid digging near any of them! We also have a section of trail through the forest that is consistently a number of degrees cooler than other areas around the property. If our cat CC sees us walking in that direction she will often begin caterwauling, which we have to assume is a warning for us not to proceed. We have never heeded the warning, and so far we are still ok, but we wonder what she knows that we don’t!

We also have a regular visitor to our home in the form of a small bird. There are a lot of birds around but this particular bird seems to desperately want to come into the house.  It repeatedly flies up to our bedroom window and flaps it’s wings against the glass. This has been happening off and on for the last few years.  It’s very likely that there’s a simple explanation for this behavior, but I often wonder if a former resident is trying to return to the home that they know.

There is something satisfying and comforting to me that our time here is just a small blip in even the short history of the settlement of this property. Many have come before us and experienced similar things. And many will come after.