19 September 2014

The 200 year present

Today I was introduced to the concept of the '200 year present'. For any individual, this is the span encompassed by the birth of the oldest person they have known and the death of the youngest person they will ever know. It is an idea credited to Quaker sociologist Elise Boulding and there is something about it which immediately struck me as significant.

Coincidentally, today is exactly 100 years since the birth of the oldest person I can claim to have known well, my maternal grandmother, Edna, who was known to her friends as 'Tommy' and who moved in with my family when I was twelve, just after my grandfather died (that's them on the right in a photo taken at my uncle's wedding, when I think Tommy would have been 49, just a bit older than I am now). This anniversary, I judge, places me exactly in the middle of my own 200 year span of presence on this planet.

And it's ironic, because I've spent much of my time in recent months buried in research on the local impact of the First World War: writing blog post after blog post whose titles begin '100 years ago:...'. Those 100 year anniversaries of army enlistments and horrific deaths have become something of an obsession, so perhaps it was not surprising that I remembered this more personally-relevant anniversary today.

Not that I don't think about my grandmother often. I didn't really like her very much (it feels shocking to write that, but it's the truth) and she had a big impact on my life. She lived with us throughout my teenage years and affected our family dynamic in fairly major ways. I generally resented her, and I think the feeling was mutual. Possibly I was more like her than I would have ever admitted at the time, and I think having her in my life was in some ways like having a glimpse into my own future. I'm fairly sure I deliberately made myself less like her (more caring, more compassionate, less selfish) as a consequence of seeing the way she treated other people, and my mother in particular.

I've been thinking about that difficult relationship more often of late, because we're still hoping to bring Mike's mother (another Edna) over to Canada to live with us (she had her medical last weekend, so we're now waiting to hear the result of that). If that plan works, we'll be extending another family-of-four into a family-of-five and I can't help but worry about how that might change things for all of us.

But with a 200-year-perspective view, I think that having her here will bring benefits for all of us, as well as challenges. It will broaden our field of vision and show us our life here through another perspective, as well as remind us all that nothing ever stays the same for very long.

07 September 2014

Apart and together

In quiet moments in the past few weeks I've been shelling my dry bean crop. There's something very satisfying about this job: popping out the beans and watching their respective piles grow. 

I'll be saving some of these to re-sow next year, but there should be a good few meals out of this harvest, too. Clockwise from the top they are Deseronto Potato, Early Mohawk, Jacob's Cattle, Hidatsa Red and Cherokee Trail of Tears.

This week I introduced the new chickens to the old ones. They are now sixteen weeks old and big enough not to be too picked-upon by the Buff Orpingtons.

The new chickens are still sleeping in a different area at night, but during the day they are now free to explore outside and it's great to see them pecking at the grass in the orchard. 

The two flocks are mostly keeping to themselves at the moment, but I imagine that will change as they become more accustomed to each other. Part of my rationale in getting more hens was to improve the proportions of males to females (which was 1:7).

One of the new Welsummers is looking distinctly male, however, so that aspect of my plan hasn't worked as expected! But with the 19 new hens, the ratio is now one male to eleven females so it has improved a little.