02 June, 2008

This Old House

I'm still here in the country, in this old house, though I don't know how long I can stay. It's a kind of funny existence, being in a place that feels so much like home, yet living out of a suitcase and never knowing if I will be leaving in a few days or not.

Unsettling, yet because the country is so easygoing and I'm here alone there is a kind of lulling rhythm that makes days pass as they should, with their center around cooking meals, drinking tea to warm up, getting yourself and the dishes and the house clean, getting in enough wood to keep off the early spring chill, trying to catch a ride once a week to the nearest grocery store in the next town, or finding when the Library down the street with the Internet connection, is open.

There is no telephone.

I am still alive.

Walking down to the stream over grass stretching its neck up to the new sun, being dazzled by fields of Dandelions, so yellow against the green grass that they make me think of hooking a rug with those same colours, a rug to lay against old uneven wood floors, a rug to hold spring close all year long.

A life where the excitement of the week is a squirrel in the house, and me chasing it from room to room urging "shoo, shoo", blithely ignored while she ricochets off the windows, does a trapeze act on the kitchen curtains, runs a circuit of the bathroom and the study and every room downstairs while I, finally a bit exasperated, pick up a broom, just to urge her out you understand, not to hit her, and resort to Lady MacBeth's cry of "Out! Out! Out! (Damned Squirrel).

That was after she had grazed my hair when she flew off the window, over my head, and onto the floor. I never had a squirrel hairdresser before, and I don't recommend it, unless you have better nerves than me, and like the wild look.

Not a clue how she got in. She popped out of the kitchen as I was watching TV one evening. After our chase she has decided to stay properly outside. I will show my appreciation for her forbearance by feeding her kitchen scraps when I have them. Well away from the house, I think.

It's pretty quiet here, as a home should be. The only noise is when the neighbors on two sides take to trying to tame the grass and dandelions. One with a big mower attached to his tractor and the other with an even louder gas-powered mower. Fortunately they're not at it all the time. I prefer the quiet method, let it grow and ripple and wave in beautiful patterns in the wind. At least for now that is a fine solution. If I get any ticks or get lost on the short trip to the stream or the Rhubarb patch, I may change my mind.

Rhubarb. Is there any welcomer spring "fruit"? Of course I know it's a vegetable but by the time you get it stewed with a bit of brown sugar, or settling inside a pie, you forget that it's anything but darned good. I haven't had rhubarb for more than seven years. In fact I don't remember when I ate it last. But so far I've cut short stalks and had it twice, and it's still growing, with a little more patience from me now that I've had a bit, so I hope to have it a third time before I leave here. I'd love to make a recipe for a good gluten-free rhubarb pie. If I had anything but a wood-fired oven I'm sure I'd have one by now.

A wood-fired oven, in a stove called "Sweetheart". Sounds romantic, doesn't it?

It's damned tricky. You have to get the temperature up high enough for cooking, which takes a couple of hours of good "charging". And a lot of wood. I surmise that the heat is correct when the wood has burned to coals. It's a whole new science. There's a lot to learn. I ruined the first cornbread, which did not ever really cook. The squirrel got most of that one. Funny she came back for more.

I want that pie, though, so maybe I'll try it this week. I can justify it by heating some hot water for washing at the same time. For there is no hot water here, except what I heat. And there is no washing machine. It's all by hand. Back to basics, yet so far I don't mind. There's only me to wash and to wash for. I can manage that.

Looking out the window now at more beauty than I thought possible, a green field full of yellow flowers, trees above that with their caps set to the wind, sky as delicate bright blue as my dreams of a Nova Scotian sky when I was in Japan. The solidity of a house, in a small town, on the earth, on this day when I can easily imagine the life of my great-grandparents and grandparents. I feel I have tapped into a kind of life that has always been right here. Inside the house but for the computer and TV and electricity, I might be living a hundred years ago. I can almost hear the whispers and footsteps of ghostly ancestors.

"Home", they whisper. "Home", they groan. "Home", they sigh.

It is a place to just be.

A place to love.

This old house.


Ruahines said...

Tena Koe VJ,
The house looks so cool! I reckon those voices of old are Karma for you. I wish was there to have a lash at that wood stove, it looks amazing. You are absolutely correct, get a good bed of hot coals going, preferably hardwood, oak, maple, ect., then you can control the temp by adding as much or little as you need. I am sure you will be enjoying the rhubarb pie very soon. My camp oven would be perfect for that stove.
Beautiful post VJ, your words and description exude peace and calm and relaxation. I am happy for you.

vegetablej said...


Thank you so much. When I'm at that house I do feel very peaceful. I wish you were here too to give me some hints on the stove. Maybe I'll get used to baking on it, but think it might take a while.

Not quite so peaceful this week because up in the city job hunting, getting a cell phone (for getting work) and an Internet connection ( for possible online teaching work). If it is possible to piece together some online teaching gigs, I might just be able to stay in the country longer term, which would be a really good thing. :)

Going over to your site to read some more. See you and Tara had an anniversary. Many good wishes!!!!

Ginger said...

i like the house j, and i know you'll have that stove figured out in no time. wish i could try your pie.

seamaiden said...

Oh my goodness, that stove! I envy you the house and the view... apartment life is not all it's cracked up to be, but at least I have a balcony where I can grow my beloved tomatoes. Beautiful post- glad I finally got a chance to catch up with you. Welcome home!


vegetablej said...


Now it's gotten a bit warm to use the stove, so I'm looking for pie alternatives. I did a little pie substitute that I may make a post about. Kind of a shortbread recipe with rhubarb. Not bad.

The house is lovely and every day I'm here I count as blessed. Right now the neighborhood is full of Lilac trees in full bloom and the scent is gorgeous.

And what could be better than a wind in the trees and bird serenade as I write this? This place takes me back to my childhood in the country, lazy summer days with a side of ocean air.


vegetablej said...


Thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear you are growing those beautiful heirloom tomatoes again. I can hear the recipes fulminating right now. :)

And thanks for the welcome, _really_ enjoying this almost magical time.

Martin J Frid said...

That stove is a real treasure. I was always hoping I could meet you before you left Japan, and I could tell you stories of the old Husqvarna wrought iron wood stove in my grandfather's house back in Osby, Sweden.

You are never alone when you got a stove like that.

vegetablej said...

I'd love to hear the stories, Martin. Maybe you could make a post about your grandfather's stove? I always think stories like that are worth telling, and it does have a bit of an environmental tie-in. Do you have any memories of food cooked on it or recipes?

You may be right about the stove. It does have a strong presence; you could say it is almost an entity, and certainly I could aim some of the "talking to myself" in its direction and maybe fancy myself heard and answered.