Confusion over Retirement

The confusion comes from thinking I’d better hurry to do whatever things I have on my list of chores, and then realise I have all the time in the world, so why panic?  I guess it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment after 40 odd years of working to truly understand my time is my own.  Scary.

So the days pass in a general haze of grocery shopping, house cleaning, gardening and cooking for mom.  That’s now one of my main activities, and it’s quite an enjoyable one.  When I visit mom I fill a large cooler with individually frozen meals as well as things she likes like muffins.

Margaret visited on the weekend, and I made a vat of butter chicken.  I had a lot left over and so I was able to freeze some of that and will take it to mom.  I should’ve made it a bit hotter as Jan was quite perplexed by the lack of heat.  Certainly I could never make it to her heat standards as it would kill everyone else.

Luke and Nicky went to Osoyoos on the weekend, and camped at the beach below mom’s.  Dan, AKA The Boarder, met them there, and then Dan’s whole family showed up so it was a merry time in the rain, but in tents, and Nicky said they built a roaring fire.

I was certainly glad of the rain as it meant I didn’t have to water the containers and some beds.  I’m very fussy about how my dahlias are watered as I don’t want a sprinkler shooting into them, weighing them down and breaking them due to their large blooms.  So my dahlias are all hand watered.

One of the dahlias is about to bloom, so once we get back into some sun and heat it’ll open and I can see which colour and shape it is.  I surprise myself each year as I never label them, so when I plant the bulbs I have no idea what kind I’ve planted in the various areas of the garden.  I then wait with giddy excitement to see where they bloom.

George comes in in the mornings quite beaten up around the face.  He has scabs on his nose and ear and isn’t even one year old yet.  I wonder if he’s out there fighting around with other cats or if he’s just being pecked by helpless birds as they try to avoid being eaten.  He’s a voracious hunter as is his sister.

Fuji’s here most days, and as I write this all four animals are fast asleep.  The cats are getting their strength for the night time outings of fighting and hunting and the dogs are waiting for their “dinner” which occurs at 3:00 PM.

One new addiction I’ve noticed since being retired is my addiction to You Tube.  I don’t have cable, so I just watch the shows the next day.  I’m really fine with that, as I wouldn’t be awake for the Late Show with Steven Colbert.  However every single day I watch it starting around the dog’s dinner hour.

Naturally this leads to no good as by 4:00 PM one thinks oh heck the sun’s under the yardarm so what’s better than a cocktail?  I start to cook my dinner and then settle in to several more hours of You Tube shows and docs, as well as Netflix’ offerings.  And then if I feel bad about it all, I say, but you’re retired.  You can do whatever you damn well please, so I do.

Hive Update

My pal Lorraine came over the other day to help me inspect the hives and to see if I actually managed to start a second one.  You’ll recall I forgot one frame of brood after reversing the hives, so decided to try and start a new one using that frame.  I also noticed a queen cell on the lid of the old hive so stuck that on top and hoped for the best.

As soon as we inspected it we could see a lot of drone brood but no queen.  So Lorraine inspected the large hive, which is really healthy, and from there she selected another frame of brood and moved it into the new hive.  She said we just have to keep doing that until eventually they give in and make a new queen.

An easier way to do it would be to pay $35 for a queen and just throw her in there but that’s not my style of beekeeping.  I said to Lorraine in the wild they make a queen as no one introduces one for them, so that’s what’s going to be the Hall Road beekeeping style: all natural.

And speaking of ‘au naturel’ I was recently in Osoyoos as Gerry’s son David came to visit from Virginia.  He brought his lovely new girlfriend with him, and she’s a super nice person and we all got along beautifully.

Mom had told us our canoe had gotten away during the recent floods and a neighbour had called to say she had rescued it for us.  David said he’d like to paddle the canoe home so I said let’s go and walk down to their place and see if the paddles are there, and if not new ones have to be bought.

The three of us sauntered down to the house, and were greeted warmly as they’re long time Osoyoos residents.  They keep their yard and lawn as well as their house in a casual, natural manner.  I suppose their lifestyle might be described by some as Bohemian.

We visited briefly and then left to walk on the road beside the length of hedge which obscures their house.  As we walked by one of them said “that was weird.”  And we enjoyed that comment all the way home as one always thinks the other person is the odd one.

The garden remains as mentally challenging as ever.  Some of the dahlias are coming up, and some aren’t, which is annoying.  The fig tree’s spindly and I think needs a good pruning.  Ditto with the poor apricot which leans to one side and this year is laden with apricots so will likely break at some point.

I was digging in the lower garden and was suddenly swarmed by those small, black, ground dwelling wasps.  I was stung on my upper thigh and ran for the house as fast as my fat little legs could get me there.  They’re so vicious they’ll follow for quite a while.

And then due to the flooding we have an awful lot of large mosquitoes about.  I can barely do one stationary job without being swarmed.  If I have to tie up a rose bush branch and it takes more than 30 seconds I have a dozen on my arms.

But I can take a hint and use that as the signal it’s time to come in and have a cocktail.

The Accident Prone World of the Gardener

I believe I’ve fallen either four or five times in this yard.  The other day I was going to weed whack the lawn’s edges, and had on runners and not the usual flip flops, so you’d think I’d be extra safe.  However mom always called me a bull in a China shop, and it’s quite true, I do seem to be good at ramming into things.

Luke was getting his useless car ready for sale, and I was shouting over my shoulder at him I wanted that thing out of the garage as soon as possible.  In this moment of ire I tumbled over my own feet and fell right down, slamming my knee, hand and chin into the ground.

Luke ran over saying “mom are you okay?” and I stood up, bleeding from three areas, and said “yeah, I’m fine, but can you continue the weed whacking?” and went into the house to bandage the various areas.  Soon after I was back out, killing myself working in the yard.

It’s a strange obsession, and I’m quite surprised at the hours per day I put into it now that I’m retired.  I suppose I’m still getting the hang of being retired, too, so can’t believe my good fortune in having all of every minute of every day to myself.

Well nearly.  I do have to tend to mom who had a terrible cold but was given antibiotics by the doctor to ward off pneumonia.  She’s now okay, and I went to Osoyoos for Mother’s Day and made a nice lunch for us.  A family friend came too, and I made chocolate bread pudding for dessert which we all wolfed with manic delight.

And I did spend time with helping Jan look for a new job, but luckily she’s very employable and it took less than three days for her to find one.  She’s been cooking for a very long time and wanted to get into a new line of work, and has just been hired by the Coast Capri as a room attendant.

I took her to the interview, and the head housekeeper said as much as she appreciated me coming along, she wanted to see if she could understand Jan, and if Jan could understand her.  I said “consider me invisible.  I won’t speak.”  I then proceeded to observe the interview which was going along quite well.

Then the woman said to Jan, “would you mind being cross trained in both laundry and house keeping?”  I saw the wheels turning in Jan’s head.  She must’ve wondered what a lot of that meant, and hesitated, but finally said wherever they want her to work, that’s where she’ll work.

I’m often reminded of Manuel, the waiter in the old British TV show called Fawlty Towers.  He couldn’t understand a word of English and it was hilarious.  Please Google it and watch a few episodes if you’ve never seen it.

When Beverly was here for her recent visit with her pug she kindly helped me weed some of the so-called gout weed out of my beds.  We decided if I do this for one hour each day, someday I’ll be rid of that menace.

I foolishly planted it 20 years ago when it looked so nice around the base of a neighbour’s tree.  Little did I know it’d escape and take over every single square inch of my flower beds.  So it’s a good thing I’m now retired, isn’t it?

I May Have Started a New Bee Hive

As you may know, my smaller bee hive didn’t make it through the winter.  I did some research on dividing a hive, and it all sounded kind of complicated.  One needs to find frames with brood and nurse bees and then somehow acquire a queen.  I thought it seemed awfully complicated an antithetical to bees in the wild.

My old hive is going great guns, and constantly makes queen cells just because they always want to swarm.  It’s a very full hive, so I went down the other day and decided to reverse the frames, and see if I could start a new hive using queen cells.

This hive is mean and aggressive, and I had to suit up entirely.  I went down with my smoker lit, took off the lid, and began to remove the frames.  Many were coated in capped brood and bees, and I placed them down on the ground.

I got an empty box and returned all of the frames, then got the other hive box and placed it on top.  To my annoyance and dismay, I noticed I had forgotten one frame, and it was filled with brood and bees.

So I thought oh why not, and got a new hive box, put in the frame of brood, and then added some frames for them to fill.  The lid from the old hive box contained a queen cell, so I stuck it on top, thinking good luck, bees.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, and so it’s kind of exciting.  Will there be another airplane engine noise in my yard, signalling another swarm?  Will they actually make a queen in my new hive?  To be continued.

I transplanted my fig, which has been in the greenhouse for about a month and already has pea-sized baby figs.  It’s now so heavy I had to go and buy a dolly as there’s no way I can lift it into the wheel barrow.  But it’s worth it as I’m crazy over that tree.

My niece Julie and her family came to Osoyoos to visit mom, so I arrived on Friday with a cooler filled with food for the event.  They have a 4 year old girl and 18 month old boy who are both adorable, so I tried to think of kid-friendly food.

On Friday I made lasagne, and Saturday chicken with vegetables in a white sauce over spaghetti.  I’d made a chocolate zucchini and a banana loaf, so we had that on had for dessert, though on Saturday I made bread pudding which everyone loved.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a weekend suitable for celiacs.  We had friends Stu and Martha for lunch on Saturday and I made a potato salad, devilled eggs, ham, salami, homemade chicken pate and sliced bread.  A lot of carbs were consumed over the nearly 48 hours.

Back to a tiny steak and a large amount of vegetables for dinner in the hopes of undoing some of the caloric ravages.  My stomach once again resembles that of the American president.

And tomorrow Beverly, my friend of 40 years, is coming with her pug for a couple of days of R and R, which will involve thrift store shopping.  I very much doubt I’ll be on any kind of a restricted food program, so I remain fascinated at where all this will end.

Autopsies can be Motivating

The other week I saw a show on Netflix called Post Mortem, which was an autopsy of an obese woman in her early sixties.  It helped me visualise the thick rind of fat that lies just under my skin and grows thick on my belly area.  I can grab and shake the gut, so you just know what’s inside there.

So this has helped me moderate my food intake somewhat, and I also started doing 30 minutes of any old weight training show that pops up when I Google that topic.  I have a mat and weights, so can easily do this at home and it’s very convenient as I can do it whenever the urge hits.

I’ve been walking Louie daily for the past five years, and now adding the home exercise program is another good thing to fit into my retired person’s regime.  There’s nothing better for the nerves than to wake up in the morning and think what do I have to do today and answer “nothing!”

Well nothing I don’t want to do, but I seem to be awfully busy with things like baking and cooking as I take stuff to mom when I visit.  Mom’s a hound for muffins, so last week I baked blueberry, oatmeal and applesauce and your standard bran and raisin.

This mercury retrograde has brought all sorts of malevolence, as poor old Mango died.  He was missing for a day, then showed up making a terrible yowling cry.  It came deep from inside the cat and scared the hell out of the other two cats and the dog.

I called the nice mobile vet, and she came at 10:30 AM and immediately determined something horribly painful was going on in the cat’s abdomen.  He was covered in urine.  She said it could be so many things, though she ruled out being hit by a car.  She said she’d have to sedate him and take him in to do tests.  Even then she said she couldn’t guarantee she could fix the cat.

So I said no, Mango wouldn’t like that at all, and as he was almost 14 I said just sedate the cat and put him down.  He was very strong and she said it took three times the sedative to calm the cat.  I was then able to put him on my lap and he started to purr.

The vet put in the needle and I scratched his head, saying good bye, good bye, good bye, and then he was gone.  I held him for a moment then the vet took him and wrapped him up to be taken away for cremation.  We hugged as I cried and she said it’s the worst part of her job.

I recently noticed my smaller bee hive perished over the winter, so that’s $170 down the drain.  I said to Lorraine perhaps she and I can find a queen cell and move that frame over to the hive and start a new colony.  That’d be fab as I really don’t want to buy another queen and colony and have them die too.

Old Syl showed up with my honey extractor and said it’s all fixed so I hope to get some honey from the big hive this summer and test it out.  It’s sunny but cold and the other day I put a pollen patty on the hive to get the queen laying like mad.  I hope I don’t get another swarm though.

Now here it is April 1, Easter Sunday and Louie’s 5th birthday.  I’ve walked him and did my obligatory weights, and thanks to the visuals I carry from the autopsy, I won’t be eating any Easter chocolates this year.

Locked in the Car Wash

You know when you’re in the car wash, and you see the sign that says if there’s a problem honk your horn?  For years and years I wondered what it’d be like to be stuck in the car wash and actually need to do that.  So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be me the other day.

I was happily sitting in the car, watching the big round brushes soap up and then rinse off the car, and then it was time to move forward to the dryer.  I did that and was kind of annoyed as the bay door remained closed so I couldn’t inch my way out and allow all sides of the car to get hit by the hot air.

Finally the clock had ticked down to zero, the door remained closed and I could see a car waiting to come in, however thankfully that door didn’t open either.  I got out of my car and was wondering what to do, and was starting to imagine myself standing there receiving the brushes full of soapy water if the other door did open.

I got back into my car and honked.  Waited and honked, and wondered what on Earth was going to happen next.  I got back out of the car and the nice East Indian man who runs the garage came in and asked, “what do you have a problem with?” and I explained I couldn’t get out.

He simply reached under the bay door and forced it open and I drove out, heart pounding from the experience.  Now I know what happens if there’s a problem in the car wash, though I imagined it more along the lines of the soapy stuff not turning off and being there for hours.

Here’s some excellent news.  Even though it’s still very cold, I noticed there’s life in both of my bee hives.  The large, older hive has quite a bit of activity, and the small, new hive has just a few bees buzzing around.  I have the pollen patties all ready to put inside, but it has to be at least 10 degrees C or they’ll hate the cold air.

Syl the elderly handyman never did return my honey extractor, so not sure if he’ll turn up with it one of these days or not.  If he doesn’t, I’ll be just as glad as I think I might bite the bullet and buy an automatic one.  God knows, if both hives do well I should have quite a bit of honey this year.

And the extractor I have is almost completely useless as one can only spin two frames at a time, and then it’s a helluva mess getting the honey out of the bottom of that drum.  Whoever designed that thing should be hunted down and shot.

Last year I ordered dahlias from Connie’s Dahlias in Nanoose Bay, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do.  I dug through the snow in early November to dig out mine but there’s always some that don’t make it through the winter.  They’re my favourite flower so I’m going to go big with them.

My dear old cat Mango, aged 14 in two weeks, hasn’t showed up and it’s a bit of a worry given he’s almost always around due to his age.  Wednesday the marauding tuxedo cats have their spaying and neutering.  I don’t need to be locked in a car wash as I find I can have nervous breakdowns all on my own, just from pet ownership.

Mayan Adventure Part 2

We got up on the morning of Wednesday February 7th, and had to pack and make our way to Playa del Carmen to drop the rental car.  Due to the margarita to go the night before, then beer at the condo, Margaret woke up hungover, and despite a couple of Gravol, continued to feel bad.

Again, just for the hell of it I suppose, we drove off with the gas tank near E, then had anxious minutes as we prayed for a gas station on our way north.  We managed to find one just prior to getting into Playa del Carmen, and then using Margaret’s phones’ GPS we found our way to the car rental place and dropped the car.

Now we were on foot with our suitcases, carry-on bags, bag of leftover food from the condo, stinking humid and hot weather, an awful lot of tourists, and Margaret swearing she was going to puke at any moment.  Somehow we dragged all of our stuff to the ferry and paid a very cheap $20 round trip to Cozumel.

We’d been advised the half-hour crossing could be rough, and to sit below deck if that was the case.  It was fairly calm, but it was much nicer to be inside anyway, and in the air conditioned cabin rather than being wind-whipped and sun-beaten on the upper deck.

We were happy to see Avis car rental was right at the ferry dock so I signed the agreement and we were lead to our rental which was parked right on the main drag with the hazard lights on.  Another standard, and this one had one of those freaky fobs wherein one just presses a button to start the car.

There’s only one main road that goes around Cozumel, so the first thing we did was take off in the wrong direction.  Once turned around, we decided to stop at a Chaudraui, our grocery store of choice, and get whatever we’d need for the rest of the day.

We left there, went in the wrong direction, turned around, and then found our road to the second condo we’d rented, this one from VRBO.  It was easy to find, and we parked right in front and went in to find the manager.  His name was Paul, he’s from the US but said he renounced his citizenship 11 years earlier and was married to a Mexican.

As we hadn’t eaten a lot, he pointed out the restaurant which he said is part of Mima’s Village, the name of the condo, and for us to tell the cook we’re staying here and we’d get a discount.

We headed right down, and while very nice to sit across the road from the ocean, we were somewhat frightened by the prices, which were all in US dollars.  On the mainland everything’s in pesos, so we were kind of dismayed at the implications, which turned out to be true: Cozumel is a very chi chi expensive place.

Margaret and I had a nice dinner and a drink each, but for $80 US we felt as though we’d been punched and vowed never to eat there again, and never did.

We had trouble with the TV, and Paul came to help us hook up the laptop so we could watch whatever we wanted.  An early night, as Margaret was exhausted from all she had to do despite being hungover.

The next day was hot and sunny, as usual, and so we decided to drive around the whole island to figure out what things we might like to do.  We started out by looking at a place called Chankanaab, which is a world heritage site.  However it’s also an “adventure park” and looked like a tourist trap to us.

We drove further and stopped at one of the adorable stands along the wild shores on the way south.  The reefs are craggy and the waves crash against them spraying sea water into the air.  We walked along for awhile and then returned and went into the stand where we had our first taste of bartering.

I saw an abalone shell I liked, and said “how much is this?”  The vendor said “How much you wanna pay me?”  I, being a Canadian, said, “I don’t know.  What do you want for this?”  Let’s just skip to the end where I’m leaving the stand with an abalone shell and minus the equivalent of $23.

We continued along and all of a sudden came upon the sign for San Gervasio, the ruins on Cozumel.  As we were right there we thought let’s do it, and drove in.  There were masses of tour buses, and the place bustled with shops and vendors calling to people to come in.

At first we were hungry and thirsty so had some water and chicken tacos, then went on the walk for the ruins.  They’re very far apart, and once again I felt like I could easily perish from the heat.

On our way back a beautiful large orange, fancy-looking iguana crossed our path.  We felt really lucky to have seen one that decorative.

And then of course once we got back to the town of San Miguel, where we’re staying, we knew the only antidote to that kind of jungle heat was tequila.  We stopped at a place called the Monkey Bar and sat right at the ocean’s edge, thankful for fermented cactus juice.

Fortified we decided to snorkel in front of our place and that was the first time I’ve seen fan coral which is beautifully coloured, mostly mauves.  It was really lovely and convenient to be able to cross the road, get into the warm Caribbean and see beautiful things.  Not a lot of fish that day though.

On Friday we thought it’d be fun to explore the town of San Miguel as it’s absolutely adorable.  We drove in and parked and started down a street and looked at stuff in the stores.  You’d think the abalone shell experience would’ve forewarned us, but no.

I made the mistake of saying “this top is cute” and owned it within about five minutes.  If you read my blog you’ll know I have 77 tops so this seemed like a needless purchase.  Margaret also walked away with a top she didn’t want.  I said let’s get the hell out of here, so we got into the car and slunk right to the grocery store where we’re left alone.

On the way we passed a stand filled with the leather bags we’d both dreamed of owning, but we knew we’d be leaving there with a huge sombrero, no bag, and less about fifty dollars.

We decided to spend the afternoon at the beach in front of our place, snorkelling and reading.  Imagine our surprise, as it was just the two of us reading away, when suddenly a monkey-like screech was made a foot behind us.  Surprise!  It was the funny little man who cooks at the restaurant attached to the condo.

One time might have been funny, but when he did it the second time Margaret said to him you really have to stop doing that!  Finally he understood our nerves couldn’t’ take his sense of humour.

That was the night we began making our own delicious margaritas in the blender provided by the condo, and was one of the best ideas we had on the whole trip.

On Saturday we spent most of the day at the Punta Sur Eco Park, which seemed to us far more sensible than the “adventure park” idea.  Once we arrived we were in awe, and so glad we’d come.  You need a vehicle, as it’s huge, and takes the day to get to all areas and see everything.

We saw crocodiles, swam in the ocean and lounged on their chairs on the white sand, drank margaritas (natch) at a cute bar there.  We went on a lagoon boat tour, went up to the top of a lighthouse, and saw incredible shells on the beach.

Because in this old condo the top floor’s doors all open onto a common deck, we got to know our nice neighbours, Mark and Rhonda from Oklahoma and Clint and Fran from Saskatchewan.  You know how I love meeting new people.

On Sunday we had the most interesting trip to the tiny town of El Cedrale, which has about 100 inhabitants and is far inland, in the jungle.  During the native uprising in the 1840’s when all nuns and priests were being killed, apparently some hid here and were never found, so they considered it a miracle and built a church.

As we walked through the streets it suddenly began to pour rain, and we took refuge under an old cow or horse feeding station.  It had a tin roof so the sound was deafening.  Ten minutes later it stopped, the sun came out, and we returned to stinking heat.

We snorkelled right in front of our place again, and it was a much better day for fish.  I saw all kinds and one that was about two feet by one foot, one of biggest fish I’ve ever seen snorkelling.  At the shore the water was the temperature of bath water.

Then it was Monday and time to return the car, get on the ferry, find the bus from Playa del Carmen to the airport and make our way home.

We arrived at the Cancun Airport to the happy news from Westjet that our plane was delayed for two hours, so they immediately handed me a new boarding pass for a plane the following morning, meaning I’d be spending the night in Richmond.

But at that point I didn’t even care.  I’d been infected by the Mayan spirit, and that was good enough for me.