Dragonfly: Tales from the Phantom Rickshaw
The web journal of Markus, Emily, Taliesin, and Rhiannon, coming to you from the temperate rainforest of BC.

before Sat, Dec 12 2009, 10:47pm: [back to start]

Emily: skating at Tretheweys! Sat, Dec 12 2009, 10:47pm  
The neighbours' pond froze just long enough to skate twice, this year, and happily, Uncle Adrian managed to join us. We finally convinced Markus to put on a pair of Ryan's skates, although he said he'd only skated a couple of times about 30 years earlier... and he amazed us all! As soon as he stepped onto the ice, he skated beautifully. It was just the inspiration needed to get Annie skating hands-free for the first time! The ice was beautiful, and in many places we could watch the slow-moving water, bugs, and lilies, underneath.

Emily: Goats for Africans Sun, Dec 6 2009, 10:43pm  
This year the Island Discovery learning community made soap dishes, and sold them with a chunk of handmade soap - every soap & dish cost 10$, and ensured that a goat was bought for a family in Africa. So the kids made about 5 soap dishes each, we bought most of them ourselves, and gave them to our family for Christmas. I think it was possibly one of the best gifts we ever gave. We also took a turn selling goats at the craft fair. Many people were thrilled to have the opportunity to give such a gift.

Emily: Taai Taai Tue, Dec 1 2009, 10:51pm  
The kids baked taai taai cookies for Sinterklaas, but they were a little too taai (tough)!! Not discouraged by this little problem, they dressed up as Zwarte Piets and delivered them to Opa and Nana, and to Uncle Adrian. At first they wanted to sneak around their houses, checking if they were behaving themselves, as real Zwarte Piets should do, but we convinced them that that might not be such a good idea. Luckily, they were soon persuaded, and somewhat less-involved visits ensued.

Emily: New Food Blog Tue, Dec 1 2009, 10:29pm  

I started a new blog for all the food posts.


Emily: Eating Squirrel Sun, Nov 22 2009, 10:23pm  
Lately on the Bowen forum, I've been talking pretty loosely with other people about the ethics of pest-control, capture/release vs. killing, and then eating invasive species. I wrote that we're considering eating the invasive Grey squirrels, if we can trap them, and my response to someone's question turned out to be an essay (oops), so I'm posting it here, instead:

I haven't eaten a squirrel, yet (or killed one), and it's going to be colossally hard, if I do it. I've had some experience having to kill animals, mostly for humanitarian reasons (like my mink-ravaged pet duck this past Monday). It's always horrible. There is nothing I can say that can convey the way one's heart closes doors in a hurry to let the body do what personal ethics demand.

It's my conviction that I must live honestly, and I don't feel like buying meat on styrofoam trays is honest. It's just a way of blinding ourselves to the death and often inhumane lives that happened for our tongues' pleasure. So we try to buy "ethical meat" -- but who's to define "ethical"? I struggle a lot with the ethics of diet. That includes most veggies, grains and fruits. Most of it is definitely environmentally unethical. So I guess it's all about where we draw the line.

I grew up in a family that raised meat rabbits, and, while I never had to kill one, I did slaughter many. Chickens, too. It was definitely one of the best things about my childhood; not because it was pleasurable, but because I learned so much about biology, ecology, humanity, nutrition and "ethics" that no classroom experience could ever have taught me. I fed the rabbits we had to eat, and despite my parents' dire warnings, I loved them. Many dinners were accompanied by a deep emotional pain -- realization of the sacrifice on my plate. It was impossible not to love the animals I had cared for.

It was impossible not to love the calves at the auction, who sucked on our teenage-fingers with abandon and trust, and then were sold for meat, or a lifetime of dairy servitude. I loved cheeseburgers.

It was impossible not to love the baby rat who showed up on our doorstep last year, traumatized and temporarily paralyzed, while its parents chewed through the rat-proof compost bin to get at the remnants of our human excess, and shat all over the apples I'd stored in the pantry. I researched and created rat-formula, nursing him back to health through long nights with a dropper before releasing the recovered animal to a fate of certain death in Crippen Park.

Sometimes my compassion is faulty, but I never know when.

So here we are with two highly compassionate children, who love sausages and meat-on-bone. What to do? I'm trying to teach them the way I learned when I was young, here on the same property. I want them not just to love the taste of meat, but to honour and cherish -- with all the grief that is also implied in that -- the life that was taken for our dinner plates. I never want us to eat ignorantly, but always with integrity of mind. We are part of a cycle of life, and I would hate to inhabit this tiny piece of the whole unknowingly.

Wild meat would seem ethical, but not in the face of mass environmental destruction, brought on by humans. This destruction includes the introduction of invasive species, both plant and animal, to the detriment of local populations and, ultimately, of global diversity and sustainability. I don't want to further tax those populations. So just "wild" is not good enough. "Invasive" would be much better.

Still... that leaves the problem of actually killing them. We started with slugs, and so far that is as far as we've come. It is very very sad to watch a hated invasive; taker of banana slug habitat and destroyer of all my gardening attempts, writhe and wither in boiling water as it dies, and then to think that that life given for my enjoyment amounted to only one small bite; part of an hors d'oeuvre. It's pretty shameful, in the context of ethical meat, and sacrifice honoured.

We tried to raise ducks for eggs, but first we discovered my son's egg-allergy, and then the ducks were killed by the mink. We thought we might raise ducklings for meat, but since the mink-incident, and having to put a beloved pet out of her misery, that is indefinitely on hold.

It was impossible not to love the wide-eyed mink, so desperate for food that it tried to take my dead ducks from my hand, so when I nearly trapped it with a bucket I was afraid to hurt it, and let go... It was only doing what it was born to do.

Eat invasive Grey squirrels? They're cute and fuzzy, eat 100% of our edible nut species, and have driven the Douglas squirrels out of the area, entirely. I would like to think they're ethical meat. I hope so.
I tried to save a Douglas squirrel when I was a teenager. I found it half-paralyzed, lying in the woods near Collins lane. It died despite my efforts, and probably I prolonged its suffering, for my inability to kill it. There is no animal (or, some say, plant or stone) that does not have a soul, and that cannot merit love or affection. I don't feel I have the right to kill anything -- and yet sometimes I feel I'm obliged.

Somehow we all have to sort out our place in the physical world, and it's different for all of us.
This is where I'm at, right now.
Emily: more death. Thu, Nov 19 2009, 10:42pm  
Today I learned that a wonderful artist has died.

I met PeSt in Victoria a couple of years ago, where she was performing at the Pacific Festival of the Book. She was amazing. I can't claim to be her friend, since I've had a total of two conversations with her, but I like her. That's all I can say. She rocks in a way that only blunt honesty really can, both beautifully and painfully -- and she embodied that both on and off stage. She was found dead in the water near the boat she lived on. She was only 25, and had SO much to give the world. I'm glad that, for the short time she lived here, she did give us so much.

See her myspace page, here.

Edited this post in the middle of the night: I invited PeSt to the Bowen Kitchen Junket, and she was interested, but never made it. So tonight I performed her piece "Calling All People" at the junket, in her honour. It was one of the only performances I've seen her do, and it was the most powerful to me. It would have been nice to get to know her better, but in her absence, I don't want to let her great contribution fade away. On her mySpace page you can hear her perform it, I think that clip is with her group Odditory Presence.
Emily: homework ban Wed, Nov 18 2009, 10:21am  
This of course doesn't really apply to our kids, but I think it's wonderful, anyway. I know a few elementary kids whose lives are crippled by a full day at school, followed by multiple hours of homework. This morning I read on CBC news that a Calgary family has signed an agreement with their children's school, that their children will have no assigned homework, and be evaluated only on their in-school contributions. They still study for tests, etc. at home, and still do voluntary homework on subjects they struggle with.
Read the article, here. The comment section is interesting, too.
Emily: the way of life Mon, Nov 16 2009, 7:45pm  
It ends. And sometimes it's not very merciful.

I want to be a conscious carnivore, and if not that, vegetarian. That's a hard case to sell to a household of people who love sausage and "meat on bone", but it's really important to me. I grew up in a household that raised meat rabbits, chickens, and a couple of other animals, too. The experience taught me a lot about biology, and my moral and physical place in the food chain. I think that at least if we're going to eat meat, it should not just be well-raised by someone else, but also we should eat it with deep gratefulness for the lives of the animals that grace our plates.

So we got ducks -- Leaf and Treehouse, as you know -- and they were our egg-laying pets... then just pets, once we discovered Tal was allergic to eggs.

We planned to get a drake, and I told myself that when the inevitable ducklings hatched, I would try to remain detached, so that we could do the (in my opinion) honourable thing and actually kill the meat we eat. Hard though it may be, it's part of my moral justification. We're not there yet.

Today our dear, sweet ducks were killed by a mink. I happened upon them while out with my camera -- Treehouse had been dragged into a niche in a log, and the mink was still busy trying to haul Leaf out, her bleeding head and gasping bill clutched in its teeth. He had broken her trachea, but had not killed her. I was so angry that I ran at him with a shovel, as the realization hit me that not only were the ducks gone, but I was going to have to kill Leaf myself. I did. With the shovel. It's something there's no question about in these situations -- it just has to be done, and my body just acts while my brain spirals inward. And the nasty mink just kept trying to drag the ducks away from me. I tried to trap the mink in a bucket, and would have succeeded, if it hadn't been for my ironic fear of harming it.

(I found out a few hours later that the same mink (we assume) just killed about 15 chickens at 2 other homes, running crazed and wild in the coops and killing at a rate of about 3 birds/minute.)

In my state of shock, I picked up my camera and took these photos. They're terrible, but oh well. This is the face of a crazed, literally blood-thirsty animal. And though I've never been so repulsed by an animal in my life, this too is life, and part of that morality I strive for.


Emily: freeform singing Sun, Nov 15 2009, 11:20pm  
The whole idea was Tali's; he set up his music and camera himself (months ago). Rhiannon just happened to be playing her usual songs, and I reached for the camera.

Taliesin: The presence of Tal Wed, Nov 4 2009, 10:33pm  
This evening Tal drew me a bath out of pure love, and then (once I was in) decided that he could use that to "trade" for being allowed to get in with me, despite that it was past his bedtime. No. Not tonight. A near-tantrum ensued, since I wasn't living up to my part of the newly-invented bargain. During the ensuing conversation about the meaning of manipulation and giving (I know the original bath was a simple gesture of love), I talked about when I was a teenager:

Mama: "I thought my parents hated me, sometimes, and sometimes we all manipulate in times of desperation. Once I refused to visit my Dad for years because I was so angry with him for trying to make me visit more. I felt like I got him back at the time because I knew it hurt him, but I never actually knew how much he loved me until I had you. I've come to realize that he loves me that much too. That's a lot. It's not something you can know if you've never had children, I think. I never wanted to hurt him that much, and in the end it didn't help me at all; it hurt us both."

Taliesin: "Well I know how much you love me."

Mama: "Do you?"

Taliesin: "You love me as much as how much water would fit in the entire universe."

Mama: "But the universe never ends."

Taliesin: "I know. And water goes everywhere."

And on a different note, Tal has been playing a lot with Fantastic Contraption (link here) lately. It's certainly a fantastic game, and his ingenuity amazes me. In seconds he comes up with creative solutions -- sometimes the actualization thereof is more difficult, but nevertheless, it's a great pass-time. Here is one of his creations from today: Click here to see it.Unfortunately, there's an ad, first. Press the tiny little "skip ad" (if it's even there; otherwise you might have to watch the whole thing), then press "play", then press "continue", then press the green START button to watch Tal's creation work. After you see it go you can play with it if you want, adding, changing, etc. His original invention will still be accessible by the link, so go ahead and adjust or build to your heart's content!

I can't describe nearly as well as my 7-year-old son can how much he fills my heart.
Emily: Hazel Parachute Piccolino Sun, Oct 18 2009, 3:25pm  
Well... Hazel for short.

We couldn't bear the loneliness of Juniper's absence anymore, and decided to welcome a new baby to our home. Her mother was a lab X, and nobody knows what her father was. She was born August 10th, 2009 -- the smallest of her litter of 8. As we were told when we picked her up, "she isn't exactly the runt, and she does like to play, but, well, she's not the instigator." So we're very busy with regular 3x/day mealtimes, 2 or 3 naps every day, and house-training. Part of her education is learning to do the dishes with Pappa...

Rhiannon: The Wild Things Birthday Party! Wed, Oct 7 2009, 1:00am  
Today Rhiannon turns 5. Last Sunday she had her long-planned-for Wild Things Birthday party, and afterwards declared: "I liked my party!" Perfect.

On her actual birthday she went for her first-ever foot-soak and scrub from our dear friend Genevieve at Still Waters Massage.

Emily: Marcel visited us!!! Thu, Oct 1 2009, 3:19pm  
What a fabulous time. He brought his three english students from Japan, and we took them to the beach. Eventually we hope they send us some photos to post, here. WE were not clever enough to take any...
Emily: Victoria Vacation: Duncan Forestry Museum Sun, Sep 27 2009, 3:13pm  
On our way home we stopped at the Duncan Forestry Museum...



Emily: Victoria Vacation: Canoe Day Sat, Sep 26 2009, 2:49pm  
We four took the canoe out into the Esquimalt Harbour. First we paddled out to one of the little islands near CFB Esquimalt. There was a sign up on shore that read no trespassing, but it seemed to be protecting a little cabin of some sort on the other side, so we just hung out in the canoe by the little float, which had no deterrent signs whatsoever, and explored the great sealife that clung to the sides of it. Among the most exciting of our discoveries were two types of sea-slugs (pictured is a leopard seaslug), two types of tube-worms (one pictured), a hooded nudibranch swimming around the boat, and spunky prawns that came out to attack my fingers when I poked around the tube-worms (I guess they were the local defense system -- I didn't get a photo).



Then we were paid a visit from the other defense system: a fully-armoured/camouflaged marine arriving by navy boat, who marched over to us and said "Hello there. What are we doing, today?" To which we replied "checking out the sea life; you should have a look; it's very interesting"... etc. etc. etc. And he said "Well we have a visiting American ship, and your presence is making them nervous." Yes, that is exactly what he said. I naturally had all sorts of things I wanted to reply to him, but managed to bite my tongue long enough for Markus to put his paddle in and say "goodbye". So off we went in our little canoe and off he went in his navy boat, and we took a photo for posterity.

Then, fittingly, we stopped in on Cole Island, which used to be a munitions depot, but is now a heritage site. We canoed right into one of the storage sheds that reaches out into the water, and parked our boat there. The Friends of Cole Island were there making repairs and ridding the place of invasive plants. It's not the first time we've been there, but it was the first time we got a free info-tour! Just great. I must say they were much more hospitable than our Navy, even if the marine life was much less accessible...

Emily: Victoria Vacation: Bug Zoo Thu, Sep 24 2009, 2:42pm  
We made a special trip downtown just for this bug zoo, and we were not disappointed!! Here you see Tal holding a giant millipede and a shiny beetle from Madagascar, which apparently is popular as a brooch (wearers tie the living beetles to a lapel pin with a tiny leash and let them walk around in circles, there... poor things). Then there is a molting tarantula, a tarantula that Mama held (the experience was unfortunately not exciting at all), and a scorpion with her babies on her back. When it's time for her babies to go forth into the world, she will begin eating them, one by one, until the remaining babies leave.



Emily: Victoria Vacation: Sidney Mon, Sep 21 2009, 2:27pm  
The Sidney Ocean Discovery Centre is amazing! Not only do they have a great touch-stream full of interesting invertebrates, but everything in the facility is pulled out of the water, right outside the centre. So after you visit the animals you can go see where they came from. There is also a microscope station, where we watched sea urchins, barnacles, etc. feeding.


Next door to the Ocean Discovery Centre is a lovely mineral shop with a scratch patch where the kids could search through tumbled stones and pan for pyrite. Every day 6 marked stones are put into the yard, among the 100's of thousands in the various bins and boats full of stones, and whomever finds a marked stone is entitled to a mineral or fossil prize from inside. After nearly giving up in his search among all the bins, Tal got into the boat full of stones, dove through them, and miraculously came up with one of the only 3 remaining marked stones!

Emily: Victoria Vacation: Cowichan Bay Sun, Sep 20 2009, 3:08pm  
We went to Cowichan Bay to visit the wooden boat shop and museum, where Markus got to quiz a boat builder about his methods and machines, and we all got to see the marine life, check out the lovely boats, and have some great fish and chips by the sea...

Emily: Victoria:Vacation: hanging out at Nana and Grosspappa's house Sat, Sep 19 2009, 2:21pm  

Yes, Pappa's treehouse, which now officially belongs to the new golfcourse, since they re-surveyed their lot and claimed the tree it was built in, is still hanging in there...

We discovered that the ice on the wall of the mammoth exhibit in the Royal BC Museum is, in fact, REAL!!

Emily: Evan is here!! Wed, Sep 16 2009, 11:45pm  
Evan Oliver Davies was born healthy and safe on September 16th, at 11:45pm. We're all happy to have another little family member!


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