Category Archives: gardening

Summer Time

Guilty as I might have been back in the day of raising my own son as a single mother, of providing special summer activities for him to keep him from getting bored, I feel the need to reminisce on my own childhood summers.

For the sake of transparency, I wanted to provide things for my son that I didn’t have so he had soccer, baseball, swimming lessons, drama camp…and oh yeah..I rented a cottage for a week, and I took him up north to visit my cousin’s cottage and he had sleepovers with his cousins and play dates with friends…(oh dear, I did  too much too didn’t I?…but I had my reasons….).

Today parents, the same generation of my mentioned son, are perhaps overdoing it a bit.

I’ve been observing carefully.

It isn’t just the parents at fault in this area. Some grandparents seem to be going above the call of duty as well.  Also, for the sake of further transparency ,I am not a grandmother yet except for the distinction of being a grandma to a six year old bulldog (or is she seven years old?…I’m not keeping track very well aren’t I?)

Back to me.

I was a farm kid so my summers were mostly farm based.  I was invited to my brother’s rented cottage when he had one, I stayed once with my aunt and cousin in Toronto for a couple of weeks and I often hung out in my early and formative years with my grandpa at his place when he retired from the farm.

Summer holidays were spent quietly working in the garden, playing with my dogs, puttering around, going to church regularly and spending long periods of time on my own, just doing ordinary farm things.

As a very little girl I recall the excitement of my cousin’s summer wedding being held at my brother and sister -in law’s farmhouse as it was a special and beautiful place for such a special country event. I even sang at the wedding and received a tiny fancy golden teacup that is presently displayed, after all these years, proudly on my fireplace mantel.

When I was about ten years old my grandpa passed away at our place in the summer and we had a large turnout of family at the farm for the garden funeral reception. This event both saddened and frustrated me as I was very angry about losing my very good old friend. I didn’t understand the pain.

At the moment I can’t think of anything else done for my sole entertainment  during the summer months except for family trips that my dear sweet Dad and Mom took me on when they had the chance to do so.

These trips were to the States for visiting with my brother away at school and then working there, a trip out east once to see another aunt and uncle and a family trip to Montreal for Expo 1967 .

My sister’s wedding was a fun summer memory but mostly planned around the farm lifestyle. The birth of my little niece was a pretty exciting summer event too. Playing with and supervising my baby brother as well as my nephews and niece during summer breaks were wonderful times and treasured moments of my formative childhood.

Finally a summer family trip out west in 1969 that came to a crashing and tragic end upon our return when we were given the saddest news imaginable that my oldest brother and a friend had passed away in an accident . We didn’t know until we walked in the door. This was before cell phones  and internet.

At this point, life changed completely for us but we carried on, somehow.

Much of this time is so painful I have blocked it out. Things I should remember like popular music or other events I have little recall of except in vague terms.  I was included, after the tragedy in another trip to California to visit my  brother and sister in law  and other family. A few years later, when I was almost eighteen my parents let me go on a special school sponsored trip to Spain, again I suspect as a way to help me overcome some of my grieving.

My parents didn’t go on any  trips though, not anymore.

So when I see today’s parents and grandparents overdoing things and trying to entertain the kids too much I just want to say that I understand why you think you need to do all these elaborate and expensive things but maybe reflect back on a simpler time.

Spend time talking to your children, tell them your own stories about your childhood, bring good books into the home, visit the library together, visit the older folks in the family and community, sit under a shady tree together, work in the garden, play with the pets together, make a picnic and go to a local park , teach them some important skills such as swimming, cooking,photography or managing responsibilities. Sing together, tell jokes, play games, walk in the woods, share your faith and beliefs, hug your children, love them joyfully and just be there for as long as you can be.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under art, books, cooking, family relationships, food, friends, gardening, grief, health and wellness, history, inspiration, local traditions, motivation, pets, retirement, routines, social issues, storytelling, teaching, Uncategorized, weather, writing

Arkona, Ontario On a Fine Day

My son, his dog and I spent a nice afternoon celebrating Mother’s Day together in  Arkona , Ontario. It’s about twenty minutes away from home. We just kept things easy this year deciding to go for a very short drive and have a picnic.

I had just been to Arkona just last week but the weather was stormy so I didn’t venture to Rock Glen Conservation Area which is a famous spot of interest so I wanted to go today.

Just spending some time together today on a fine spring day felt like the old times we used to go on little adventures and find new places we had never been before.

We never went too far all the time my son was growing up but occasionally we ended up at Miller’s Lake, near Tobermory visiting a cousin.  The furthest drive I’ve done was to Kingston with my extremely excited teenage son off to see his first choice school, Queen’s University. We have also driven the back roads together to Niagara-on-the Lake and Welland for his summer courses there. Once I drove the old Hwy 3 along the port towns of Port Stanley, Port Bruce, Port Rowan etc. We have had some fun little trips together just doing our thing.

Other than that, I drive mostly around London, Strathroy, Stratford, Seaforth and surrounding countrysides.

My son however is accustomed to driving across Canada and in the States for his work and studies. Today though he had a nagging toothache and expects to have dental work done as soon as possible. He willingly let me drive and I think he enjoyed just being the kid again, out looking at little villages and places to discover with his mom. He actually mentioned it was like old times. That touched my heart, after all, it is Mother’s Day and I am a softie.

Our first stop was the dog park in Strathroy and his bulldog Penny enjoyed playing with a couple of bouncy puppies and checking out the interesting smells along the fence line. This was an enjoyable point of our little road trip for our family. We are dog people.

Down the country roads we went and I showed my son all the interesting spots I had recently discovered. We went as far as Forest, just about seven km from Arkona and had our picnic there under some shady trees.

We went back through Arkona and stopped at The Arkona Heritage Market. We took turns going in to see the antiques as we had the dog in the car. The market has a cat scampering about ( I think I saw a cat!) so it was a wise decision. (Not that I would take a bulldog into an antique store..talk about a” bull” in a china shop!)

I was intrigued by the wide variety of vintage things for sale along with a whole sideline of contemporary items. I was treated to a taste of local maple syrup and offered homemade cookies just for dropping in to look around. The friendly gentleman behind the counter told me about his family, hobbies and some points of historical interest about the village.

The topics he told me about ranged from chickens, turkeys, orchards, Rock Glen Conservation area, a memorable restaurant with an appreciative clientele requiring bookings and the legacy of another local person who had created elaborate Christmas displays that brought in the crowds for years. I purchased some specialty maple barbeque sauce for my next crockpot creation.

My son took his turn going through the store and was impressed with the roasted coffee, maple syrup products, spices etc that were promoted in the store along with the heritage dishes, furniture, pictures, jewellery and other typical treasures.

Driving to Rock Glen we took in the rolling landscape and rocky waterfall, trailer camp and park and picnic area. My son had not heard of Rock Glen before even though it is so close to our home and I explained it’s geological significance and it’s appeal to rock hounds. Considering he is thirty-five years old and no longer a little boy he seemed content to take a picture of the rock falls and not try to clamour about looking for fossils.

Part of me wished I had taken him there years ago! How did I miss doing that? (Busy working single mom back in the day so some things just got missed I guess. )

Just down the road (Townsend Rd.) we visited Thuss Greenhouses.  After all, it is Mother’s Day today! I had visited this greenhouse already this past week and knew just what I wanted. My son took his dog on a quick business trip to a grassy patch out by the roadway.

The owners and staff were busy restocking a wonderful selection of annuals and other plants  and finishing up for the day but Lisa stopped and visited with me for a few minutes. We discussed plants, shared some ideas about Mother’s Day and I told her I had met her sister a couple of times. I was visiting the greenhouse on her recommendation. I’m glad I found this country style greenhouse and intend to visit it again!

I made my choice of a very pretty hanging plant and went on my way. As we prepared to leave some long time friends of my sister-in-law drove in and we had a chat and our sweet bulldog, sitting in the backseat of the car was suitably admired.

Driving back home we took a mini detour into Strathroy for a few items and stopped at a brand new touchless car wash. I was treated to a fancy car wash for my Mother’s Day present and we rolled through the coded experience by being dampened down, well soaped, rinsed and foamed up again and re-rinsed before being air dried. It was a rather novel experience for the dog and she hid her face in her towel for awhile until it was all over.

I had a crockpot supper of spareribs ready at home for us (my son’s favourite even with his toothache) and the dog settled for her nap after gobbling down her food. They have now gone home but I have the feeling they both enjoyed a simple afternoon of hanging out with Mom (Grandma to the dog), just playing at the dog park, going for a Sunday drive, finding some new and interesting country places and coming home for supper. I know I did.

2 Comments

Filed under family relationships, food, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, inspiration, motivation, pets, retirement, routines, storytelling, teaching, Uncategorized, weather, writing

What Goes Around Comes Around

The idea of a labyrinth was discussed a few weeks ago at my church during an informal service in the Sunday School room. We had coffee, activities, games and a discussion, Afterwards, we had lunch.  There was a Biblical reference to being guided to understanding in the worship part of the gathering.

One of my soulful neighbours often walks a labyrinth on her outings to the university and another ambitious one is hoping to create one in her garden. I have instead experienced a form of labryinth on my country drives, searching for inspiration and motivation for my writing.

I noticed the sameness of my path and that the circuit  chosen was repetitive. Often it seemed I ended up where I began.

As a writer I am a gardener, going here and there, digging at things, ignoring some monumental tasks, pulling a few weeds along the way and scattering some seeds of ideas and hoping for the best. With the seasons, my writing changes and I don’t quite know what will root and grow and what will dry up and wither away. Usually, I end up wondering ,what on earth do I want to say?

Slightly changing the path and broadening the scope of my travels still well within local communities I have encountered new people and struck up conversations about a range of things.  Connections with past experiences and familiar names and places came up. Sometimes new notions and sensations stirred the day and shook things enough that I felt I could write freely about my observations.

Landscapes of small rural villages have opened up into more complex backstreets and hideaway spots. Large swooping connections of country roads revealed some flat farmland giving way to rolling hills and valleys. Houses of all descriptions and rural business endeavours have suggested the thousands of stories of hopes and dreams available to a perceptive writer. However, bulldozers and construction crews were sometimes found inconveniently ripping up sidewalks and main streets discouraging my path in going any further off the beaten path. Dark storm clouds overhead reinforced the merit of turning around and navigating along familiar roads.  The labyrinth had enlarged itself but directed me home once more, back to safety.

Signage along the way home sought to encourage the wayward traveller to take advantage of what was offered. Two handmade signs, along the same village roadway were of special note. One sign outside a rural antique store said” We Have It All” and just around the bend another sign read “Jesus Lives! Roosters and Bunnies”. Both signs made me smile. I didn’t stop at either place although I did slow down and consider their messages. They are probably of no use to me whatsoever, but I will plant these ideas somewhere, wait and see.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under allegories and parodies, art, books, family relationships, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, humour, inspiration, motivation, retirement, routines, social issues, storytelling, teaching, Uncategorized, weather, writing

One Hundred and Fifty One Years Later at Narin Pickers

Slowly our  weather has become increasingly more springlike. A couple of weeks ago events were cancelled due to an ice storm. Yesterday we turned on air conditioners. Snowdrops were the only brave flowers for about a month and now the daffodils are nodding in the warmth. Last week, on one of my off the beaten path trips it was grey, wet and cool enough for a warm jacket and I almost made it to the lake. I usually pick such a day for visiting the lake because I now avoid crowds. People are fine, just not crowds.

About half way to the lake I decided it was far enough on a drizzly day and decided instead to further explore some small villages along the way. This is a very quiet way to explore but entirely on my own terms. With a supply of snacks and a half full tank of gas I drive around tiny places, browse the shops, soak up the atmosphere and have very random conversations with the locals. When I’m often asked what I do now that I am retired from teaching I often say….”oh, I do artsy things now, just artsy stuff…” The reaction is often puzzled.

 

Along the soggy way that particular day, I stopped in at an old place that was once a tiny country restaurant and is now a vintage store called Narin Pickers. Walking in, there wasn’t anyone visibly there among the aluminum teapots, feathered hats and concrete gnomes. At the back, behind the original lunch counter, a friendly owner on his computer called out and welcomed me.

I made two circuits around the store just looking at old postcards, ancient books, assorted bead necklaces, bracelets and bakelite dinnerware. Lots of other stuff beckoned as well. Two amazing grand gilt chairs that immediately made me think of King Louis sat in the middle of the shop covered with others things that paled by comparison. A hand carved walking cane and a collection of old pipes called out to me for some reason and I was transported back in time to being my Grandpa Walter’s constant companion on his porch steps.

All the time during my visit, Billie Holiday was softly singing…”I’ll Be Seeing You” as the wonderful music was coming from the owner’s computer. He mentioned that he and his son were musically inclined and that his daughter was an avid reader.

At that point of the conversation, we discussed what wonderful things might be found in old books such as postcards, photos,souvenir programs etc. Behind the counter, stored away in a jewellery box under cotton batting, the owner had his treasure of four leaf clovers which he had carefully salvaged from the brittle pages of old books. He had felt it necessary to gently treasure them this way as otherwise they would just break up and go to dust if left in the handled books. He shared their sweet old beauty with me and we spoke together about good luck wishes and these long ago people who had found the clovers.

As I prepared to leave I was drawn again to the postcards and selected only one. It had caught my eye earlier but wasn’t exceptionally beautiful or valuable. The message on the back had hooked me in. It was a message to a student from a teacher.I made my little purchase and left…thinking all the while…”Maybe I should buy that gnome?”. Oh well, another time, perhaps.

When I was finally home for the day I took a long shot and looked up the obscure information on the card in hopes of finding these long gone individuals and learn more about them. With one click, the information of the student was there right in front of me. It was a record of his wedding date and also some information about his community.

This information was from at least one hundred and fifty one years ago. Nothing was available about the teacher  who had written the card so long ago. I can assume though. This teacher was kind, thoughtful and without a doubt searched for four leaf clovers.  I’m also sure this teacher hoped to be remembered in all those old familiar places.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, family relationships, food, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, humour, inspiration, motivation, poetry, retirement, routines, social issues, storytelling, teaching, Uncategorized, weather, writing

Long Standing

A long time ago, in this land of sandy soil, evergreen trees and old houses, I started to write some posts. Stories began to appear sprouted from little word gardens scratched into the keyboard. Sometimes poetry surfaced, usually with a reflective tone, sometimes with a satirical voice and occasionally with a slight edge of humour.

Life at that time carried on quietly and some attention given to my writing was most appreciated.  With the passing of time I wrote a little less and then stopped. Blow sand covered my work.

The land of sandy soil, evergreen trees and old houses remained the same and quietly waited. Wet winters and hot humid summers, fast windy springs and stunningly golden short fall days swept by. Snow fell once for days and days and days.

Slowly seized and creaking passages of time lengthened my reading and I found it challenging to find the right book to fill my escape. Searching for the right book to inspire, uplift and relax with proved to be an all encompassing goal and yet it was never really found.

Oddly enough, a lover of books, a devoted reader, a timid writer and an occasional speaker I found myself tossing aside some very well thought of books and not feeling the inclination to finish the work in front of me.

With a weariness in mind and body surging into atrophy fortunately some small and sustained healthy efforts took hold and gave me a good shake. Further details here are not necessary and perhaps just as well kept to myself as that is a long standing family trait.

Something that can be shared is the renewed search for the perfect book, a sudden burst of interest in creating something visual which could be considered spontaneous joy art, continuing the quest for the perfect quirky coffee shop, settling down to a quiet journalling time, dignified writing and living life in an artful and kind way ,another long standing family tradition.

I missed you.

2 Comments

Filed under allegories and parodies, books, family relationships, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, inspiration, motivation, poetry, politics, retirement, routines, social issues, storytelling, teaching, theatre, weather, writing

George and Walter A.

After Alice had made supper for us and Grandpa had a pipe on the porch we would head on down the old unused highway to meet up with George.

Alice was the older lady next door who had another exceedingly ancient old lady boarding with her. Alice made supper for Grandpa, the old soul who lived at her place and for me when I stayed with Grandpa. This went on for several years.

Grandpa passed away when I was about nine years old.

George was another old timer. He lived just at the edge of the old highway, down a lane that is still there. George would start out at his end of the old highway, bent over, both hands behind his back, head somewhat down, watching his feet and walk very slowly towards my Grandpa and I. We would meet up where the new road and the old road joined.

George and Grandpa were known as the two mayors of Poplar Hill. Two old farmers in their eighties walking along the road to find each other and talk over the day.Grandpa referred to this as having a” chaw” with George.

Going along on these civic duties I knew if I was well behaved I’d maybe get an ice cream cone at the corner store sooner or later. The cone wasn’t a sure thing. It was something you could imagine possibly happening and never asked about.

More often than not our return walk home would be completed in the twilight.Robie’s Store was usually closed by then and any hope of an ice cream drumstick was forgotten.

Grandpa had the cook stove fire embers stirred  low for the night. It was at this time of day that Grandpa seemed older. His walk had tired him.His steps were uncertain. His cane became his best friend.

Grandpa told one bedtime story. It was always the same one about poor little kittens  left out in the snow that were finally let in to warm up by the stove.Grandpa would add some special effects when describing how pitiful the poor kittens cried at the door while the snow and wind raged. I will never forget those crying kittens…..never.

Grandpa kept his house neat and tidy.

The parlour was kept sealed off unless there was any interest in looking at the faded green velvet picture albums of relatives or the need to entertain oneself with the stuffed turtle he kept there. He put newspapers on the floor to walk on and burned them in the stove when they were muddied up. You kept your boots on in Grandpa’s house. He kept his small pint of milk cool on the over head ledge going down into the basement root cellar. His bathroom was quite up to date with light green fixtures and kept spotless with a box of Spic and Span on the window ledge and a bar of pumice soap in the soap dish. For the most part, the bathroom was unused as an outdoor privy was preferred by Grandpa when he was on his own.  Backed right up to the large iron cook stove was a narrow cot covered with bed linens from years gone by.He kept a tiny box of generic liver pills ( Dodd’s) on the window ledge beside this cot.

Grandpa wore dark cuffed trousers with a faint pinstripe, grey and red work socks, overshoe boots that zipped up, a green cardigan with a off white pattern on the bottom edge and a black felted fedora. His long white and red striped shirt was also his nightshirt. Long johns were worn in every season as far as I know.

He kept his teeth in a mug of water at night. A handy thunder jug was under his bed. Two small old fashioned glass ornaments were on his handmade dresser. They are now on the same dresser which has been repainted in a soft blue in my guest room.A small blue and gilt top hat dish and a tiny golden pipe attached to a pink leaf. I like to think they were my grandmother’s keepsakes.

Fifty years later, I’m living in the same village not far from Grandpa’s place and just around the corner from the old highway lane.  People walk there, often with their dogs or when showing their visitors around our quaint community. The old highway has an area with a few houses and it is named after George’s ancestors. A street beside the cemetery has been named after my Grandpa’s ancestors. Alice’s house is still there. Grandpa’s house is still there. I never really knew where George lived because we always just met on the road and turned around and went home. I like to think his house is still there. It probably is there beside the old bridge at the end of the lane shaded by maple trees behind the long grass. I must ask Anna about it. Anna will know.

George and Grandpa along with about two dozen of their  male neighbour friends are in a historic picture on my mantle. It was taken the day the fellows were all together to dedicate our park . It is a memorial park. A well used, loved and safe place.

As far as I’m concerned they are still known as the mayors of Poplar Hill.

 

2 Comments

Filed under family relationships, food, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, inspiration, motivation, social issues, storytelling, teaching, Uncategorized, weather, writing

The Will Must be Stronger

Such along time has passed since my last post. Why has the title appeared so bold faced when typed? I no longer know the features on this blog site so everything is new again.

Hot chocolate, made from a dark chocolate bar and hot milk( don’t try it) at hand and very late at night I settle into the chair ,  aching from an old church parking lot injury ( (don’t ask) and therefore suffering a bit for my art I decide it is now or never. I must write. Fighting off the cat from the laptop and from sticking her nose into the hot chocolate ( I’ll use milk chocolate next time) I make this feeble effort to at least open up the writing part of my quiet existence once more. I know I can do this.

It is the will that has somewhat atrophied almost to the point of disuse.

Folks in general have noticed my absence from writing. Comments, blunt and discreet are often made. The greeter at church one day mentioned it to a visiting minister. The coffeeshop staff have cleared a spot for me and reminded me of their hours of business, gently suggesting I should return to my table of soup, sandwich coffee and journal writing, people watching and listening in on conversations. Family send updates to writing events. Hints drop, suggestions are made, jabs here and there.

 

Even the winter creature that lives somewhere along the exterior wall under the radiator behind my desk has rattled on a bit with encouragement for me to return to my swivel chair, laptop and late hours. Mr. Mole or Miss Mouse or possibly worse nibbles and scratches a bit as I type keeping me alert. Nothing more arouses the will to write than the prospect of having this wee soft creature zip across my foot. It is like having a snake loose in a dark bedroom and being too petrified to confront it so the imagination must cope.

Topics to write about are overwhelming and yet some appeal to me. Reading, writing, poetry, music, theatre, family, cooking, gardening, teaching, pets are my comforting favourites. My own stories are on the surface, bubbling, waiting to be stirred. World issues, problems and general chaos are too much for me, yet provoke thoughts and  disturbing dreams. Am I reluctant to write of these things because of what they are or am I afraid that I will write?

Cat has jumped over the screen once more, the mug of wretched chocolate has been drained, the small creature behind the wall is quiet once more. The will to write has stretched a little ignoring the ache.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under allegories and parodies, books, cooking, family relationships, food, friends, gardening, health and wellness, humour, inspiration, motivation, paranormal, pets, retirement, routines, social issues, storytelling, teaching, theatre, Uncategorized, writing