Category Archives: gardening

Yard Work, Digging Mostly

Keeping me on my toes, the gathering of two family members, a neighbour, my librarian and  her daughters, I went ahead with my night to meet and encourage other community writers.

The sensory games and  creativity ideas were tried. Some poetry, mine and another’s ( a professional) published piece were read. A story about the influences of the neighbour attending the event, upon my writing, was pulled for my stockpile and read in it’s entirety. We ate fruit and dessert squares. Another evening, led by me, encouraging young writers was planned for the summer.

In the meantime, stories and threads of ideas were revealing themselves, The group dynamics were interesting. From the mixture of a very small gathering came ideas of reading with very young children, the trauma of  caring for elderly pets,decluttering household contents and wondering about the unforeseen future, knitting, crochet, tatting, hooked rug making, church yard sales, baking, cooking, reading cookbooks, dealing with children, throwing away blackened pots of burnt spaghetti, recalling the chores of working with father in the barn milking the cows and going to the mill and cleaning the house, despising those awful hooked rugs so heavy to drag from the upstairs bedrooms all the way downstairs to air them and clean them while sister baked, studying French and setting up a writing blog …. one that the mom , the librarian, can’t read because it will be all about her according to one of the young daughters.

At the conclusion of the evening another neighbour arrived. A young mother returning her library books, noticing us finishing up the brownies and the fruit tray, realizing we were a bit over the closing hour at the library. Familiar to me, a neighbour, we often say hello. I knew she was a fellow teaching colleague on maternity leave and an artist. Now I know she writes a blog. From just skimming through some of her blog posts I’ve also discovered that her husband is a poet.

All in all, a successful gathering . A very small community gathering of supportive people just planting the seed and nudging together the warming circle of stories, ideas and creativity.Tending a word garden takes effort and patience and with a sprinkle or two of interest it might even take root.

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Write Now

When I see a recently retired friend, neighbour or complete stranger I rarely bring up the fact that they are retired. I don’t think I’ve really ever made much of the fact that they are retired as it really isn’t my business and there are so many more things to talk about. However ,when I am out and about and run into these folks I am almost without fail asked about how I occupy my time these days in retirement.

Answers vary. Sometimes I say I do artsy things but that really confuses people. Sometimes I list things like…I go to the theatre, visit friends, read, write, putter around, cook, take care of things, pay bills and play with my sister’s grandchildren.

This really concerns some people.

They wonder if this is enough for me considering that in the years previous to retiring from teaching elementary school, I worked non stop, raised my son as a single parent, dealt with a very difficult divorce, helped my elderly mother, lead drama workshops, gardened, walked my dog, supervised a couple of cats, had a tearoom, baked pies and tea biscuits for the tearoom, did community theatre things such as organize, write, direct and perform as well as volunteer for front of house, usher, set dressing, costumes, dresser for actors and promotion of productions, taught Sunday school, sang in the church choir, exercised with friends, fixed ( as in paid for) a never ending pile of old stuff in and around my very old house including several vehicles, rented a couple  of cottages, drove up north on adventures to entertain my young son on his summer holidays, cut grass, did yard work, took dance classes, drama and professional qualifications courses, hung out with several very good friends, tried dating again with very limited success because I am a” jerk magnet”, lost a pile of weight, gained the weight back again, worked on never ending decluttering projects, scrounged and saved to put my son through university and support him in his theatrical pursuits and generally coped with stuff.

Now I continue to do theatre things with my adult son, enjoy my extended family, visit libraries “for fun”, read obsessively, blog, write a bit here and there, go to book talks, poetry nights, theatre outings with the girls, stay up late, watch foodie programs, cook a little, go to small farmer’s markets, visit a bit with my closest friends, supervise the golden years of a very old cat, provide dog babysitting for my son’s bulldog at the drop of a hat, do errands, fix things as usual, grow a few things, sit on my recliner, my porch and my yard swing watching the world go by, cope with my arthritis issues, try to be as healthy as possible and sometimes I even make it to church.

However, I don’t make a big deal out of finding out what others do in their retirement because I am a tad sensitive to the judgement of such an inquiry.

I never ask. I just write.

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Standstill

Hate the shed door.

Not really

a nice feature

keeping

garden tools in the little den

Poor cat, bipolar perhaps, but a hit and miss bird watcher like me.

Been sorting

out

some books since 2012 and still

not done

Stuff.

Watching neighbour feed the birds, a ritual everyday and the birds love it almost as much as the squirrels do, dependable creatures in a way.

The summer it will be too hot but that is when the door to the shed will get fixed

unless

it takes a few more journals over the years

to write

about how

much I hate

the broken door and how

the garden tools are still

in the little den

salvaged pots of fall plants primly sit with artificial lit ones and only a few dry leaves on the pointsettia beside the jug of bittersweet and the amaryrillis despite being too deeply planted inches up

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Late August

It’s that time of year again when everyone is either away or busy and they need me to take care of their pets. Actually, it is fun doing that. The old cat has taken over my bedroom while the visiting dog has once more taken over my recliner and I’ve moved myself into the guest room. I’m pretending I’m on holiday in there as well .
Neighbours are always dropping in just for a visit and I’m not even worrying too much about whether the dishes are done or not. The crickets are chirping, squirrels are racing around, bunnies are on the lawn and the Canadian Geese are honking overhead.
There are small piles accumulating here and there which represent projects and events that I’ve either put off during the summer or completed lately but haven’t dealt with tidying away. Books are piled on the table ready to go back to the library in a day or two. There’s no rush. Running to the local libraries is my pastime and actually, its fun doing that too.
Assorted kitchen bowls and antique platters are filled to the brim with assorted vegetables and fruits from the farmer’s market. Some garden goodies are also available from my sister’s farm so it is a time of eating what can be yanked out of the garden, washed off and sprinkled with a little salt.
My garden is feeling a little tired now because I gave up watering it but producing lots of kitchen herbs, peppers, onions and a few tomatoes. Marigolds are making a good show in the back garden along with assorted geraniums, purple petunias, blue morning glories, white and pink Rose of Sharon bushes, pink Himalayan orchids and a jaw dropping white mop headed hydrangea bush.
The side porch has a very laid back vibe with cushioned chairs, asparagus ferns, ivy and fuchsia impatiens. Here and there throughout the yard are small white concrete statues of a hen, frog, swan, horse, cat. A grey concrete squirrel sits by the side door. (Honourable mention also of a broken concrete mother duck without a head which has such sentimental value it remains, discretely placed.) A ceramic Christmas pig wearing a red toque and holding a striped candy cane jauntily looks out from under the bushes from whence he was originally placed by a family member who consistently denies doing such a thing.
Tomorrow is a day to visit with a retired colleague and another neighbour, drink tea and eat oatmeal scones. The dog will be here for another two weeks while his master is in chaotic show mode at the theatre. The old cat will just have to cope as best as she can. I’m planning on doing the dishes sometime tomorrow. The books go back maybe Tuesday. Little piles and projects will sort themselves out as they always do. The garden will fade slowly. Trips to the farmer’s market will increase.
Concrete statues remain the same, unchanged by the seasons.
Broken concrete mother duck, headless, still part of the garden, just hidden
slightly.

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Shelf Life

Here and there and everywhere little sentiments are in the forefront of my rather significant collection of favourite books on my bookshelves. A picture of  my Dad and myself, another of my mom and a niece, my ( retirement) brass school bell,  “Mumma’s” delicate rose and blue china cup, my son’s baby photo, a neutral faced  theatre mask, a carved wooden angel holding a bountiful floral garland, two die-cut cards from my son, figurines of dogs, birds, old souls and a snow globe shaker containg a picture of my sweet departed cat, are a fair representation of what is gathered there.

These things sit usually at the corners of the bookshelves but often are moved to centre place when access to the books hiding behind them are sought. Books are so plentiful that they are stacked vertically on the shelves rather than horizontally. Another bookcase might be purchased soon if my budget can stand it.

My books are organized at this moment in my life. The two top shelves are dedicated to classic literature as I feel that is only fitting for Shakespeare and those I’ve grouped with him there. On the next level are two full shelves of Canadian literature full of strange, often grim but treasured thought. On the shelves beneath contemporary American and European literature balance each other well.Further down, the two lower shelves begin to appear archive like holding assorted children’s books, art books, (several) books on the monarchy, some of my Aunt Bea’s book club books, baskets of CD’s and a few photo albums. Dear Maeve Binchy has an entire lower shelf dedicated solely to herself as she helped me survive my divorce twenty eight years ago. She provided the wholesome comfort of gentle romance when I was dashed and broken by my own decision to remove myself from my marriage. She stays on her shelf for all time, not ever in my lifetime to be culled in a book clearout as she deserves a permanent home.

The really old books that I collect are relegated to my bookshelves built into my bedroom. Among this assortment are my treasured old school readers, honoured for being the delicate rare taste of literature I was exposed to as a very young child. Along these shelves are little ornaments my mother kept so special in her heart. Things like little wooden shoes that have their own story,small framed pictures of Dad, my brother and an eccentric uncle, little flower vases she liked are arranged amongst the books and Bibles stored there.

All the cookbooks I’ve collected fill another full bookshelf in the small family room beside the kitchen. Several of these books are hand written or collections of recipes from my family’s heritage pasted into old scrapbooks. Many books about gardening and healing are also propped up there. These shelves are decorated with some funky pottery and woven baskets.

The spillage of books and sentimental clutter often needs to be tidied and refreshed. At the moment,  a good couple of hours dedicated to decluttering, putting things away, sorting through some recently acquired books from the used book store and other housekeeping duties is most likely a good idea. If only I had  the luxury of a daily domestic helper, like Maeve often described in her books these things might be more consistently done.  It is perhaps better that I do this work myself. After all, I know where things belong.

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Tough Enough

During a whirling dervish wind in late October, I had some help from a great- nephew to tidy up some yard work, put up my Christmas lights and haul in about twenty potted flowers and  herbs. It seemed like the right thing to do, especially with the help of a young nephew. Otherwise, I would have turned my back on the garden, dumped out the pots, strung a few lights and called it a day. But,no. (I’ve never written a” sentence” like that before….must be losing it.)

Lined up in my huge bay window, resting on sturdy boot trays, my flowers and herbs enjoyed the last warm days of fall and only needed watering and a little turn now and again for optimal sunlight.  Needless to say, I didn’t water them enough and some soon fizzled and got tossed out. The rest hung on through Christmas and looked stunning from both inside and outside the house. At night, the outdoor fairy lights draped in the tree added to the magic.

With the coming of January, my watering and maintenance program ended up being quite inconsistent. Usually, I just tipped the remains of a cold cup of tea or murky coffee into the pot and just hoped for the best. Writing about my procrastination habits in my daily journal seemed to help and I would load up a pail of water and take a dipper and gently water the plants so they could carry on bravely through the winter.

When the bulldog pup came to stay for extended visits from town where she was feeling somewhat neglected because her owner, my son, was burning his candle at both ends working and  also producing and directing a show in the evenings, the plants went through their worst trial. Pup ate some, dragged some and knocked some over. All that remain of the herbs are pots of chewed sage, chomped chives and respectable looking rosemary. Multicolored geraniums continue to glow gloriously in four big pots at the most sunny spots in the window. There is an old fashioned red one that cheers, a salmon pink that softly shines, a white one that calms and a rosy orange one that blooms like gangbusters. The faded peacelily hangs on, hopefully a little longer and the large leaf shamrock bursts with tiny white flowers. At night, once in awhile just to bug the neighbours, I turn on the outside muticoloured fairy lights. It looks awesome out there, especially when nobody else is quirky enough to let their lights stay on well into February and beyond.

What is the lesson in all this? Perhaps it is beauty is in the eye of the beholder as long as you remember to water the plants and never get a bulldog pup….or maybe it is just buy more geraniums, fairy lights and let the quirks of nature take its course.

 

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Pumpkins Stacked At The Door

A cold heavy rain fell last night and made the glorious fall colours look a little deary in the subdued daylight. Despite the darkening effect I was still cheered by the sights, sounds and chill of a cool autumn day. Pumpkins at the door of many local village houses or piled at the end of farm gates are a comforting display as everyone gathers for the holiday weekend. Later these pumpkins will be hallowed out and lit to add to the time honored rural celebration of Halloween.

This time of year is a favourite experience for me full of sensory and nostalgic pleasures as I recall all the hard work of gathering in the last of the garden produce, picking up the windfall apples, canning applesauce, bringing in the plants we could save from the frost, taking in the washing from the clothesline with cold, half numb fingers and doing any number of odd jobs to ready the farm for winter.

As the weather changes, the memories surface. My mom never, ever stopped working at gathering in the last of the fruit and vegetables available on our farm. She used everything in canning, freezing, baking and cooking. My dad worked long hours at a factory in town and farmed full time as well. My memory of him at this time of year is the sight of him walking down the lane way to the barn to do his chores at night and the lights turned on in the barn as he spent long hours tending to our animals.

Mom and Dad would take our apples to the neighbour’s cider press, make barrels of sauerkraut using our great uncle’s sauerkraut “maker” and load up the cold cellar with the potatoes, onions, squash and apples that had been temporarily stored in the outdoor shed until the temperature threatened to freeze everything.

Apple and pumpkin pies, baked in quantities and stored in the back pantry are vividly recalled as I can smell the spices in the air and picture the fluted designs of my mom’s pastry crust. Dad would watch the hockey game and his favourite singer, Juliet before reading over his lessons for Sunday.

The rest of us in the family were involved in late crop harvest, school, music lessons, concerts, cooking, baking, cleaning, going to church as a family, in a swirl of duties and expectations as time went by. The wide range of ages in my siblings made our roles stick for life. I will always be the baby sister even though I have a much younger brother. My sister will always be somewhat in charge.

The sight of pumpkins stacked by the door, the denuded garden patch and the reality of the cold, heavy rain as it drenches everything reminds me of many things as well as humbles my spirit. I truly love this time of year.

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Two Markets, Two Markets To Buy Great Stuff….

At the very edge of an ancient woodlot, beside the old mill pond and behind a heritage general store, the Coldstream Market in Middlesex Centre, Ontario quietly conducts friendly business. There are a few signs pointing the way in the immediate area and a general newsletter outlining details of the local initiative was sent out earlier in the rural mail. About five or six people set up their displays on the back of pickup trucks or card tables under the shade of the towering trees. It just happens, like a pleasant and simple event during the growing and harvest season and I just love it.
The selection today was canned chili sauce, relish, handcrafted linens, all kinds of vegetables, homemade catering samples,maple syrup,eggs, flowers, homebaking and jewellery.
I came home with chili sauce made by my next door neighbour, eggs from the lady who goes to my church, vegetables from another neighbour just a little further down the road, bread from our Komoka bakery that specializes in gingerbread and a beautiful bracelet made by a young designer, Mylie. I decorated my front porch with an assortment of squash and made myself the best tomato sandwich from fresh flax and soya blend bread. I bought the gorgeous homegrown tomatoes from the catering fellow who lives in my Grandpa Walter’s house where I used to play fifty years or so ago.
Usually I am rather late getting to the market (as I am a retired writing night owl) but this morning I was one of their early birds. I had time to visit with everyone…and I know (almost) everyone and their brother and sister there…. and savour the laid back experience.
With time on my hands I also made a short trip to the slightly bigger Ilderton’s Farmer’s Market just down the road. This market has only started up this year and seems to be in a very good location for attracting customers. A festive fall mood of decorated haywagons, displays of pumpkins, tables of a variety of goodies such as homemade candles, vegetables, a couple of jewellery displays, baby wear, gourmet garlic, flour products from a local mill and frozen meats all tempted the visitors. A scavenger hunt was even organized for the little ones as they examined the plentiful displays with their parents. My purchases were gourmet garlic, a knitted baby hat and some frozen meat. I get a charge out of this market too as although I know many people there I am also making new aquaintances as a result of the friendly market atmosphere.
Stocked to the gills for yet another week I do not need to do anymore grocery shopping and I’ve even made a few purchases to put away for Christmas gifts. I have a feeling that I am a favourite shopper at both of these markets as I tend to go a bit crazy and buy an abundance of lovely things.
The people involved in these small local farmer’s markets are the real treasures as we share the morning together. Making contact with all these hardworking, friendly and talented people is delightful…and to think that I’ve bought several funky creative bracelets from the up and coming jewellery designer, Mylie…. while she is in the sixth grade…. is just way cool.

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Wuthering At A Later Date

Bright sun, a gentle cooling wind and deep blue skies mean that the season is just starting to change and I will be out of excuses for not writing every day. After all, if I don’t write everyday I’m just plain lazy. The time is ripe for shaking things up and getting a move on.

Well, that didn’t work.

Instead of beating myself up for my extended vacation from creating stories and poems I intend to just go with the flow. I will read into the late and early hours, doze off with my reading lamps blazing and jolt myself awake at 5:30 am to put myself finally to bed. Sleeping in, ignoring the world outside my door until I get organized enough to grind some fragrant dark roasted coffee beans, read my emails and blogs that I follow and day-dream for most of the remaining day. It is time to soak up the glory of the back yard and garden even if there are  a few towering goldenrod weeds obscuring the view. It is time to cook all the gorgeous fall treats that I particularly like such as soups, sauerkraut, fruit cobblers and fudge. It is time to do all kinds of things. The ideas, emotions and sensations of this time are enough to paint my imagination so that I can draw inspiration from it later.

When the sheeting, driving rains come and the ragged branches tap piteously at my dark, icy bedroom window, then I will pull out all the stored and preserved  material and rock my writing.

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Getting Something Accomplished

Distractions have interfered with my writing only because I’ve looked for excuses to let them do so. I’ve had some different things to attend to but that was not the real reason for not stockpiling my writing over the summer. It must have been just a break that I needed for some creative purpose and now I feel compelled to start it all up again. I even bought new pens today.

My sister tells me I should write children’s stories and I will. My son tells me to write about the theatre experiences I enjoy so I will do that too. My good friends keep me stocked up with journals so that I will write about what I read or plant in the garden (that’s why I need lots of pens). I also handwrite a stream of consciousness journal that is just a flow of stuff I should be doing or what I’m thinking about doing (i go through pens like crazy!). That journal is amazing as it works in that it usually gets me off my procrastination sidelines and somehow motivates me to do some errands, repairs and duties. It is like being mothered again after losing my wonderfully feisty but very elderly mom. It is my push to get moving and get stuff done.

I need to write again and get something accomplished. Maybe this time, while I’m stockpiling the stories, reports, poems and observations I’ll find whatever it is that I need to say.

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