Category Archives: gardening

Packed off Penny!

After two weeks of high-stepping over wet and sometimes gooey newspapers, I’ve packed up the pooch and sent her back to her city home. She was reluctant to get back into my son’s car because I think she thought she was going to the vet again…or maybe she was wanting to stay with her Nana. It’s great. I imagine I will spend some time cleaning up tonight and enjoy keeping my purse on the floor again, along with my shoes or whatever. Penny was into everything such as plants, books, pillows, shoes and annoying my old cat despite having a nice little assortment of chew and toss toys.

At least I won’t be spending all of our waking hours walking her around the garden and sitting outside with her in the backyard. My neighbours have never seen so much of me. With the help of my sister-in-law next door Penny got her eye drops right on schedule three times a day. This routine along with her feeding and exercise needs kept me very tied down.  But it has been rather nice too. I have savoured the peace of our country village, watched the leaves blow overhead, counted all the different shades of green all around me in the forms of trees , flowers, shrubs and grasses. I’ve read some recipe books and drank coffee out of my old battered school teacher thermos. Penny and I both learned to kick back a little and just watch the quiet corner of our world go by.

In the evenings , after a raucous play period that I’ve termed “the witching hour” I would scoop her tubby body up and plunk her down on an old down pillow and give her little back rubs .Immediately soothed she would collapse into a snuffy, cuddle pup and we would spend an hour or so just snoozing together on the recliner. Once she was in her crate for the night I would go out into the wet night to try to find the poor cat lurking in the neighbour’s shrubs and try to lure her into the house for her meal and a dry place to sleep.

Penny’s eye seems to be getting better and that was the whole point of her extended visit. Now I will have to think of another excuse to have her here on a short term basis. Maybe I should focus on patching things up with my poor cat first. She thinks I’m crazy.

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Puppy Love

Today is my day off and it really felt like it for a change. Whew….I went out to the farmer’s market, greenhouse. did laundry, had a nap, worked in the garden and had another nap. Since retiring I’ve thoroughly adapted (like a big time slacker and I deserve it) to the laid back routine of extra sleep, reading, theatre,writing, puttering, little drives to fun spaces, some gardening, some short walks, cooking a  super healthy and gourmet farmstyle cusine, cleaning once in a while and visiting with friends and family. However, the puppy on loan has changed things significantly. Last week I ate cold meatloaf and pickles over the kitchen sink so she wouldn’t see me eat anything.

I offered to keep her last week to bond with Miss Moneypenny as she will be staying with me next week anyway to recover from some eye surgery to correct something called cherry eye, a common problem for little bullies.

Getting up to walk and feed her early has reminded me of my working days, but at least now after checking to make sure I’m dressed completely (long story) to walk around the quiet neighbourhood I don’t have to  shower and do my hair or makeup (for days if I don’t want to), but instead crawl back into bed for another snooze before really getting up for the day. The puppy maintenance schedule is bathroom walk, feedings, more bathroom walks, cleaning up wet newspaper safety targets, floor washing, more feeding, more walking, some training for puppy kindergarten, more or the aforementioned, over and over….playing, hugging, cuddling….writing several email updates to my son working in a beautiful theatre about his puppy child….and so…when she went home yesterday for the weekend…..I missed her.

No worries though, by evening tomorrow she’ll be back and into everything, upsetting the retired apple cart big time. Surgery on her eye is on Monday morning and both my son and I will be worried, concerned and relieved when it is safely over. Just think, next week, I’ll be doing the puppy lifestyle all over again but this time she’ll be upset about wearing a cone protector around her bulky little neck, she will be wild as a bronco as she won’t likely have her quiet time routine in her crate due to wearing the cone….thank goodness we bonded this past week. I’ll let you know…….( in case you haven’t seen her picture yet, (gush from Nana)….see my blog post Precious Penny.)

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Early Summer Dream

A good fairy appears in my wild garden of perennials and quietly works. Pulling weeds, clipping shoots and branches, tidying up pots and planters, discovering lost garden tools and toting away (with permission!) wheelbarrows full of green compost to my neighbour’s bracken pile she has opened up my little yard again and made it more presentable, enjoyable and loveable. The neighbour is even more into natural gardening than I am and allows me to bring my green compost over to his wildlife sanctuary for the birds, rabbits, squirrels and skunks to shelter themselves in.

My garden is on a  rural village street that curves from the park to the main road of the village and serves as a walkway for many neighbours. Everyone walks here. Some of my neighbours have kids , many have visiting grandkids and sweet doggies that need the quiet, peaceful walkway that goes all along my property.

My garden, porch and sedentary bookish lifestyle is on full view and that is fine. However, the weeds and chaos of a jumbled garden can work against the creative vibe so I try to pull and yank weeds with the best of them so I can get back on task with my writing. I can do it but it is an unpleasant effort when it gets crazy ahead of me with weeds and long grass.

Now, the good fairy, home from university, majoring in history and human resources (clever fairy!) and living on a neighbouring farm with her family, flies in and out like a whisper to give me a hand. She has made my wild garden a little more trimmed and ready to burst out in its glory with seasonal appearances of white and pink hydrangea shrubs, blue morning glories trailing up an ivy wall on my little house, white and lilac Rose of Sharon bushes, ENORMOUS pink Himalayan orchids, leafy Boston ferns , a few wild red roses and a quaint trellis covered with rosy bittersweet.

She promises to fly in later in the early fall when she visits her farm family (to help show pigs, sheep and cattle at fall fairs) and come by again to work some gentle magic on the forsythia and lilac bushes that will need to be trimmed so that they can bloom beautifully in the spring. I will take advantage of her willingness to work and get her to dig lots of holes for tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.  Gently she has coaxed the old and established wild garden to reveal itself gracefully if not as eccentrically arranged as before. Now I can keep ahead of the weeds,  just water everything as needed, plant my annuals (bought on sale) creatively in an odd assortment of planters and just wander in the garden. Middle age fairy myself, I truly appreciate the help and can get back to writing, reading, going to artsy events and theatre.

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Worth the Try

I’m waiting for the painter to arrive to estimate a bathroom project that is long overdue. I took a swipe at the fixtures, countertop and mirror. I threw the bath mat into the washing machine. A bag of unused lotions and hair products is hidden in my bedroom until I can find a place to donate them to good use. After vacuuming and damp mopping the floor and fluffing up the room with (dried, from my own garden) flowers and a candle, the place doesn’t look half bad. Look closely enough though, it needs a good paint job immediately.

This is a good parallel to what has been generally going on in my little writer’s corner of the world lately.  It takes awhile to overcome procrastination and make the changes. Half way through the process it is chaos. You feel dizzy and sweaty. After a bit of rest and nourishment you can go gangbusters at it and try to meet a deadline with your best shot. Second guessing yourself enters into everything. Worries about overextending your limits  and resources surface. Then you try it and it either works or not. Somehow it is worth the try because oddly enough it makes you feel like a kid again.

However young it makes me feel I think it will be worth the splurge to pay the painter to do the job this time and less messy.

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Pick Your Poision

As a result of all this writing I’ve been doing lately I have decided to try entering a literary contest. I’ve thought about this before and didn’t do it. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to make the effort  despite reading over the criteria for entering. Last year I looked the contest up again and read some of the winning selections.  Personally I found them all depressing but interesting. The winning piece was about suicide. The runner-up piece was about dealing with drug abuse. Considering I mostly write about my garden and cherished old family memories I put aside any urges to compete  in the yearly contest. But not this year. Heck why not?

I’m wound up now and my writing shows it . I can write depressing and interesting stuff too if I try really hard. Many friends, family and neighbours are reading my blog now and most find it either amusing or revealing. Some read it and don’t know what to think, I’m sure. They are reluctant to discuss it with me as if I have a frightening illness and don’t want to set me off emotionally by mentioning their reactions to it. Sensitive girl that I am, I can read their minds and some of them are confused or a bit worried about me. Others grin and wave at me in the grocery store or lean out of  their car window and quote little goofy things I’ve written as they drive by me when I’m out walking the dog. It’s rather fun for me and now I know how vulnerable other writers feel when they shared a completed work. My task right now for the next month is to write my entry for the contest and I’ve made a good start.

The contest material has to be original and about 1500 words. Neither, can it be something already published on the internet such as my blog stuff. If it was any good at all  wouldn’t hurt my chances either. I’ve decided to write three short fiction stories but they will be inspired by my varied dark side life experiences. Then I will have a choice of material and make my selection for the competition.

The first story which I’ve already started is about an arrogant and untrustworthy son of a gun. The second in the trilogy will be about a mean, old son of a gun. Finally, the third will be about a disturbed, lying son of a gun. Does anyone out there appreciate the pattern evolving here? Apparently I can find the inspiration to rage and rant with the best of them.

It is worth your while to look up the origin of the phrase” son of a gun” . Shakespeare had an appreciation for the character type and referred to it in his own special way using different words in King Lear. I can’t remember the quote but it involved  several choice put downs. Look it up yourself why don’tcha! (See what I did there.)

Once I have these stories written out and polished up I intend to perform them for my drama coach. She helps me with my voice and presentation skills as I continue to refine my storytelling performance art. Poor girl didn’t know what she was in for when I signed up. Over the next couple of weeks I will be in this mode of writing, editing and performing for one weary, paid listener. I can’t post these stories until after the competition, but rest assured they will be humdingers .Think of me sitting in the local coffee shop, church meeting or town hall gathering, writing furiously away while the locals come and go, shaking their heads.

They should worry.

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Etc., Etc., Etc.

Hmmmmm, what will I write about now? It is very late and so quiet  and my eyes are grainy with much-needed sleep. It’s interesting to be just sitting here and doing this while all my neighbours and family are asleep. Even the dog and cats have more sense than I do and have found their beds for the night. It seems that I have found a happy place and it is very late, quiet and grainy in my little writing nook. having absolutely no idea what I want to write about except the fun that I  have found in writing. Hence and furthermore, I will continue this little piece for my own selfish enjoyment. (Apparently the spell check is not working at this hour so I’ll be saving this draft but believe me when I say it is 1:54 am. Proving perhaps I need a life.)

Initially when I started to blog I thought it wud (spell check didn’t catch this so I left it in) be about cooking or books, possibly gardening with a dash of pets. In fact I wrote several posts along those lines. Alright, I wrote way too many. Then I tried out other things like memories, reflections and strange artistic writing exercises that got interesting reactions from my readers. Along the line I made contact with other writers  and examined their content and styles. Some have even blogrolled me ( cool) into categories like Life, Writing and Storytelling. Having subscribers sign up to follow has been exciting even if one of the subscribers is myself! Whoops. Now I just have to figure out how to blogroll other writers and use embedded features etc. etc. etc. (Don’t laugh at me.)

I meditated, examined my book shelves, sorted through my collection of books, music and scraps of previous writing attempts. Browsing expeditions in the library, bookstores, music shops and on-line have filled my days in September. Researching art, literature, politics and history, a tad of science (what the heck is a neutrino?), questioning my assumptions and generally opening up my mind to new ideas has been renewing. Writing some vulnerable material released bottled up grief. Some wacky allegories came out of nowhere and lifted my writer’s spirits and awareness . Edgy satire, although intriguing is out of my league at present. Abrasive satire is an acquired taste like sauerkraut .

Becoming an obsessed fiend for improving my reader stats I made more contact with other bloggers and enjoyed having a peek into new vistas that otherwise would have been off-limits.  I started using terms like vistas in my writing and making dreadful puns and not caring who liked it or not. I found out from a friend (hey there) that I should just write what I want as I am judge and jury of my creative life.  I found out I don’t know enough about certain things that I should care about like  politics and social issues. I intend to change my ways.

Realizing that first and foremost I am a storyteller with the soul of a poet (aw …) I will try to find a worthy niche to share these stories. Gentle humour seems to be my style for now but it may get testy unexpectedly. I need to read a wider variety of writers , think deeper and challenge more.

This stage of my writing life feels wonderful but that may just be all the vitamins and supplements that I have also recently tried to take…. kicking in.

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A Market Tip

Just a mile from my house is a restored Victorian  general store.  Just behind it is a conservation site with a leafy woods and an original but improved swimming hole pond. Rich with history the area once was the site of several mills and businesses. A community originally settled by Scottish and Pennsylvania Dutch( United Empire Loyalists) pioneers, it has retained its proud heritage well over the years. My Dad’s family traces it’s roots here to 1820 and I have both Scottish and Pennsylvania Dutch blood lines. It is a very nice place to live in and few take this blessing for granted. At this point I’d just like to tell you about the very tiny Coldstream Farmer’s Market that is held every Saturday, during the growing and harvest season, situated on a grassy clearing just behind the old Marsh Store.

The market opens about 9:30 am and is over, on the dot at 11:30 am. At the beginning of the season there might only be a couple of local vendors and a trickle of community folks coming to check out the goods and produce. After a few weeks with a little word of mouth advertising and a simple sign at the main road things start to pick up. This is the second year for the market and it seems to be really starting to catch on. An environmental group of volunteers host the market and insist on a few simple rules and criteria for the things sold at the market. The most basic rule is that the produce or goods must be local. The concept is something that I really enjoy and I just might be one of their best customers. As writing is more or less my thing I feel motivated to use my keyboard to share the local news of this nifty little farmer’s market held within the old woods of our community’s history.

Last week I arrived with two large shopping bags and could hardly carry them back to the car after merrily making my purchases. I see some folks shopping there with better self-control than myself but I just let loose and buy up scads of stuff. I enjoy cooking and eating and find it rather exciting to just experiment with the seasonal goodies available. This interest comes from my growing up on a farm locally and learning how to work with food creatively from my energetic mom.

The bounty that spilled onto my kitchen counters when I returned home was: maple syrup and maple sugar spread, cabbage, several varieties of peppers, potatoes, heritage and regular tomatoes, beets, green beans, buns, cookies, onions , garlic and sweet corn. I also bought a lovely necklace made by a young local designer! I resisted buying flowers, zucchini, and herbs as I have those at home in my own patch or available to me from my sister’s farm down the road. A couple of the neighbours have a table set up with conservation ideas and an impromptu garden advice talk was offered to anyone interested in self sufficiency. I hope the egg lady comes back next week as I always seem to miss her as she sells out fast. A young mom has a display of photography, handmade items and jewelery too. My neighbour sells fabric shopping totes as she visits with everyone coming and going.

After my shopping trip to the market I visit the local library just down the road and feed my need for good books as well. With a stocked up car of good things to eat and read I’m all set for the week ahead. Wonderful, wonderful food from the simple homegrown produce turns my summer into a time to nourish both body and soul. The smells that emanate from my tiny kitchen would make even Gordon Ramsey smile and jump for joy. The supply of good books from the library, including recipe books is just icing on the cake.

If you are driving through Coldstream, Ontario, Saturday morning, drop in and see our wee market, but don’t be late as the sign gets put away at 11:30 sharp and everybody goes home to eat all the good stuff. If you miss it just try again earlier next time! History repeats itself, every week, during the growing and harvest season.

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Dry Spell

When the cicadas can be heard during the long hot afternoon it seems like summer is starting to turn to autumn. There really is lots of warm summer ahead but with that rattly sound overhead it makes me feel like time is short and overlooked and postponed projects must be done. Previously, once it really was fall, the pace of being back in class didn’t allow for home renovation and strenuous projects such as sweeping out the shed or clearing clutter from the basement. Everything had to be done in the hot summer and it was rather icky and annoying for me. Now in retirement, the pace doesn’t matter and it can wait for cooler days. Long hot days are great if you are sitting under a tree at the lake but not so great otherwise. Fortunately for me I have a partially shaded yard, some fans positioned around the house, cool drinks,  good books and no real pressing schedule. A little guilt perhaps but I can live with that.

During this dry spell of activity due to the real presence of dry hot weather all that is palpable to do is the bare minimum. Laundry is manageable because of a new washing machine. Dishes are washed by hand as they accumulate. Bare minimum cooking is endured because we have to eat something. Yard work is almost nil except for watering the plants as the grass is too dry to grow and any weed that is still hanging on for dear life is ignored. The pets need  some extra attention with the heat and seem to be content with staying  under the bushes during the day and sleeping by the fan at night.  Grocery shopping is also for the bare necessities and mainly consists of salad fixings and cold drinks. General housekeeping doesn’t happen.  If the cleaning spirit moves then perhaps a blitz of five minutes of tidy up will sporadically occur. A leaky old dog necessitates some emergency damp mopping but  all is forgiven.

Socially there is an effort to visit a few neighbours and family members. A wedding anniversary, friends and colleagues reunion, family suppers at the farm, a trip to a special tea room, and regular jaunts to summer theatre round out the month of August.

 No plans for struggling back to a hot classroom for me. No need to buy school storybooks,  decorative  posters and other materials. No reason to plan, plan, plan for the year ahead.Things are different with retirement and  responsibilities have changed in many ways.

 After the dry spell, when the days are sweetly cool again and I can leave the windows open for the brisk breezes to blow through I will gather up my cleaning tools and sort through the books that need to be donated, the junk that needs to be carried away, sweep out the dusty old woodshed, fix the broken door frame on the shed, put in a new kitchen sink, trim the bushes and start cooking comfort food again. Once the baking heat  is over  maybe I will feel more like writing again. At present, it’s too much work, and I feel a little guilty about it.

 But…I can live with it.

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Mom’s Solution

When I was a little kid I used to stutter and this put my mom into a panic. She was worried that my stuttering would develop into a problem for me when I was older as my Dad had difficulty with simply saying his name. He didn’t usually have a problem but sometimes if caught off guard he would struggle with the first sound of his name and this was anxiety building for him.  My Mom’s solution for me was to arrange for a homemade swimming pool to be dug in our yard when bulldozers and diggers where paving our country road. I think the workmen got homemade pie and coffee for digging the hole. The pool was meant to be a therapeutic cure for me so I wouldn’t stutter like my Dad. Anyway, I was thrilled to pieces to be surprised with this wonderful thing….a pool!

My Dad and my brother reinforced the dug pool with scrap wooden doors and cement. They painted it a light robin egg blue. It was about 20 feet long and 10 feet across. There was a shallow end that was about 3 feet deep and a deeper end about 4 feet deep. When filled the deep end was right up to my chin anyway. It had two steps down at the deep end. It drained into my Mom’s flower garden. The garden hose could fill the pool in an afternoon and the midday sun would warm the water enough so I could get into the pool fairly soon after it was filled. There was a wooden plug fashioned by my Dad on the outside of the pool that he would dislodge with a hammer when the pool needed fresh water.

 It didn’t have any chemicals put in it at all. It was up to me to splash around in it, scoop out any bugs with my hands and use a little pail to catch any frogs or poor toads that fell into the water overnight. It was kind of fun swimming with the frogs as I recall so I would let them participate for a short time before tossing them out. Any unfortunate mice that were found in it I wasn’t made aware of as my Dad removed them before starting his chores.

 I was in the pool all the time and felt I was a very lucky little girl. My parents didn’t seem concerned about  danger but I recall they would  sit close by after cutting the grass or other outside chores. Sometimes my sister would stick her feet in the water and my Mom would sometimes take a quick dip to cool off after a hot day’s work of picking berries, gardening or canning tomatoes. I didn’t try any crazy stunts in the pool except I tried to float. I could dog paddle a little too. Mostly I just sunk as deep as I could down into the water and was in my glory looking at the effect of the clear water as it shimmered against the robin egg blue colour of the pool.

 It was a most glorious place to be on a hot summer day . The pool remained there until I was in highschool but I was too big by then to use it. It was broken down and cleared away so that my Mom could regain the space for another huge flower garden patch. To this day a magnolia tree, peony bushes, lilies and a hydrangea bush grow on the spot.

I seemed to outgrow the stuttering phase so perhaps the splashing and swimming exercise was good for me. I can still remember the roughness of the cement in places such as when I scraped my leg against the steps. In my minds’ eye I can see the design of the wooden doors under the surface of the cement used to frame the pool. The cold bone numbing water coming out of the hose, slowly turning to sun warmed temperature is engrained in my childhood memory.

 Robin egg blue cool water sparkling with sunlight, my beautiful little pool, my sanctuary.

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Summertime

It’s  three a.m. for crying out loud and here I am starting a new blog entry. During the month of July it gets hot around here and this throws off any semblance of a sleeping routine with me. I don’t do well in the heat so I snatch rest in the darkened, fan stirred livingroom  siesta style when I can. Often it is too hot to do much around the house until the sun starts to go down so that’s probably why I am still up doing dishes and laundry and blogging.

 I’m blogging in the tiny room off the kitchen as it is our only air-conditioned room in the house. It used to be a small garage years and years ago. I’ve painted it, added some cottage curtains, a sofa, recliner and tub chair, computer set up and television. The doorway doesn’t have a door on it as it opens into the entry way and kitchen. So the cool  air gets lost for the most part into the rest of the hot little house. I think I will try to block off the doorway somehow with a temporary sheet or something. Now, you don’t get decorating tips like that often do you?

Just before dusk I supervised my young neighbour as he cut my grass for me . I had trimmed a few bushes earlier.So my yard which is on a curved village street open to kindly neighbourly scrutiny looks quite presentable, thankyou.

I’ve read excerpts from my three new books today. The walking book is a nice gentle read and not bossy in its approach to suggesting healing walks. It’s got me moving despite the heat wave but only in little circuits of increased walking. I’d cite it for you but I’m too lazy to get out of the chair and check the title and author. I think it is called Healing Walks for Hard Times. Anyway. it’s good and I’ll refer to it later, in another blog, maybe. Wait till there is a snap in the air this fall and you will see my dust!

The two novels are quite unusual. One is funny and off beat to say the least. It’s called Jitterbug Perfume. I read only a chapter or two but laughed at the absurdity of it. The other novel is rather challenging and complicated with six narratives going on to just sit and read despite being beautifully written. Cloud Atlas is more of a cool day book when it is raining outside and you need a blanket on your knees. It’s too hot to read much of it today but I’ll carry on with it when I can.  A neighbour friend brought me a book last week called The White Bone and it is very different and epic in a Grapes of Wrath style but in this heat just reading it lulls me to sleep. It is the kind of book  to read when I need to be wearing  a wooly sweater and bed socks. Obviously my reading habits have something to do with the heat, hormone issues and my attention span.

 Supper tonight was a skillet affair as my oven is on the blink. Some dishes are still soaking and that’s fairly typical as we eat late and then I often bake even later (when the oven works). Most of the laundry is folded and some of it is put away. The cats are out wandering in the moonlight instead of being safely asleep inside the house.Things just seem to be out of sync but that’s perfectly okay.

 It’s the heat.

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