Monday, 3 August 2020

It's August and My Sister's Venture

I'm almost positive I've posted something similar (probably many times), but once again, it feels like August. It is an odd combination of spent flowers and stillness, a chorus of crickets, and harvest anticipation. Things had been a little dry, but using the soaker hoses was wise. However, yesterday and today have been steady rain - not pummeling rain, but a good thorough soak. Once again, my ridiculously tall tomato plants took a tumble sideways, weighed down with the rain and their bulk. I re-staked them, and added two more new stakes. 

I am happy that there is still one month of my own personal summer holidays. I am doing pretty well allowing myself to not own the decisions that must be made in terms of returning to school in September. I am not fretting over the protocols, the preparations, the choices... I am completely fine with allowing the well-paid Board Office officials to interpret and apply the directives put out by our provincial premier and his minister of education. If I start fretting and wondering, I will become overwhelmed with how much is going to go into putting bodies back in classrooms. I have to let it all go, so I can enjoy a few weeks more of freedom, because come September, it's going to be a whole different world...again.

To move on to a completely different topic, I don't write much of my immediate family because their worlds are their worlds and I don't want to infringe on their privacy. As well, we are all spread quite far apart in age, my siblings and I, and to me it feels like we exist in different generations. Both of my parents have been gone for many years now, but, pandemic aside, the four siblings and their spouses / partners / children try to get together a couple of times a year. There is a bit of geographical distance between some of us. 

The sibling closest in age to me is my sister. She is five years older than me, and I am the youngest. When I was little, I thought everyone could draw. I never knew that there are people out there who say, "I can't draw." My father sketched out and designed things to build or modify. My mother painted a bit in her youth and was quite capable of quickly drawing something if needed. I think nothing of drawing examples of anything I'm talking about in class. I'm pretty sure at least two of my three siblings had drafting tables in their bedrooms. They took art classes through high school and drew all the time. Sketch books and giant art porfolios were part of the "stuff" in our home. As a very small child, I distinctly remember the card table being set up in the middle of the living room and the odour of turpentine being prevalent. My sister, at quite a young age, had discovered Paint by Number and churned out several paintings in a short time. My father, who could do anything, created picture frames from wooden trim and those paintings adorned the walls of our shared bedroom for years. 

Of course, my sister went far beyond the prescribed and limited "paint by number"  art. But it was her art of my childhood that I think of when I think of her as an artist. The stories she was draw for me, series of pictures in a "scribbler" that she would narrate for me, tales of little animals and their adventures. It was the Barbie doll multi-roomed homes that she created out of scrap wood (there was always scrap wood) with floors, back walls, and dividing walls, beans bag chairs hand-sewn, refrigerator and stove painted white and features outlined in black, again from scraps of wood, a couch from leftover fabric and foam... She was always involved in some sort of artistic, creative endeavour, be it sewing her own clothes, creating corn husk dolls, making an entire family of spiders from styrofoam balls and colourful yarn, or making intricate macrame plant hangers (it was the 70's after all).

Now, my sister, Jade, has embarked on a business which combines her love of animals and her ability to capture their personality with paints. She used my own felines, present and past as subjects to practise with .

She sent these to us, framed and ready to be displayed a few months back, as she was working out the intricacies of creating her business and website. The two end paintings include little "snippets" of words and phrases which describe Scooter and Samson that I provided. The collection of three cats in the middle are without words, just each cat's name included inobtrusively in the painting. I love how they all turned out. I think it's lovely to have paintings of our former pets. It's only Scooter now, and she definitely captured his personality, as odd as it is. And to think she was able to do it just from photos that I emailed to her!  If you are interested, her website is called and you can click on the link and explore. I'm very impressed with the website, with all of it's detail and some background on her. When she told me of her idea, my first thought was that it would be a wonderful gift for someone who had lost a pet, because as we know, they become members of our families and the loss of a pet can be comparable to the loss of any loved one. Anyway, I wish her well, and I'm sure she will have tons of interest and business coming her way, and with the ability to communicate with a client via email, the restrictions of a pandemic won't hold her back.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Worth the Work

Quick post today to celebrate the first meal using lots of my homegrown vegetables. It is definitely worth the work starting seeds, preparing the soil, weeding, and watering to eat your own food. Last night's meal was roasted chicken thighs (no, not my own birds!), green beans, a salad made with my own lettuce and onion (as well as store bought peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes), beets, potatoes (yay - first new potatoes), zucchini and even a little dill for the potatoes if desired. I felt healthier - ha ha- having eaten my own produce. I'm sure many of you are also doing the same, and some who live in different climates have already been enjoying.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

July 28, 2020

Not much happening around here except for the everyday things which make me contented, the necessary jobs involved in meal making, keeping house, taking care of animals, and apart from a pandemic, a really great summer with lots of heat and almost the right amount of rain.

I laid out two soaker hoses in my vegetable garden, which, once again, is one of the best gardens I've had in years. It then rained overnight which gives much better results than any hose watering.  Maybe the success of this garden is about starting a lot of my plants from seed indoors, as well as having fresh seeds (ordered online during the thick of the pandemic). Or it could be that most of my completely full compost container got worked into the soil and it is a lovely, hot, humid summer.

I always love to look at the intricacies of plants. I don't have a fancy camera (in fact, it's just my phone) and I am finding that the new blogger does not provide crisp, vibrant images anymore. My header photo, for example is much brighter than you see here. Does anyone else find that to be the case?
Regardless, my peas are climbing and have little pods and beautiful white flowers with delicate curly-cue vines.

My three pumpkin plants (yes, I am aware that my garden is too small to house three pumpkin plants plus everything else, but all three germinated. What could I do??) are taking over the world and as the vines reach the edge of the garden, I redirect and let them continue to wind their way through onions, carrots, and beans.

The blossoms are so pretty. (Notice the squash beetle? Bastards.)

I always grow leaf lettuce, rather than head lettuce. This is almost too pretty to eat. 

I grew dill with the intention of making dill pickles, but we all know the story of my cucumbers, so now I just pull a bit off and squish it in my fingers to smell it. Heavenly!

Here's another colourful, although likely not edible plant. I did not plant flowers in my urns, as I was too late and all the good stuff had been scooped up by isolated, bored people. This coleus was a great alternative, grown by an independent green house owner.

Please imagine it to be more vivid than the photo is showing. It really is fabulous.

Blooming right now is my Russian sage, a perennial that is both big and little at the same time. The plants themselves take up quite a bit of space, but the flowers are small and understated, providing a "wash of purple" from a distance. I apologize for the out of focus one in the foreground. (No reading glasses at the time).

My header photo shows Russian Sage with Black Eyed Susan - a nice colour contrast.

Lastly, as anyone with "livestock" can tell you, sometimes something gets sick and dies. One of my brown hens was looking sick (purple-ish comb, listless, standing apart from others) and I likely isolated her too late, but I put her in a separate cage, gave her antibiotics in her water (and also put them in the water of the rest of the little flock), and a variety of food that she might like, but it was not to be. Now this morning, I saw another one had a floppy, although still red, comb and was starting to take that hunched - over stance that chicken owners are familiar with, so I managed to grab her and put her in the now disinfected cage with fresh antibiotic water and placed her in the shade, well away from the chicken coop. 

We shall see. I am preparing myself to lose a few more. It happens.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

July 21st 2020

It was a very good day. I accomplished a lot. It's funny that I always feel it's a better day if I get stuff done, check things off a list, have a sense of good tiredness. Others may think it's a good day if they do very little, rest and relax. Everyone's different.

Husband had been finishing a home project involving our front hall. All the messy, dust producing work is totally done, with just paint touch up left, so I got to work cleaning up the dust in the house. Naturally, that led to other cleaning because one thing leads to another... but it felt good to pull furniture out, really see how bad it was behind things, and then give it a good cleaning. I know, I know, lots of people did that during their isolation, shut down, lock down time, but I didn't. I was still working from home with two other people working / studying from home. 

After I had a bit of lunch, I tackled the great outdoors. My Christmas present trimmer (whipper snipper, weed eater, whatever you call it) got refueled and I proceeded to cut the long grass along the rail fence, by the house, by the pool fence, by the chicken coop... My arm was shaking by the time I was done. Oh but what a joy to use a gas powered trimmer instead of the battery powered one I was using for years. I didn't have to stop with a job half done while the batteries recharged.

I've been doing really well "keeping ahead" of the weeds in my vegetable garden and this is one of the best years so far. 

For the past two years I have had hardly any success with tomatoes due to blight and just very little growth. This year is a whole different experience. We had very heavy rains and wind a day or so ago and although I had caged my tomatoes, they still tipped over. I ended up staking them now. The picture may not really show it, but they are lovely and big and healthy. I grew them from seed that I purchased through Mackenzie Seeds. 

My pumpkins are crawling through everything else and have had lots of blossoms. I love growing pumpkins but haven't done so for years. All of this is due to digging out all of my strawberries last year. Now I have room for lots more vegetables. Ignore the weeds in amongst the beets and carrots. If I pull them out, that will disturb the roots of those vegetables, so they can all grow merrily together.

I can't seem to get my words lined up along the left-hand side without some problems, so if the next bit looks odd, that's why. I had to replant quite a few things: beans, peas, cucumbers (x4), but everything is great now, except I gave up entirely on the cucumbers and have a couple growing in big yogurt containers. I may stick them in the ground when they look like they can handle themselves.

Here are two more tomato plants that I didn't have room for, so I stuck them in a big planter on the porch. They grew so much, I put a tomato cage in there with them. For interest sake, I am growing Big Beef and Mortgage Lifter tomatoes.

The following flower pictures are what is in bloom at the moment, all glorious "hot" colours with echinacea, daylilies, crocosmia, and trumpet vine. 

Oh dear - that's rather out of focus, isn't it? That's the problem with looking at your little phone screen without your reading glasses on!

This is daughter's very first car of her own, purchased with her own money (which wasn't much considering she's been a university student for a while). Husband is a handy guy, never afraid to tackle anything: electrical, plumbing, construction, pool-making, and mechanics and body work. (Not big on cooking, however) He is just starting to take care of the rusted sill plates (do I even have that right?). Everything else is done for it to be certified, this is the last thing that needs finishing. There's always a project going on!

I've been doing some reading. I really enjoyed Magpie Murders written by the same author as Midsomer Murders. At the Edge of the Orchard was a bit of historical fiction - not bad. I've read Ann Granger before, so I knew Rooted in Evil would be another good mystery. I tried to start Brett's Death on the Downs, but it was so unnecessarily wordy that I just couldn't stomach much past the first chapter. I wanted to shout, "Just say it!!" All of these books were ordered online through my local library's website. Now I have to think about what I want to read next.

That's it for today - now I shall read your blogs!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Memories : Cicadas

We had rain on and off all day yesterday and I can almost hear plants breathing a sigh of relief (and can practically see them growing!). Today is a return of this lovely hot weather we've been experiencing. I had just finished feeding some cut-offs of pineapple to the chickens and then intended to just wander over to the vegetable garden to take a peek, but of course, got involved in about half an hour of weeding instead. As I was about to make my way back into the house, I heard that familiar, distinctive sound of a cicada's call. That's all it took to take me back to my childhood and Aunt Jean and Uncle Earl's house.

Aunt Jean was one of my father's sisters. She lived in a small town which felt like a whole different realm, but was in reality about an hour away from my childhood home. The area in which she lived was a different zone, with sandy soil and long hot summers, perfect for growing tobacco. The drive to Aunt Jean's was always an adventure to see the fields of tobacco and the drying sheds which were like little barns. Now, tobacco is not a common field crop, but instead berries and ginseng have replaced it, grown under huge net-like covers. As well, fruit trees were abundant, fruits that could not be easily grown where I grew up, even though it was relatively close. Cherries were common and even soft fruits like peaches and plums.

When I think of Uncle Earl, I always see him smiling in my mind, but a wide, open-mouthed grin accompanied by a set of eyes that didn't line up properly, which was disconcerting to a young person. Uncle Earl had a glass eye. I don't actually know the whole story as to how he ended up with a glass eye, but it made him unusual and a wee bit frightening, although he was far from frightening himself. 

In the summer, but not always every summer, my father's side of the family would gather for a pot luck in Aunt Jean and Uncle Earl's yard. There were trees and tables and raspberry bushes. If the gathering was in early summer, sometimes the cousins would pick and eat raspberries while the adults visited and had drinks and smoked under the shade of the trees in metal lawn chairs with criss-crossed colourful webbing, pulled out of a trunk of an Oldsmobile or a Chrysler.

There would be potato salad and rhubarb pie or maybe "church lady cherry cheesecake" and if we were lucky, a gigantic roasting pan of Uncle Ed's homemade cabbage rolls. I've never had a cabbage roll since that came close to his! I was the youngest of all the cousins, so I don't have as many memories of family gatherings and don't know all the "stories", but I still remember the atmosphere and the excitement of seeing people that I would only see once, or maybe  twice a year.

And what brings me back to today, what twigged this memory, was the long raspy call of the cicada. Cicadas signal a real summer to me because they only emerge in the heat of summer. It wasn't until I was a bit older that I actually found out what made that sound. When I was very young, I truly thought someone was flying a small remote toy airplane in the neighbourhood. Cicadas are one of those interesting creatures with a story of their own, crawling out of their soil home after 13 or 17 years, only to live a short while, long enough for the males to call, then mate, and for the females to lay their eggs. It's a pretty wretched life in my opinion, but it's all they know, if cicadas have deep thoughts like that.

This is a picture of a cicada if you've never seen one. They are large insects, but it is usually the shed skin of the cicada that you notice, rather than the actual insect itself.

The days of gathering at Aunt Jean and Uncle Earl's are long gone, as the adults have aged and died, but Aunt Jean's daughter has carried on the tradition from time to time, inviting those now grown cousins to gather in her back yard in the same small town. There is a new generation of cousins, but there is still potato salad and pies and drinks,  and cicadas.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

July 15, 2020

'Tis mid-July and another wonderful day on the way. I just grabbed two eggs out of the chicken coop, there are bright yellow flowers on my pumpkin plants, and it's my birthday. 

That makes me a cancer. I think the first two sentences of the image, above, pretty much describe me. I do not have a poker face. I found out that my co-workers enjoy just watching my face during a staff meeting. I don't hide my emotions well. The rest of the description is pretty accurate as well. I am a private person who needs to "detox" after being around too many people or people who create drama or confrontation. I'm fine with my class, however. I am having a low-key birthday (well, that's the only kind you can have during these times). I even find birthday phone calls awkward. I do not like attention focused directly at me.

Everyone in my family knows that I absolutely despise the idea of telling the wait staff at the restaurant that it is my birthday so they can all gather around and sing and clap. It has never happened, thank goodness. I even feel awkward when it's someone else's birthday and I'm watching the whole thing unfold. 

So, I decided to choose 10 questions to answer from a list of "371 Random Get to Know Me" questions I found on the internet. Maybe if you are stuck for ideas for a blog post, you can do something similar.

1. Are you a dog or a cat person?  
Although we had a dog when I was growing up and she was wonderful, I am more of a cat person. I've rarely been without a cat in my life. Sometimes we have had more than one. Also, cats are easier to keep than dogs because you can go away for a weekend and set out enough food and water and they'll be fine.

2.  What was your favourite subject in high school?
I always loved English. I loved the discussions, the analysis of what we were reading, the discovery of a new book that I enjoyed... I loved the writing aspect of it, even most of the teachers were very engaging. 

3. Are you more likely to avoid conflict or engage in it head on?
Avoid!! I will feel physically ill if I think that I'm about to have to deal with a confrontation, angry parent, family blow-up... 

4. If you had more courage, what would you do differently in your life now?
I think there are two areas to address here. I think I might have chosen to pursue writing of some sort and see if I was any good at that. I still have ideas about a series of books directed toward boys who have some difficulty reading. 
The second thing, I wish I hadn't been so afraid of looking foolish or not being good enough or hurting myself at certain activities when I was a younger adult. I think I missed out on some fun times due to my fears regarding things like skiing, skating, (yes, I am aware I'm Canadian), rafting, rollercoasters...

5. Do you have a tattoo?
No. Not my thing.

6. What scares you about aging?
My mother suffered from dementia / alzheimers and my mother-in-law has dementia. I remember my grandfather (this is one of my earliest memories that has stuck with me) in the farmhouse asking about the team and hitching them up (i.e. horses) and my grandmother chiding him and correcting him and explaining him away to me in a rather nasty way (they hadn't farmed with horses for years and years and years). So I hope and pray that I do not end up in a similar way, especially if everything physically is pretty good, but it's just your mind that is slowly deteriorating.

7. Have you ever suffered a fracture?
I have never broken any big bones like arms or legs, but I have had broken bones in my foot and broken toes before. The bones in my foot happened on a New Year's Eve on the dance floor of a bar in the university town where I was living. A girl ran across the dance floor and managed to stomp on the top of the foot with her high heel, and I was also in high heels. The pain was immediate and I still had to get home. I never saw a doctor about it because I had always heard "they don't really do anything for broken bones in your feet anyway". I couldn't really even stuff my foot in a shoe for days and days afterward.

8. What kind of car do you drive?
A Toyota Rav-4. I love an SUV because I like being higher up off the road and I love the security of all-wheel or four-wheel drive. 

9. Do you love your job?
For the most part, yes. I love the act of teaching, I love those special, funny, ah-ha moments with students, I love the co-workers with whom I work, I love shutting my classroom door and doing my own thing. There are, of course, aspects of my job that I could gladly eliminate.

10. Are you named after anyone?
No. Yet, my three older siblings have middle names that are parents / uncles names. I guess by the time they got to me, they couldn't be bothered??

So there you have it. There will be pizza and cake and drinks in the pool later today with husband, daughter and her long-time beau, and son. It doesn't get better than that.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Snippets of Memories - The Turtle

Certain things that I watch on tv or read in a book will take me back in time to some memory. Sometimes a scent or a piece of music will do the same thing. Here is a strange little memory that I haven't thought of in years and years, but oddly enough emerged while I was watching an episode of Very Scary People about Jim Jones. The programme said that when he was young, the dynamic cult leader would hold preaching sessions with his friends nodding and listening, and would perform funeral services for animals killed on the road. 

I must have been no more than eight years old, because we still lived at the old house by the highway, the big old yellow brick house that my parents rented out in the country before my father built our house. I had been at the farm where my grandmother and my uncle lived. The Thames River ran through the farm land and the river was a favourite place of mine. Naturally, the river would attrack all kinds of wildlife and there were fish and crayfish and ducks, as well as turtles. 

That particular day, I had discovered a small painted turtle that had been run over by some machinery or the farm truck or a tractor in the laneway of the farm. I loved animals and really felt for them, so I showed someone, maybe my mother, this tiny dead turtle. The turtle was placed in an empty Meggezone tin. Meggezones were a type of lozenge that my grandmother always had on hand. 

Later that day, likely after my father had come home from work, back at our place, a solemn little service was held at the edge of the field beside our home. My father said some appropriate words, I'm pretty sure my older sister and my mother were also in attendance, and the little tin was placed in the ground and covered up. My father would do things like that, when I was young. I thought it was very nice to do that for the turtle, although none of us were particularly religious or attended church. Later my father joined a church just so that he could sing in the choir. He had his own version of spiritualism. 

So there is my little snippet of a memory. I find that I do more of this as I get older - harken back to things in my childhood, my past. Maybe you have a similar memory.