Sunday 31 May 2015

A Book in Hand

I love reading. Mostly books that involve some kind of mystery to be solved. One of my favourite authors of all times is Louise Penny. She writes about Chief Inspector Gamache. Often set in the Eastern Townships of Quebec (but an English read), they are incredible, rich, multi-layered, well-thought-out, breath takingly beautiful books with interesting characters and gripping story lines. When I am reading these books, I want to see what the characters are seeing, read what they are reading, eat what they are eating, and I never want them to end. I am currently reading, The Long Way Home in which the Chief Inspector is retired (but is he ever really retired?) and I am in chapter nineteen of forty-one. I am actually happy that the day here is gloomy, cold, overcast... I love the quiet of a "reading day". I will likely finish the book today and be a bit depressed that it is over. It is her most recent book and I am always awaiting her next.

I am "old fashioned" in that I take books out of the library. I like going to the library and being excited about finding another good book to enjoy. Because I often read mysteries, I very rarely read them again (already solved!), so I do not buy many books, although I do buy some so I can take them on vacation, or if they are particularly special for some reason. I have a Kobo reader, but rarely use it now. I like a book in hand.

Saturday 30 May 2015

What's Blooming?

Today we are receiving a much-welcomed gentle rain. It also must have rained through the night as the dastardly young raccoons "cooed and sighed" outside our bedroom window, but that's another story.

I planted some of my vegetable garden yesterday after supper after coating myself liberally with bug spray. (I had a black fly bite right under my eye to which I reacted in such a way that it looked like I had taken a blow to my eye! But that's faded and not itchy anymore, so I didn't want a repeat performance.) I managed to put in potatoes, onion sets, green beans, peas, beets, and lettuce. With my wonderful strawberries this year, my garden seems so much smaller. This weekend I will put in tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a zuchinni plant. It sounds like a lot, but I do not put in much of each.

So, in between rain showers I went out to take pictures of what is currently in bloom at this old house on May the 30th. I feel like things are a little bit early this year. While dodging the mosquitos and taking pictures, I also saw lovely fat bumblebees and a hummingbird. I wasn't able to capture any in photos however. Please resist the urge to reach into the photos and pull out any grass and weeds infiltrating my gardens!
This is the first peony to bloom. I must have planted it at least four years ago. It is very small and has only ever given me one bloom. But it's beautiful when fully opened.
Centaura- in the twilight it almost glows. It also self seeds in lots of places, but it easy to control by digging it up.
This cranesbill (perennial geranium) is a mainstay on the property. I have no clue what its specific name is, but I have put clumps of it in various locations and it always does well.
Purple iris- I have "weeded out" many of my irises over the years due to despising the grass that grows up between the roots, but it is still a beautiful shot of colour early in the summer.
Pale yellow iris. I prefer this to a rather golden colour that I have seen in other places. It teams up nicely with the purple colours that arrive at the same time.
One of my favourites, Siberian Iris. I love its long, slender, elegant look. I had this type of iris in my July wedding bouquet many years ago!
Purple salvia. These are lovely, and if cut back, will rebloom later in the summer. They also self-seed, often becoming a bit of a nuisance, but the bees adore them.
I call this our lilac tree. I don't know if that is actually what it is. It was a gift many, many years ago. It virtually hums with bees when in full bloom and smells like heaven.

I love lupins but am not able to keep them growing for any length of time. These are just coming into bloom.

This is the brand new Red Prince Weigela (yay, an actual name!) that I planted a little while ago. It is obviously happy because it is about to bloom soon. I have a couple more of these on the property and they are a beautiful showy colour.

Hope everyone has a well-rested, or productive weekend (depending on what your plans are) and enjoy a coffee on the porch with me.

Sunday 24 May 2015

A Girl's Best Friend

With a post title like that, you might think I am talking about a dog.

We do not have a dog. We never have. With both of us working full time, we felt it would not be fair. Also, neither one of us wants to get up extra early to walk a dog. Cats on the other hand are fine with solitude. They decide if they want you around or not anyway.
But I'm not talking about a cat either.

I'm talking about this.

Today the husband helped me get this beauty out of our very organized and neat and tidy shed (note the sarcasm) and put some gas in it, and then I got to work!! I do not have a big vegetable garden by some people's standards, but it is big enough for us. My neighbour gave me some wonderful weed killer to deal with the horrible weeds that set up camp in my yard, therefore, in my vegetable garden. After a week, most of them had curled up and died a horrible death. Please don't hate me, those of you who are organic. I've gone that route for MANY MANY YEARS, digging and digging and digging. I am 48 years old and my back wakes me up on a nightly basis. I do enough digging with my perennial beds and around my shrubs, without having to dig all the weeds out of my vegetable garden.

So I did dig a few things up because they were huge, even though they were dead, and then my best friend and I tilled up the garden going one way. Then I stopped for a bite to eat and we continued tilling going the other way. It looked like this.

This is also the first year that I am putting on granular fertilizer. Honestly, I have never done that! We kept backyard chickens for years and I have always had natural fertilizer for my garden, as well as compost and bagged manure from garden centres. However, I have stopped being a chicken lady and my source of fertilizer is gone. So... I have decided to try this out. My gardening results were disappointing last summer with NO (honestly, NO) tomatoes, poor peas, poor cucumbers, no beets... the only things that did well were green beans, pumpkins, and potatoes.

Then I took my trusty rake and raked the whole thing smooth. With wrangling my rototiller and raking my garden (yup, I am now sitting with a hot "magic bag" against my back as I type this) (Oh, and a glass of red wine!), I would like to introduce you to my second best friends.

For all the years that I have been a gardener, I have used gloves. There are some tasks that go better without gloves, but usually I wear gloves. Those times when I think, "Oh, I'll just grab my trowel and get rid of a few weeds," and an hour later I have blisters, I think, why didn't I just put on my gloves? Because I am one to always try to save money, I usually have those cheapy cotton gloves with grippy bumps on them. I usually go through a thumb in a few short weeks. Then I hold onto them and use them and get filthy, hurty thumbs. Then the mice eat through them in the shed over the winter. (the very organized and neat and tidy shed) So... lately I have been "treating myself" to good gloves. It is worth it. They are all leather, soft leather, and they fit well without seams that rub and cause more blisters. (Funny, some women treat themselves with spas or clothes or shoes... I am pathetic).

Lastly, I am quite pleased with my strawberry plants which I put in last year. I got maybe 4 strawberries. I actually watched a squirrel run across the lawn with one!! But now this year, they have sent off runners and there are lovely white blossoms. (No, they are not in nice, neat rows, just a big clump of them over on one side of the garden). But all I see is lovely sweet potential!!

Check out my rhubarb! (Still have bags of it frozen in my freezer, but who doesn't like rhubard, strawberry pie, or crumble??) (Mind you, I HATE stewed rhubarb, does something wierd to my teeth!!)

Thursday 21 May 2015

The Battle

This past weekend I waged a war. The enemy in this particular war was a gal named Black Eyed Susan. (Rudbekia for all you proper Latin folk out there). The enemy is so prolific and mighty that she springs up everywhere and takes over territories that don't belong to her.
Reinforcements have arrived in the war against Black Eyed Susan.
I planted Black Eyed Susan on purpose a long time ago. I love the vibrant yellow with the dark centre. I love the late August colour it provides, often teamed up with purple blossoms on other plants like asters. But enough is enough. And this was just one bed. Trust me, they are in many places. As they die back in the fall, their seed heads drop over and the hundreds of black elongated seeds fall and spread to germinate and turn into more wonderful blankets of yellow. But my gardens are just WAY TOO YELLOW!! 

As recently as last year, when I would lift and divide perennials because they were overgrown, or I wanted to change locations, I would feel obligated to save them. I would pot them up in left over plastic pots from previous plant purchases. I would bag them in plastic shopping bags. I would take them to work and offer them for free. They got planted in a garden outside my workplace. Friends and family have taken them over the years. I've replanted them in other beds. I even had a "nursery" bed in part of my vegetable garden where I would separate irises or daylilies or anything else that I felt deserved to live on. 

Not this year. I gleefully and without guilt tossed hundreds of these invaders into the wheelbarrow (along with other weeds and a devil of a sedum that I should never have put in) and drove it down the "lane" to dump onto the fallow land to the south of us. Yes, they will likely take root there, some of them, but they will be quaint and lovely there, away from my other plants.

Here is what my bed looks like now.
That pedestal normally has a sundial on it, but it fell off during our winter. It will need to be reattached.

My next battle may be waged this coming weekend. The enemy? A gal called Lily. Lily of the Valley that is!

Saturday 16 May 2015

Love Hate Relationship with an Apple Tree

When we bought this old house on its one acre 16 years ago, we inherited many trees and weeds and rocks from previous owners. This was once a working farm, but has since had its barn taken away and bulldozed into the ground, and the land severed into a smaller parcel. One tree that remained was an apple tree. It is located between our house and the chicken coop (now empty). I love it (right now). When it is in bloom, it looks bridal and ethereal.
I love how it looks and smells and makes me happy that winter is well and truly over. Another thing that I love about it is that the orioles come to it. Orioles are one of my favourite birds. They stay briefly, have a beautiful song, and are just so exciting to see because you wonder how something can be that vibrant and gorgeous. I spotted my first oriole flying from the apple tree from the kitchen window this morning.
This is not a picture that I took, but I wish I had. I have often hung sliced oranges from trees to attract them. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't.

But after the petals of the apple tree blossoms flutter to the ground, I start disliking my apple tree. Every other year, anyway. This is a funny old tree. I have no idea what kind it is. An elderly neighbour told me it was a "harvest apple", but I suspect that is just a generic term. It produces apples every other year. In the years that it produces apples, I hate it. We do not spray here. I do not prune this tree. It is rather big and would be a pain to maintain. But when it produces apples, it produces a ton of them. And they drop on the lawn. They need to be picked up, raked up, cleaned up. We dump wheel barrow loads of them off property (don't worry, it's fallow, weed-filled, neglected land). The wasps come. It stinks like rancid cider. They roll into my perennial bed. The apple tree is only doing what it is supposed to do, but we don't even eat the apples. They are soft, worm-ridden and generally smallish. I have even talked to the husband about cutting it down. He likes it. He doesn't rake up the apples. He thinks it would be neat to make cider. He thinks it would be neat to build a cider press (god help me).

But for now, I will be keeping watch, when I can, to spot the orioles and enjoy the beautiful display.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Mothers Day, Mother's Day, Mothers' Day

It really is all about the apostrophe, isn't it? Is it a day for just the one mother, or all mothers? They say it is a "made up" holiday, similar to Valentine's Day, just a reason for the Hallmark company to make money. But, as a mother, I'm all for acknowledging all that we do. My daughter and I had a laugh last night at the supper table, unfortunately at my husband's expense, how he was unable to listen to the song that was playing and at the same time listen to the question I was asking. Multitasking is just such as way of existing for women that we take it for granted that everyone has that skill. It's not even a skill, really. I think every mom out there is able to accomplish a task while thinking about the six other things she either needs to purchase, complete, remind to, or ask about later that day.

My family has done themselves proud this morning. The fact that the two teenagers got out of bed to watch me open presents and read their cards is in itself a miracle. (They have both since gone back to bed!). Because Mother's Day falls in May, I often receive gardening type gifts, which are always used and appreciated. This year I received not one, but two pruners. I am always on the hunt for the ultimate set of garden clippers because I destroy about one a season. I am so tired of crappy tools and other consumer goods. So I now have two Fiskars on my kitchen table. I have high hopes.

Also, another favourite present has been porch sets (chairs, settees, tables, benches, etc). This year I received a bistro set of folding wooden chairs and a table. This is a good thing because our bistro set from maybe three years ago has started to shred and unravel, although the table is still in good shape and will likely go live somewhere else on the property.

My daughter picked out a rabbit statue for me, very heavy, concrete and absolutely adorable. I am a big fan of rabbits. I love old illustrations of rabbits from story books or greeting cards, especially if the rabbits are upright and wearing clothes. I have had rabbit statues in the garden and ceramic rabbits as decorative pieces in the house. I love spotting cottontails on the property. I am not even all that upset when I discover they have chewed off various plants. Unfortunately I have been gifted deceased baby bunnies by our cat, Samson. He is so proud.

Also from my daughter was a Monty Python mug with a variety of quotes all over it from different movies and skits. I LOVE Monty Python and can be obnoxious in my quoting (complete with appropriate voice and accent). I get a great kick out a discovering a fellow Monty Python fan when a situation lends itself to a particular quote and we both end up saying it and then laughing and pointing at each other knowing exactly why we said it. (Can anyone relate?)

My son's card included the line about me "borning" him which came from when he was very young and that is how he referred to me giving birth to him. (He is now 15 and much taller than I). I find it amazing that I am the mom of a young man and a young woman. I can still conjure up the feeling of holding them after a feeding, all heavy, warm and slightly sloshy. It's only been a few years now that I've stopped swaying while waiting in a grocery line. (You know, that bouncy sway that all of us moms did for years while holding our children).

This year, my husband had difficulty booking a place for supper for two reasons. First, our favourite place is now retiring as of this weekend, so it was fully booked quite a long time ago. Secondly, he (and I) have been exhaustingly busy making arrangements to get his own mother (who is now suffering from dementia, but is physically well) into a senior's apartment quite close to us. So, I actually have no problem being the supper maker tonight for the four of us. I picked up short ribs at the grocery store yesterday and I do them in a Dutch oven. They come out fall-apart tender and delicious!! Other wonderful things will be done for me, so making supper is easy. There is a surprise dessert in the "spare fridge" which I am not allowed to look at.

I sometimes listen to my younger female colleagues talk about the goings-on with their young children. They talk about how they worry about their illnesses, or their occasional behavior issues and I think that motherhood begins with worrying about your babe while it is still ensconced in your own body and the worrying never stops. I still fret over them now that they are 15 and 19. When they are feeling unwell, you want to make it go away. When they are upset over friendship issues, or they do poorly on an assignment, or they drive away by themselves, you just want everything to be o.k. But hopefully you have done your job to give them the self-confidence and strength to get through things. We have tried to raise our children to think for themselves and be their own people. We have tried to be their parents, not their "friends". That's not to say we are unloving and standoffish, but instead, we know how to say no and to stick to it. Our children have experienced delayed gratification whereby they had to wait for something they wanted. Our children have been required to help out without the promise of money when they were done. (You do chores because you are part of this family, not because you are getting paid). And in the end, they have both turned out to be really great kids. They are kind, funny, intelligent, caring, independent, mature, goofy, sweet kids.

So, I am off to do some more gardening today, my favourite way to spend a weekend. I will get help to dig out and lift and very big "ugly" hydrangea from its current spot to a not yet decided new spot. I want a different shrub there. One that is more showy and colourful which will show up better from the road and be enjoyed while sitting at my new bistro set on the front porch.

Enjoy your mother's day and well done on all the things you do!