Sunday 26 June 2016

Are You Pool Ready?

It has been a while since I've written a post. My husband and I have been so busy this past weekend getting our outdoor spaces ready. I am hosting a fairly big party this Wednesday evening and between the regular running around, freezing more strawberries and making jam, having a lovely friend of my daughter stay this weekend (she's from a big city, what a change for her!), getting our pool and pool house ready was a lot of work.

A little history: one year when my husband and I were on vacation in the Dominican Republic, escaping our Ontario winter (and it was a bugger that year!), we were sitting pool side (and probably had consumed a drink or two) and had a brilliant idea that we should put in a pool. So, most normal people would scrape together the money, or use a line of credit and call a reputable company to come and dig a big hole and install a pool. My husband is not "most normal people". He devised a plan that he could easily create a cement pool. (We were sitting beside a cement pool, which most resorts have). We have a dear friend who owns his own constructions company and Husband thought it would be easy for that company to come and create the hole and then he would do the rest.

After coming home, and much reading and researching and buying of books and asking questions, Husband realized that a cement pool would be incredibly expensive and not the best choice for our winters. He then started to research purchasing pool kits. Please understand that this is not a kit for an above ground pool, as many people have put up in their back yards over the years. No, this was a kit for creating an inground full sized, eight foot deep pool.

Kits do not scare my husband. He purchased a kit back in the days before we were married and he was still living at home with his parents and built a Porsche (kit car) in his father's little garage.

My husband is NOT in the construction business. Nor is he an engineer of any sort. He is just fearless. The whole family got involved in building the pool that year. The only thing he hired out was excavation of the hole, pouring of cement (although there was extra wheel-barrowing in some parts), and creating the cement deck around the pool. Everything else from plumbing to electrical to the pool house, and the rock wall, as well as installing the fence, was done by him (with a little help from us here and there).

Would I recommend this to someone else?   No.

This year, the pool was drained completely and Husband gave the whole liner a very good scrub. It was then refilled from our own well. Our well water is quite rusty, so when the pool fills it initially does not look all that inviting. As well, it takes a good long while for the water to get to a temperature that I will tolerate. We do not have a pool heater, but Husband devised panels that use solar heat to re-route the water and warm it up and then put it back in the pool. We also put a solar blanket on at night to trap in the heat. The entire deck was power washed, as well as pool furniture and the steps leading up onto the pool house deck. I swept and cleaned and weeded and mulched and mowed and planted.

The furniture was set in place, bringing some from other porches to accommodate a larger group of people. The plants are not set into their designated spots yet. I found some handy dandy little stands at Dollerama which the pots sit on and raise them off the concrete a couple of inches so you don't get round marks. Another helpful hint to pass on, I always put a coffee filter in the bottom of my pots over the drainage holes before I put in the soil, so water can get through but soil does not wash out onto your deck or concrete.

The little pool fridge (which does not stay out during the winter) was carried from our upstairs tv room area and plugged in, ready to go. The table and chairs have been wiped down or pressure washed, the outdoor rug laid out beneath. I even bought new pool noodles in honour of the party. Thank goodness I found a caterer (although I have made food before for large parties), and now I just have to buy a watermelon to cut up, and do a final wash of the pool plates, glasses and cutlery that are kept in the repurposed sideboard, and paint my nails!!

No, an alien space ship did not land on our property. We got rid of a trampoline that provided many hours of fun, especially for our son and his buddies. They are now more into cars and part time jobs. The pool house had originally been built just as a raised deck long before we even had a pool. It was so huge, my father referred to it as "the stadium".

The "squiddy" as we deemed the pool cleaner is hard at work. My shrubs are poking their way through the fence, but look very nice right now.

Some of the flowers that I planted. Don't you love sweet potato vine? You can see the little risers underneath the middle pots. I have to buy a few more.

The cement planters hold hibiscus shrubs which aren't quite blooming at the moment, but will look great when they do. The Foo Dogs were a present to Husband for his 50th birthday.

This is a wicker set that we have had for a long time. Husband cleaned them up with the power washer. The little pool house fridge was one of the best purchases we made. Very handy!

I love this set of steps that Husband built to enter the pool area. It creates such a quaint entrance.

Keep your fingers crossed for a good hot day on Wednesday. I would hate to have the party in the house due to rain! Good lord, then I'd have to clean the house, too!

Saturday 18 June 2016

The Best Thing About June is... Strawberry, Rhubarb Custard Pie!

For Father's Day, my husband requested a strawberry, rhubarb custard pie. It is one of my favourites to make and since I have a HUGE rhubarb plant and more strawberries than I know what to do with, I was more than happy to oblige.

This time around, with being so busy, I cheated and used a frozen pie crust. Yes, I can make my own, but seriously, when it's this kind of pie, it's the filling that is the star of the show, not the crust.

I have made this recipe a number of times. I have no idea where I got it from. Likely somewhere on the internet. I'd love to give credit for whoever came up with this recipe, but its origins are unknown. Likely anybody who is a baker has made a similar pie, but just in case you are looking for yet another recipe, here it is: (sorry I have no idea how to do one of those recipe posts where you click to get a printable version)

Strawberry / Rhubarb Custard Pie

Preheat to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:  Filling- 1 1/4 cups sugar
                                  1/4 teaspoon salt
                                   3 tablespoons flour
                                   2 eggs, beaten
                                   1/2 cup milk
                                   4 cups rhubarb, chopped
                                    aprx 2 cups strawberries, halved or cut up if big in size

                Topping- 1/2 cup sugar
                                 1/2 cup flour
                                 1/2 cup butter or margarine
                                 pinch of salt

Stir dry ingredients of filling together in a large bowl.
Stir into that, beaten eggs, then milk, then fruit
Pour into unbaked pie shell
Mix together topping ingredients and spread on top of pie
Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

It only took two long ribs of rhubarb for this pie. You can see my "cheater" frozen pie crust!

It even looks pretty just stirred together in the bowl! I love the colour combination of red and green in rhubarb.

This pie barely put a dent into my strawberries. Two of these containers are just from today and I have another bowl in the fridge. (I also have plans for jam).

This recipe is always too much for a standard 9 " pie crust, so I pour the extra into these cute little baking dishes. The topping is more like sugar cookie dough smeared on the top, than a crumb topping.

Here is the finished product. I baked it on a cookie sheet, which is a good thing since it boiled over a bit. I put it on the cookie sheet because it was just a tin foil pie pan which didn't feel sturdy enough.

Five Times Quickly

Right now there is a list on the "reminders" of my phone, there is a list beside the computer, there is a list on the kitchen table... You get the idea. Most of the items or tasks have to do with gardening. There is weeding, edging, and flower in pots planting still to be done. I am hosting a big party in twelve days and the pool area still isn't ready. There are things to be carried, things to be cleaned, things to be installed!!! I have to make jam soon (today, tomorrow??), I have to buy five shrubs to be given as gifts, the hummingbirds are out of food, Husband has requested Yorkshire puddings with his meal tomorrow for father's day (???? how do you make them if you aren't doing a roast, but instead doing steaks??? actually, how do you make them at all???) and my gawd people, my roots are starting to show!

So instead of keeping you abreast of my progress (or lack thereof), I was reminded of a tongue twister yesterday, as I was complaining about someone becoming bitter. You know, the old Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said the butter's bitter...

For your enjoyment, say this five times, quickly.      "toy boat"

Now I must continue reading and commenting on blogs this beautiful Saturday morning, so that I can proceed with my lists.

Thursday 16 June 2016



"Scooter, I'm talking to you!"



Well, that would explain why we have a decided lack of birds in the birdbath.

Sunday 12 June 2016

Lovely Sunday, but not quite a day of rest

I had a "Southern" supper tonight, preparing fall-off-the-bone ribs, coleslaw, potatoes and cornbread, with a shout out to the blog known as  Estelle's for her June 9th post with a recipe that I tried. I think I was too cautious with the jalapeno peppers, not adding the amount that was called for in the recipe. If I were to make this again, I would put more in. I used slice jalapenos in jar and cut them up into little bits. "Estelle's" recipe called for self-rising cornmeal. There was no such thing in the grocery store, so I Googled what to do. I ended up adding flour, baking powder and salt. I think it turned out well. (But again, it could have used more of a punch, so more jalapenos next time).

Apart from doing my grocery shopping after dropping my daughter off at work at the garden center, a quick run into Walmart, and another quick run into Dollerama, I did my laundry and hung it on the line. It was VERY windy today and that made line drying perfect! (I did have one unfortunate wrap around with a shirt, which left dirty tell tale lines on it, so I will have to rewash that one).

Now that my impervious rabbit fence is totally installed, it was time to put in my vegetable garden. Yes, everything goes in at once. As much as I know that some things can be planted earlier and do well with cooler weather (peas, lettuce, potatoes...) I rarely plant in succession. It is warm enough now that tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil can go in, so everything went in! Due to the rampant encroachment of the strawberries, my garden is so small. It is now deemed "the world's most compact vegetable garden". It is like those episodes of Tiny House Hunters where they use every available space for their storage, bathroom, kitchen, and loft. I have managed to cram the following into my little space: three kinds of tomatoes, basil, red Spanish onions, white Spanish onions, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, beets, and lettuce. The rows are pretty small and once things really start growing, I will have to do some fancy foot work in order to avoid stepping on things, but it shouldn't take long to weed!

Nice shadow of me taking the picture!!

I went to Dollerama to find little plant identification tags to push into the soil to mark my tiny rows. They had none. I decided to improvise. I bought a $1 bag of white plastic spoons. With my nifty
$1.25 for two fake Sharpie markers I wrote the type of vegetable on the rounded end of the spoons and pushed them into the soil. They work perfectly!!

A while ago I posted about cleaning out a flower bed completely and planning on creating a foundation planting of hydrangeas and hostas. This is a picture of the pretty hydrangea which is pink in colour. I was going to plant just white hydrangeas and white and green hostas, but I saw these and thought, naa, add a little colour. They are very small right now but will grow to at least twice that size.

I mentioned that my daughter is working at a garden center. They had a great sale on hanging pots, two for $20. I bought four of them. Here is one that I picked up (and a matching one) which I will hang at the pool. They are so healthy and colourful! I also like that the pots aren't white.

As I was walking around taking pictures, I saw this little fellow soaking up some heat against the stones of a raised bed. Compared to yesterday, today feels quite cool and the wind makes it feel even cooler. He seems to be a pretty contented bee in the late afternoon sunshine.

Although this picture was not taken today, here is someone who DOES know how to have a day of rest!

Saturday 11 June 2016

Rabbit fence and Shrubbery!

We had ridiculously cold weather a few days ago, but now it feels like summer again. It rained last night and it is threatening to rain again this morning, but the air is thick and warm and you could practically swim through it. If I could, I would include the scent of this morning in my post. It is heavy with the smell of the lilac tree, mock orange, and peonies. Be still my heart.

Last night, I asked husband for help to finish the rabbit fence. My vegetable garden will be considerably smaller (almost on the "cute" side) than previous years. The world domination strawberries take up 2/3 of the garden. No, I don't have them in rows. Yes, I regret not taking command of them and ruthlessly ripping some out and creating rows from the chaos, however they are ripening right now and they are incredible! No comparison to the tasteless midwinter nuggets that I buy in clear plastic containers.

The rabbit fence is literally just that. I am no longer willing to feed and sustain the growing rabbit population, regardless of how cute they are and how much I want to pet them. You can only replant so many times. Husband was disgusted with how I constructed this. He would have built a permanent fence and probably sunk posts into concrete, but I didn't want to wait for all of that, so teenager son and I started two days ago and husband helped to finish last night. Yup, it's just re-used tomato stakes (I use these in addition to tomato cages to keep big tomato plants upright), actual "rabbit fencing" that I bought in two rolls from the local farm supply store, and a bunch of staples. When husband said he would never have done it this way, I let him know that I wasn't trying to contain cattle with it, I was just keeping fluffy bunny rabbits away from my garden. He informed me that these rabbits wear little tool belts at night with wire cutters and it wouldn't keep them out for long.

You may notice that there doesn't seem to be any vegetables growing in my vegetable garden. I decided I wasn't going to plant a thing until there was a fence. But last night, I did put in some potatoes. A very small amount. It's going to be such a small garden.

What my vegetable garden lacks, my shrubbery (can't say that word, even in my head, without Monty Python and the Knights who say Ni popping up) is making up for . Here is a picture down by the pool of Gerald the Easter Island Head wearing his headdress of dappled willow and weigela. I cut that willow back really hard last fall and look at it now. I think I did not plan well when I planted that border because it is crowding out the shrubs beside it. Regardless, it puts on a beautiful show this time of year.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Look at My Bloomers!!

Did that get your attention? But seriously folks, isn't June the best month for flowers? With the glorious heat we had on Saturday combined with the rain on Sunday, my gardens have filled in and started to burst, so with no further ado, come look at my "bloomers".

Let's start with the closest thing to heaven on earth: white peonies. I literally sink my nose in them and breath deeply. I also love how the petals are baby-skin soft.

My oriental poppies are almost all done, some of their petals hanging on by sheer determination. I love the shocking pop of colour they provide, but when they start to fade, they have all the charm of a mangy dying thistle so I usually cut them as far back as possible.

In addition to purple irises which I have already shown in an earlier post, I also have some pale yellow irises. I enjoy their large size and the combination of purple and yellow is lovely.

I am not very good at growing clematis so it always warms my heart when this Nelly Moser blooms in  a relatively neglected corner. The booms are quite large and a lovely blend of pale and medium pink.

I saw great healthy clumps of this plant at a magnificent garden  called Lark whistle on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. Its more common name is spiderwort. It has lovely round petals of various shades of purple, and leaves that are quite like a day lily's.

Purple Salvia is a nice upright plant. It can also be a bit of pest if it is allowed to self seed.

I love this shrub. It is a wigelia (sorry, can't remember which kind specifically, bristol tuby? Little prince?)) When we  travelled through Prince Edward Island several years ago, I took note of how so many gardens or borders contained these beautiful flowering shrubs. I've  since planted a number of them around the property.

This Statue of Aristotle moves around from garden to garden. This year he is in an East - facing bed. The white plant beside him is a miracle in itself. It is a gas plant which seriously  did not bloom for the first  five years I even dug it up and moved it to a different location. Finally it started to bloom. It is not spectacular, but I still get excited when it does bloom. Beside it, you can see a very nice cranes bill called John son's blue which I have chopped pieces out of to plant in other locations. It does start to look stragglers when the blooms fade, so it gets  a severe haircut later in the summer.  (Husband's "project car" can be seen in the background... it is supposed to be tucked out of sight... grrr)

Oh how I love this flower, so slender and elegant. Siberian irises are definitely one of my favourite flowers. I love them so much that they were in my wedding bouquet.

I've always admired lupins, but a trip to P.E.I., where these gorgeous flowers grow wild in great multi-coloured waves made me adore them even more. Unfortunately, I am not terribly successful at growing them. They last only a year or two and don't self seed well. Other people seem to grow them with very little effort.

Our old century - plus house is not formal in design or detail. The setting of our home is rural and even somewhat wild to the west of us. Rail fences suit my gardens well providing structure and definition. The fence holds taller plants up and looks rustic and pretty when plants spill over its rails.

I was raised by an annual loving mother who bought and planted flat after flat of petunias, merigolds, begonias, and alysum. She kept geraniums inside over the winter, conjuring them back to life the following spring. Although I love the consistent colour  provided by annuals, it is perennials that provide me with the most joy. I have divided and transplanted hundreds of perennials. I have schlepped grocery bags of iris roots and hunk of cranes bill to work to share with colleagues. I have even ruthlessly cut out the bullies of the plant world and encouraged the timid and gentle to establish themselves and flourish. Perhaps the best aspect of perennials is the anticipation and then the celebration of old friends coming back for a visit because they, like you, have survived another long cold Canadian winter.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Who Loves Hosting a Yard Sale?

My little village was having a village-wide yard sale today. I decided to take part.

Last night: -husband and son set up saw horses and pieces of plywood to make two tables on the driveway leading to the car port
-items were carried from all areas of our home: basement, kitchen, shed, upstairs storage room (my "Rubbermaid" room), spare bedroom
-old dishes were washed
-asked husband what he wanted "guy" things priced at
-cut apart big rectangular stickers into small stickers and priced things
-hung pants and shirts up on portable clothing rack
-daughter made two brightly coloured Bristol board signs
-husband drove son to "after prom" party
-kept items tucked under carport roof in case of rain
-did my series of back stretches
-went to bed

This morning:- got up before 7:00 am
-made a coffee, pulled hair back, got dressed
-went out and arranged items so they were now in the driveway and more visible
-priced things that I forgot to price last night
-spent morning saying hello to people and selling small items
-weeded flower bed that is right beside the driveway
-husband went and got two "take away" breakfasts from the Fireman's breakfast that was held today to raise money for a member of the community who had a bad accident
-continued to sell items, but not the big ones that I wanted gone gone gone out of my life
-made $174.00, less the $20 to pay for the charity breakfast
-started moving things out of the driveway at about 1:00 pm

Rest of the weekend:- find places to put back all the items that didn't get sold at the yard sale (and peel off the stickers)

I kind of hate yard sales, and usually don't profit much from them. The community I live in is small and we are at the end of a dead end road so we don't have much drive by traffic! We had lots of people come by today because it had been advertised as a village wide yard sale, so people were driving around looking for the sales. We made some money, and fewer things are coming back into my house than the amount that was brought out, so that's a positive.

Best selling item:- tea cups and saucers for $1.50 a set

Best moment of the day: -Amish family came by with their horse and buggy and were towing a little wooden wagon behind the buggy to put their purchases in, sort of like their "trunk"

Do you have yard sales? Are they popular in your area?

Wednesday 1 June 2016

early summer's eve

We've had supper, chicken with Greek seasoning, asparagus, boiled potatoes, Naan bread, and feta cheese and tzatziki sauce on the side, (not too shabby for a Wednesday night!), and the air is still warm with a bit of a breeze. There are birds chirping, especially the finches. I can hear the bass from someone's sound system in the distance. I can also hear the bumblebees. Our tree is flowering and the bees are in their fat, fuzzy glory.

Find the bumblebee

Oh, there it is

The perennials  are starting to bloom here and there. As the creeping phlox fades, the irises show off, standing upright for now.

I had company for a while, as his fluffy lordship accompanied me.

My husband made me a decaf coffee and I'm waiting for it to cool down a bit. Everything smells heavenly. I'm working my way through the latest Elizabeth George novel and my other yard work can wait. I love June.