Thursday, June 30, 2005

ant solutions

Image hosted by Photobucket.comants & eggs

The six-legged kind of patio ants, (vs the tw0-legged patrons on the patio of a local bar) who build little miniature volcanoes of sand in the cracks between the patio stones, are a little annoying. I also discovered a large colony of ants in the second bed of gladioli I made today. (Will the gladioli really have time to bloom before frost--this is really late isn't it, to be planting gladioli bulbs?) On CBC's gardening show with Ed Lawrence, Ed gave a caller the solution of watering the ants to death, ie, ants like dry places, so water the patio copiously. The ants will move to a drier location, so, they won't be watered to death, rather watered to move. Do I dare try this, being as stingy about water as I am lately?

I understand ants are a benign, even a hugely beneficial, part of the eco-system of our forests, etc., but would it be so very unfriendly to the environment to water the patio to encourage my unwanted guests to move away?

fantasy for a hot summer day

Image hosted by Aaaaah! Apple-mint iced tea served like this would soothe anyone suffering from the heat of these dog days of summer. What a nice fantasy, eh? (in case you don't know, 'eh' is a very Canadian way to end most statements, makes most statements less aggressive, eh?)

new crops of herbs for winter teas

Image hosted by apple mint
grow in a container to keep it contained!!
Image hosted by lemon balm
a short lived perennial in my area, has a spot next to lovage in my garden
Image hosted by lemon verbena
a woody shrub-like tender perennial, I grow it in a large pot that I bring inside for the winter. Patrick Lima describes the smell as reminiscent of lemon suckers (the candy).
Today, I pruned the Lemon Verbena, and harvested some Lemon Balm and Apple Mint. It's the simplest thing to put an elastic band around the stems and hang them upside down out of direct sun to dry. In about 3-4 days, I'll check them for dryness. Absolute dryness is a must, because any moisture in the herb will allow for mold to grow. The dried herb is put into an airtight jar in a dark, cool place, to store it for use anytime. I prefer to leave the leaves whole, as I think more of the essence is retained that way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

dog days and no rain

Yes, we're back to the dog days again and again, no rain. It rains everywhere else...but we seem to be on the flight path of spent clouds only. And the cistern is empty again.

I did use nearly 100 gallons (if the label is to be believed!) to only half-fill the wading pool for Granddaughter on Sunday. Even though the water was icy and her lips turned a frightening blue, Granddaughter had a screaming and squeeling good time splashing about.

Then I guess I used the rest of the cistern-water for the pots on the deck and for the vegetable garden.

The heat is beating up on the traditional green lawns of suburbia and some of my friends still continue to water their lawns in an attempt to keep them green. I bluntly told them I refuse to water the grass, and I almost feel guilty for watering the vegetable gardens. Mulch keeps the gardens cooler and retains moisture, but even then, I am concerned about water as I've never been before.

Locally, it isn't very well publicized (at least not as well as I think it should be), because it might impact vacationers and tourism in cottage country, but local lakes and beaches are very often very polluted. The bacteria count, particularly in warm weather like this, goes extremely high and "no swim" warnings are posted on area beaches (and I cannot believe the number of people who ignore them). I'm not certain as to the cause of the pollution, probably a combination of factors, such as the increasing population of homes and cottages on the lake shores, and runoff from farming, which is also expanding in the area, and the increasing de-forestation that continues, particularly around any lakefronts, and the destruction of marshland, which is drained to make more fields for farming available, or filled-in and walled up with rock for more lakefront cottage property. More and more, it seems we are using up natural resources at a pace the earth can no longer sustain.

My friend Mike visited recently. As the conversations bubbled away, he stated that only three issues are important to him (during an election, for example) : health care, education and the environment. I had to laugh, because each issue is so large and intertwined with the others that one wonders "is there anything else?"

Mystery solved:

A large bucket of bulbs that appeared on our backstep last week were given to us by our landlords' dad and step-mom! Thank-you! They apparently had a glut of gladioli and thought we could make use of them. Will I have time to get them into the ground? Will they have time to bloom before frost if we plant them this late? What colours will they be? Anyway, it will be exciting to try--a first time for me, gladioli.

And speaking of colour, Chan's fascinating blog on perceiving colour will have me looking at colours differently again. It reminded me( in a very randomly associative way) of a book on paint colours that I picked up a while ago, Color Palettes, Atmospheric Interiors Using the Donald Kaufman Color Collection, by Suzanne Butterfield. When I read this book, enjoying the photography, I started to realize how light affects our perception of colour, not a new concept of course, but one that I had not noticed in quite this way before picking up this book, inspite of being somewhat aware of the differences in the colour of photographs taken during differents times of the day--dawn, noon, sunset, etc.--and also knowing that some artists choose studios with north-facing windows, for example, preferring how that light allows them to perceive colour.

Somewhere, I dimly remember reading about how Monet used layers of colour to achieve certain effects in his painting, again reinforcing the idea of colour associations changing our perception. I think it was in an American Artist publication. Hmmmnn, let me it is: Color, How to Pick, Mix, and Paint Color in Oil.

Back to Chan's blog, I really liked her line about "lush peonies" becoming "louche" in the heat of these dog days of summer.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

ah, balmy summer

Yes! I love the heat. Gimme sweltering heat anytime, over cold weather! The only caveat might be if I have to be somewhere, on time, looking somewhat cool, calm and collected...That's what air-conditioning in the car is for, right?

We are drawing the drapes on the sunny side, and opening windows and doors on the shady side of the house. So far, we are quite comfortable, but I do notice, I need to slow down, or I'm sweating in no time! How vulgar, eh?

I spent a delicious day, pretty much all to myself yesterday, puttering in the garden, weeding, putting in a rose bush, lavender and thyme plants. It's crazy to be planting things out with the worst heat of the summer upon us, but what's to be done? I cannot resist refurbishing the beds, I am not satisfied to just daydream about what they might be like...I have the plants sitting in pots drying out anyway. Everybody is better off if I just go ahead and plant them out, I'm sure you'd agree. Sure, they'll need to be babied a bit. I accept that.

The dogs have decided the space under the deck is perfect for getting some shade, yet remaining close enough to the activities to monitor the action. That will have to stop, because in going in and out, they walk through the newly renovated flower beds around the deck...!! Extra tomato cages did not work. Boards and bricks did not work. Chicken wire might be quick and easy. Better yet, some wooden trellis? Maybe later, when our landlords repair the deck. Chicken wire it will be, for now.

I also resettled some of the patio blocks yesterday. They had decided to slide under the steps of the deck, leaving a weedy gap between them and the rest of the patio, and were tilted at a crazy angle. That was quite back-breaking work. By six o'clock in the evening, I couldn't decide if I was just tired and sore from all that work, or hungry, or dehydrated, or suffering from sun stroke, or crazy, or all of the above! After an easy supper of a huge taco salad and a glass or two of wine, I felt much better. Just a little stiff and incredibly tired. This morning, I feel marvelous and very pleased with myself, thank-you very much!

My parents left day-before yesterday, after staying with me for nearly a week. They were on their way back from a therapeutic visit to Finland, which my father is able to enjoy because he is a war vet. Suffering a little from jet-lag, and adding to that some rather cool weather during their first couple of days here, my mother came down with a nasty head-cold. She insisted on pushing herself to socialize, bake etc., unable to allow herself to sleep when the urge hit. Finally, she was forced to rest for the last two days or so. Spending a whole day in bed, watching the wind rustle the leaves of the trees outside my bedroom windows, listening to the birds, in my mind anyway, had a huge role to play in Mom's recovery.

Dad, on the other hand, had allowed himself to sleep, dozing at the oddest moments, slowly getting up to speed again. By the time they left for Vancouver, Dad was getting in his daily 3-4 mile walk, enjoying the scenery, the wildlife, and the massive "cottages" of Sturgeon Point.

I made the mistake of chatting as I'm wont to do, about the daydreams that fill my head about flower beds here and there about this place. Bam! Dad got it into his head to help and got busy cutting down a small maple that was in the middle of what I envision might be a rock garden some day. Trouble is, our axes are quite dull, and we don't possess a chain saw (not that Dad favors chain saws anyway). Also, Dad's vision has never been the same after an intraocular bleed after cataract surgery (he jokes that the surgery was a success as far as the cataracts were concerned). Dad has trouble with depth perception now, so the ax work, he said, looked like a beaver had chewed at the tree. I finally found him a saw (a saw that I only use to cut my handmade soap into bar-size pieces)that was a bit more effective and down came the tree, very accurately calculated to fall between the existing trees and away from the garage and greenhouse. (Dad reminisced about a tree-cutting job that paid part of his way through college.)

Dad also sorted out some lumber I recycled from my old raised-bed vegetable gardens from my old place, stacked the usable wood out of the rain in the garage, and helped me build a pea-fence for the peas to climb.

I feel terribly guilty for working him so hard and I must remember to be careful next time when I talk about my garden daydreams, but I honestly believe he enjoyed himself. I know I certainly enjoyed working side by side with him.

Granddaughter is coming for another overnight visit. I will be paying Canadian Tire a visit to buy a wading pool for her and some chicken wire for me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

death and/or dying

Reading Jude's very interesting thoughts on deciding when to die got me to thinking.

I think there is a difference in the ways people do meet their end. There are so many ways. It has to do with attitude. Of course, when it is sudden, accidental and unexpected, all there is is shock and grief for the survivors. No, I'm talking about the slow and expected end, whether from old age or disease.

The terrible struggles all parties involved in the Terry Schiavo case are a testimony to the difficulty of the issues. If anything, one hopes that it has made people aware of the need for open discussions with one's loved ones regarding dying and appointing a power-of-attorney for personal care decisions.

Those discussions are not that easy to initiate. My children, for example, do not want to discuss the subject. They know, they say, what my wishes are, they've heard me discuss similar subjects often enough. They want to cut the conversation short, particularly when it is as specific as my wishes, they want to change the subject, anything but really discuss what might happen and what decisions might have to be made.

Legal documents are pretty dry and not that precise, at least the ones I've seen, that refer to end-of-life issues, or situations where the individual is no longer able to make his/her wishes known. I have seen families pretty confused and divided and guilty during the decision-making process and after, no matter what the outcome!

The level of intimacy and understanding can vary hugely from one family member to another and with each differing point of view, some pretty bad misunderstandings can arise, a lot of bad feeling and anger. The understanding required involves not only an understanding of the individual dying with his/her personality, values, beliefs, etc, but of the medical realities, procedures, options, prognoses. Add to that family members and others who wish to see what they believe to be the right thing done--and each person has their own personalities, values, beliefs, with their own need or not to impose their desires or to cooperate or not with other family members. It can be so very dreadful.

I have seen some terrible suffering and fear on the part of the dying one also, but not often. It has been the rare person who, if he/she is cognizant, does not come to certain terms, even friendly terms with death, letting go of life peacefully, over time. The person who leaves all sorts of stipulations for those who will live on, leaves a terrible legacy, trying to control a changing world and changing circumstances that they cannot possible foresee, even after their passing. And the worst has been the irrational, nerve-wracking fear of certain individuals who suddenly are facing an unknown that for perhaps the first time in their lives, they cannot control. The terrible manipulations those individuals put their families and caretakers through just cannot be described.

And yet, I've seen some pretty beautiful dying going on. Families draw closer, talk about things that have needed to be said, make decisions about a better future, enjoy sharing good memories. It may seem strange, but I have heard laughter many, many times coming from the sick-room of a dying person. Great, healthy laughter!

It is a natural process, after all, no matter how science and medicine and technology have been used to outwit or at least delay the inevitable. I've often joked that I want to/have to live to be at least 350 years old (I heard a Chinese master or two have achieved that) in order to have the time to do all the things I have dreamed of doing! But I have met many people very advanced in years who tell me they are tired. They have lived enough and are ready to die.

The observable signs and symptoms are more or less supposed to be measurable. But how does one measure an attitude, a mental state, a spiritual decision? So I doubt science has documented cases of the above. Dying is scientifically measured by measurable changes in the normal physiological states, breathing, heart rate, body temperature, etc.
How does one measure the mental/spiritual/emotional shift that takes place, that can be found in many an anecdotal report, just before a person dies? I have seen the decision-making process to die confused, hastened and/or even delayed by drugs and other medical interventions, but I have seen many clear decisions made, to die, to let go, to say goodbye to this life.

I don't think it is necessary for a healthy person, even though elderly, to take certain actions (ie, suicide) to hasten death. I have seen people die before my very eyes by simply making the decision to die. Life stopped.
That may seem unbelievable to many, but I guarantee you, talk to a few people, and they will tell you stories about this very thing. What makes a person make that decision? Is it right or wrong? I don't really know if it is right or wrong for that person at that time. I don't even know if it is necessary to die, per se. Maybe there are other options, even though staying in this life might no longer be one.

I don't know if there is an arbitrary number of years one should live--no. I don't even know if there is a certain wisdom one achieves, and then, it is time to die. No. But in reading writers like Carlos Castaneda and others, I have started to wonder if there aren't other dimensions one simply moves into, if one is a true shaman, walking into heaven as it were, just like Enoch in the Bible.
Image hosted by
Virginia Waterleaf, not goutweed!

not goutweed!

Happy update! When I finished the front bed on the west side--it's one of the two beds at the front & north side of the house--the bed to the west--does that make any sense at all??Anyway, I was afraid that with the lily-of-the-valley, I would be digging out goutweed. But no. Aren't you glad, just tickled, to hear that it's not goutweed? It appears to be Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), which grows in the moister parts of the woods and clearings. While it is a perennial, the roots were a simple thing when compared to the dreaded goutweed.

friends, babies, dogs and swimming

My bullie-dog Molly got too close to a porcupine again last week! I can't believe I didn't think of taking a picture at the time, but my focus was rather on getting the quills out. It took over two hours, the first hour involving a wrestling match that left me bruized, scratched and sweating. The last hour, Molly was tired too. Or perhaps she realized that I was trying to help her with the porcupine quills. She still could not resist the involuntary pulling-away whenever I touched a sensitive spot, the touch of the pliers on the end of a quill doubtless an instant stimulus. The last hour was a lot of wheedling, cooing and distracting as I edged the pliers close enough to the end of a quill to grip it. I lost count after 25 or 30. Our housekeeper threw some away, afraid that the other dogs might step on them, and the rest that I saved on the railing of the side-door porch blew away in the storm today. Nothing left to remember the day by!

My old friend Connie invited me to her place on Saturday to chat and swim in her pool. (I can just hear her saying "what do you mean by old?") OK, Connie, who is much younger than I am, whom I've known and treasured as a friend for years. (Better?)
It did not take long, even sitting in the shade of an umbrella on her deck, for that pool to be too inviting to resist.

One of the bunch of friends over there that day, Mary, brought her Baby. He was only 7 weeks old, over for his first swim. If you don't count the uterus and his baths. (His mom said he loves his baths.)

We got around to talking about feeding schedules, and sleeping schedules, the mostly unwanted advice new moms always get, etc., as women do. Mary has recently moved here from Ottawa, and is trying to learn English as fast as she can, Connie highly praising her progress.

Mary said she had tried a colic remedy containing "how you say, in English, aneth? Anyway," she continued, while I tried to get my sluggish brain to recall...I knew I knew that French word..."it does not work, and when 'e burp, 'e smell like pickle!"

"Oh, " my sluggish brain finally makes the connection, "Dill!"

It finally rained on Sunday evening for us. Oh yes, many storms had passed by us, we could even see the lighting and smell the rain, but our gardens were turning to dust! When the rain came, it came gently, as rains after a long drought should, wetting the ground slowly so it did not wash away, then an hours-long gentle steady soaking rain. We had so much rain that first night and on Monday, that the cistern was half-full by midnight Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, I had weeded a bunch of seedlings by hand. I reasoned that using a hoe would only stir up more seeds, exposing them to the warmth of the sun etc, so I weeded all over the place by hand, leaving the uprooted weed-seedlings lying on top of the soil. At least 50% of them have at least one rootlet re-connected in the right direction (for the weed) and are re-growing after the rains pushed them in the right direction! I was counting on the sun to fry them dead--it has worked for me before in newly established/refurbished gardens where I expect a lot of weed-seeds to be in the soil. I then usually have maybe one new crop of weed seedlings that is perhaps 25% of the first crop...Hand-weed, fried by sun, water, mulch, Voila! That plan was foiled by the rain this time. But I'm still so grateful for the rain.

Ann treated me to a movie at the Kinmount Highlands Cinemas on Sunday evening. It's a museum and cinema worth visiting! I plan to go again very soon. We saw "Mr. and Mrs. Smith". I thought it was quite entertaining, but wondered sometimes why I was the only one laughing. I know I don't get out much...


The past couple of weeks have been an interesting experience for me. While being aware of the importance of water, and respecting and being grateful for its availability and quality, I was never worried about it--at least not in recent memory.

I have memories of water being a concern when I was a child with my parents in Africa, but here we are, our cistern ran dry during the heat of the last couple of weeks. We use the cistern only for watering the garden. All the other water we use, for cooking, bathing, etc., comes from the well. Now, the cistern is filled by a downspout that brings in rainwater off our roof, and the cistern was quite full before our hot spell. We had some new plantings (the re-furbished beds around the house and the vegetable gardens) so watering was kinda necessary or we lose plants.

When I realized the cistern was dry, we started hoping for rain. We were not going to use the well to water the gardens, as Ann said the well did run dry last summer. (Odd, that, as we had a very rainy summer last year, and the doc said the well had never run dry before in his memory.) So, we resorted to saving the water from dish-washing and showers, recycling it. I soon developed a healthy respect for those African women and girls who walk miles with heavy jars of water on their heads! I found lugging buckets down stairs from the bathroom out to the garden worked up a sweat quite quickly!


I have probably told you my thoughts on this subject before. However, it has come to me again as I share my newest insights gained through the writing of various inspired thinkers. And, although my daughters (who are readers too, isn't that great?) are reading different books, it is remarkable how often the themes are the same, viewed through different lenses.

Many years ago, a teacher asked us why we believed in God. In a fundamentalist Protestant private school setting, this was an earth-shattering question for me. Now, this teacher did have the sense to protect his job and did not ask this question of the whole class. For some reason, I was able to waggle myself into a special study group in Religion class. This class was only supposed to be for students whose marks were top-notch. Mine never were because I was always easily distracted by any number of things and homework was never my strong suit. However, I was in the small special group and got my world rocked for the first time. Of course, my thinking and questioning progressed over the years and today I find myself far from a literal fundamental interpretation of the Bible as "truth". Anyhow, one of the gems I got out of that process was the idea of inspiration vs dictation, when it came to the authorship of the books of the bible.

Today, I am willing to say there are definitely any number of inspired writers out there who, bless them, are giving gifts of insight and wisdom to anyone out there who speaks their language! How wonderful it is that such a variety of writers exists, and not just writers, speakers too. For each student there is a teacher.

I marvel at thought and the nature of knowledge and was pleased to discover this quote on whiskey river:
"Knowledge is not a series of self-consistent theories that converges
toward an ideal view; it is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually
incompatible (and perhaps even incommensurable) alternatives, each single
theory, each fairy tale, each myth that is part of the collection forcing the
others into greater articulation and all of them contributing, via this process
of competition, to the development of our consciousness."- Paul Karl Feyerabend

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Here's a perfectly magical ending to a great day: fireflies dancing through the apple trees and the huge old lilac bushes!

For Michele, a great quote I found that relates to our conversation about how hard it is to meditate:
"Five senses: an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly
selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that
I can never examine more than a minority of them -- never become conscious of
them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let
through?" --C.S.Lewis

fwd>fwd> fwd>

Here from Floyd: an important notice to pass on to your friends!


Jean talked about books yesterday, a lovely list! (I love lists too.) I'm glad she made a list because I have been feeling a lack of good reading lately. I think the feeling was provoked by the CBC Radio show with Rex Murphy the other night when callers offered their suggestions for summer reading. That list is also on the CBC web site.

Back to Jean's comments regarding her "year in France". Boy could I identify with so much of what she said. One of these days I should write about my own "year in France." I was not in a community as isolated and insular, being a short bus-ride over the border from Geneva. But I do remember being starved for news, not realizing until years later, that the same locally focused nature of the news that I found so un-satisfying during that year if France, was the kind of news I wanted to read, news about home: locally focused news about Toronto and SouthCentralOntario. In other words, I didn't realize it, but I missed home.

Ann and I talked a bit about changing your thinking. Ann had just returned today from her trip to Hawaii, and we were out on the deck enjoying a drink, watching my friend, Todd, mowing the lawn. (Have I told you how I prefer to do just about anything else, even weed by hand about a million seedlings, rather than mowing the lawn?) Some habitual thoughts are easy to fall back into once you get home, for example, from a trip. In so many ways, traveling can allow you the room to change some of those bad habits, when the usual triggers aren't around in the usual ways. But boy, as soon as familiarity sets in, or you get close to home, those habitual negative thoughts jump right back into the old brain!

I would love to keep positive, be open, grateful, optimistic...Maybe practicing gratitude is something I should really make an effort to make into a daily habit. Many spiritual writers suggest this a great way to invite more abundance and joy into your life, a great way to eliminate the habitual negative thoughts. Another positive practice I read about involves making a list of 5 accomplishments at the end of your day.

"Hah," I said to Ann. "That should be easy!"

"Ah," Ann said. "It's not as easy as you think. Anyone can make a list, but it must resonate with your heart, you must really feel it, for it to mean anything."

That makes a lot of sense to me. I can easily go through the motions, but that isn't fooling me. Making lists of gratitude and accomplishments that I really feel....That is my new resolution. I'll let you know how I'm doing.

tired and burnt! but content

What a wonderful day. The weather was positively balmy--I don't really how balmy, but balmy enough that most of the bugs didn't bother to come out as they did all weekend. On the weekend, with the weather so changeable, one minute it was sunny and warm, the next, a big cloud would cool things off in a huge way, it often rained a little, and during those cool spells, the bugs were terrible!

As I often do, on the first day in a long while of really warm weather, I over-indulged. At the time, it felt wonderful to have the sun warming my shoulders as I happily dug away in the garden, getting positively grimy and dusty in the process. (some lily-of-the-valley, anyone? I've got lots extra!) But now, I realize I got just a little burned out there in that happy sunshine. Greed for these sunny days gets me every time, as if I'm afraid I might never see another sunny day again if I don't take full advantage of this one.