Thursday, July 14, 2005

hadrian's wall

Insanity struck on Tuesday! It was hot, and maybe it was also the vapors of the millions of rotting apples under that tree in the back yard. I spent a little time raking them up and dumped a wheel-barrow full of apples onto the compost pile at the bottom of the garden.

Did I mention that they might be falling off the tree because we have are not on a spraying program? The apple tree is aborting the seed that is no longer viable because it is being eaten by bugs? Anyway, that's the theory I'm operating under at the moment.

Oh yes, back to the insanity of Tuesday. Well, then I started looking at the pile of rocks that has accumulated in the re-doing of beds around the house. Lots of rocks. So I decided to make a rock wall along the extension to the older part of the house, approximately 30 feet long, withing which would be a flower bed eventually against the foundation of the house.

The insane part came in also because of the heat or due to it...With the humidex at who knows what and temperatures above 30 degrees C., I sweated buckets. I did drink lots of water, but by about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, I could not remember the word for Thursday, although the idea was still clear in my head....

I did use up nearly all the rocks and the wall is about 10" high, about 3 courses of rocks. It needs a top course, but no doubt we'll find lots more rocks as the other beds get developed. Besides, rocks seem to rise by some mysterious force in the vegetable garden. As I weed and hoe, there they are. How they appear is a mystery, since I dug and double dug, removing a great number of large rocks from most of the beds before I planted earlier. Is there a rock-gremlin in there??

Monday, July 11, 2005

body snatchers!

I received a division of what I thought was a variegated Miscanthus last fall. I tried to baby it through the winter indoors in a pot and thought it had survived. I planted it out this spring with great hopes.

Hah! The variegated grass has disappeared, and in its place is the sedge-like grass that is found all over the vege garden when I'm weeding on hands and knees. It's a lovely green but seems to spreading out like crazy and taking over! Curses! Curses! Curses! I'll have to root it out and try to find the grass I want or something to plant in it's place--something not so busy spreading out as the spot is rather far into the back of the bed and harder to reach. Or maybe it should be a tough customer to compete with the hydrangea next to it??

dropping apples

I went on a garden tour yesterday in our area and saw several beautiful gardens. Certain styles really appeal to me, particularly the gardens that have intimate small 'rooms', lots of detail, in terms of a 'story', and lots of well-grown plants. Most of the gardens I saw fit into those categories to a lesser or greater extent.

An orchard in one of the gardens reminded me of a problem I have in mine. A large apple tree in the middle of the back yard, quite close to the patio, is dropping apples by the hundreds, if not thousands. The apples are all over the ground, rotting. I'm afraid of attracting wasps, etc. I wish deer would come and eat the fallen apples, like the hostess of the aforementioned garden said happened in her orchard, but I think our dogs scare them away. Then there is the hazard of being pelted in the noggin by falling apples if you should be daring enough to be under that particular tree! The Master Gardener at that particular garden suggested that our tree should have been sprayed for the insects which are eating the seeds. Mother Nature is aborting the apples that will not have viable seed as a result of the insect infestation.

This is a massive old tree, however, and a spraying program as suggested every 10 days or so would be a little difficult. (Did I mention we have dogs, the vegetable garden is close by--downhill of any runoff, our well is almost underneath the tree, my Granddaughter plays in her wading pool under that tree, and I hate the thought of toxic chemicals as a rule?) Any suggestions, anyone?

Our wildly overgrown raspberry patch does have berries ripening now. We have enjoyed a handful now and then, but we are also being robbed by a cheeky bluejay! I don't mind that at all, actually.

Beside the raspberries, a creamy-white old-fashioned hollyhock is in bloom, and another of an unknown colour is about to bloom. We didn't plant them there of course, and once they make seeds, I hope to plant the seeds in some more suitable place.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

linden flower schnapps

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The Linden tree, or American Basswood tree is in bloom in several places along the hedgerows between fields, now.The sweetly scented flowers attract lots of bees, and Linden Honey is considered to be one the most aromatic and valuable in the world. It's used in liqueurs and medicine.

Dried linden flowers and leaves are used for tea making. The flowers can also be infused in vodka to make a Linden Flower Schnapps.

Herbalists say linden has antispasmodic, diuretic, sedative, and antifungal activites, as well as mild astrigent properties. Linden contains flavonoids, p-coumaric acid, kaempferol, quercetin, trepenoids, and volatile oils including citral, citronellal, citronellol, eugenol, and limonene. Linden has been used for coughs, cold, nasal congestion, throat irritation, nervousness, headaches, hypertension, insomnia, and migraines. It can also be used topically for skin irritation and rheumatism.

I picked a bunch of linden flowers today to dry for tea-making. I have enjoyed linden flowers and leaves before in a tea-blend for the times when I'm feeling under the weather.

The honey and schnapps also sound interesting. I know I could infuse honey with the linden flowers to flavor it, but I believe linden flower honey as actually made by bees would be divine!

The aroma of the small bunch of flowers I picked was quite pleasant, sweet and reminded me of white-clover honey. It wafted up now and then from the bunch in my hand and accompanied me this afternoon along my walk around the perimeter of two large hay-fields, north of my house, one which had just been cut, the other already baled.

Walking through recently cut hay-fields in sandals is not easy. The stalks of the cut grasses are quite stiff and sharp. They poke unpleasantly at tender feet through open sandals. But with a little shuffle added to each step, the foot pushes the stalks forward and out of the way, and I was able to return home without a scratch.

Yesterday, Tasha and Molly came along with me for my afternoon walk. Today, Misty and Tasha joined me. Molly started out with us too, but when she saw where we were headed, she decided to stay home instead. She had been quite out of breath in the heat yesterday. Poor bullies, the heat really does not agree with them. Molly decided it would be more fun to watch Ann mow the lawn--watching doesn't exert one as much.

In the middle of supper, Molly suddenly appeared inside the house. I thought Ann had let her in and Ann thought I had. After a while we realized that Molly, perhaps tired of the mosquitoes which come out after dusk, decided to come in: through an open window that looks out over the deck. Always determined, she pushed and pushed until the screen popped out of the frame and simply climbed in the open window. By the time we realized what had happened, just about a million mosquitoes had come into the house too!


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art in the park

I enjoyed a jaunt through Lindsay's Art In The Park today (sponsored by the Lindsay Gallery). I got there rather late, so no doubt, much of the excitement had died down. I was impressed by how many excellent artists were represented, but sort of disappointed by a little bit of conventionality, ie, quite a bit of the art work was nostalgic and/or realistic interpretation of rural and wilderness landscape. I was also disappointed to see very few customers.

A couple of new (for me) mediums I encountered today were interesting: Encaustic, Kraslice and silk painting.
en·caus·tic (
P ) (n-kôstk)n.
A paint consisting of pigment mixed with beeswax and fixed
with heat after its application.
The art of painting with this substance.
A painting produced with the use of this substance.
[Latin encausticus,
from Greek enkaustikos, from enkaiein, enkau-, to paint in encaustic : en-, in;
see en-2 + kaiein, to burn.]

Easter Eggs, a tradition in Czechoslovakia, using many different techniques.
Some of Niki's eggs were drilled into an open, lacy pattern that was incroyable!

After indulging in a Peanut Buster Parfait, which took me back to summer school in university and a cycling course that my sister and I took as an optional credit (this involved weekly or bi-weekly trips which gradually increased in length to a 60-mile trek at the end of the course-- naturally, at the end of each ride, we needed to replenish ourselves at the DQ with Peanut Buster Parfaits!!), I drove out towards Pigeon Lake along back roads.
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I was just coming over the hill with Pigeon Lake opening out before me, when a sign, "Perennials, 99c sale ", caught my eye. I stopped in. I met the gardener, Diane. Although she claimed the best of her offerings had already been sold, she still had quite a selection of plants available, for (I'm assuming) someone who basically is selling her overflow of divisions and seedlings.

I really enjoyed snooping through Diane's garden. She had several kidney-shaped beds around the farm-yard: two in front of the south-facing house, one under the shade of a tree on the east side. Then she also had some tough customers in a bed on the west side of the barn, spreaders which she keeps in check by making them "duke it out" with similarly tough customers: Chinese lantern, yarrow, the grass commonly known as gardeners garters (I think), and the like. Along the back fences separating the yard from fields behind the house, she had several beds. And she also had some more shady beds by the back door to the house and along the west fence along the drive. There were several interesting garden ornaments and birdfeeders which were perfectly placed. And to top it all off, from her hillside property, she has an excellent view of Pigeon Lake to the East and South-East.

I enjoyed several plant combinations and thought Diane did an excellent job of designing these beds. I plan to go back and steal some ideas! Oops. Shouldn't tip my hand, now, should I? 'Course I didn't have my camera, so I have to go back, don't I?

Yuck, I picked the few green worms I could see off my broccoli and Brussels sprouts this evening. As I hate using chemicals, I don't know of any other way of keeping the hated worms off the brassicas. Earlier in the season, fabric tents, intended to keep the butterfly from laying her eggs in the brassicas, were torn to shreds by galloping dogs. The brassicas got less doggie-attention when the tents were removed. Its a trade off. Maybe the bt stuff might work. Is it too late?

I have been enjoying the tender greens of arugula, beets and mesclun (lettuce&greens mixed). Last night, a leaf or two of lovage thrown in with a simple dressing of oil and lime (I didn't have lemon on hand), was all that was needed. Tonight, I skipped the lovage (something is chewing on that and the parsley too--earwigs? grasshoppers?) and had an herb vinaigrette with the greens. I enjoyed the salad after a main course of steamed asparagus with a mushroom and cheese omelette.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

for Amanda

Amanda, one of our colleagues,recently suffered some serious burns as the result of a freak accident with propane. She is still in hospital and we miss her terribly, so terribly in fact, that Lindsay, (another colleague of mine at my paying job) perhaps in a Freudian slip, wrote on a get-well card we are sending Amanda: "Thinking of us" (italics mine)

Well said, Lindsay! Our hearts are hurting when we think of Amanda and her family.

But seriously, get well soon, Amanda. We love you.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

who are your closest friends?

As another random association to my previous post, I came upon this poem at the cinnamon peeler's wife. It struck me as really hilarious. Anyway, then I looked at the time and realized I should get some sleep...

Monday, July 04, 2005

mindfulness and everyday life

I have totally enjoyed spending most of today re-reading Frances Mayes' Bella Tuscany, The Sweet Life in Italy.

Travel has a lot in common with meditation, actually.

And suddenly I had to also pick up Jane Hirshfield's Nine Gates, Entering the Mind of Poetry and Wherever You Go There You Are, Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, re-reading long chapters as the synchronicity of ideas flowed. I remembered and connected thought and had to seek out the quote.

Mayes makes the observation that it can be dangerous to travel, quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins who advises: Look long enough at an object until it begins to look back at you. Mayes says a strong reflecting light is cast back on what we perceive as real, sometimes a disquieting experience.
"we are profoundly displaced when we travel and denial of that displacement sets
in quickly. If only we could recognize this--suspend the rush to judgment
and compartmentalizing. Travel can reinforce the primitive urge to bring
the new into the circle of the known."

It is no accident, that the journey metaphor is used in all cultures to describe life and the quest for meaning. A passionate traveler wants to be changed, perhaps even seeking salvation.

Both Kabat-Zinn and Hirshfield quote Dante's opening lines to his Divine Comedy, "Inferno":
In the middle of this road we call our life
I found myself in a dark wood
With no clear path through.

Kabat-Zinn talks of the practice of meditation as a Way of being, a Way of living, a Way of listening, walking along the path of life and being in harmony with things as they are.
While our thinking colors all our experience, more often
than not our thoughts tend to be less than completely accurate. Usually
they are entirely based on uninformed private
opinions and prejudices
based on limited knowledge and influenced primarily by our past
conditioning. All the same, when not recognized as such and
named, our thinking can prevent us from seeing clearly in the present
moment....Just being familiar with this deeply entranched pattern and watching
it as it happens can lead to greater non-judgmental receptivity and
acceptance....we can act with much greater clarity in our own lives, and be more
balanced, more effective, and more ethical in our activities, if we know that we
are immersed in a stream of unconscious liking and disliking which screens us
from the world and from the basic purity of our own being....that prevents us
from seeing things as they actually are and mobilizing our true potential.

Hirshfield quotes Robert Lowell as saying "Why not say what happened?" She says,
if the thought is interpreted deeply and widely enough, with freedom and grace;
if we are willing to live with the lion, the tiger, the wild and unbeckonable
dolphin--something unknowable may come of such a path, of its suffering that is
also the blessing.

In her essay on shadow and light in poetry, how the awareness of heaven and hell, how the relationship between the two "ripens us--as human beings, as readers, as writers--into a more fully realized aliveness," Hirshfield notes that poems that give us a glimpse of 'heaven', come from a path of "willingness to include its opposite, to live for as long as is necessary in silence, in patience, in raging in the dark--not attempting to turn away, not attempting to exclude the difficult parts of our knowledge of what the world is." She comments that some of our best loved poems are written by writers who are deeply and cruelly flawed. And yet, yet!
It is not a trick of the craft, but the acutely honest and tenderly painful work of turning the light of their poetry upon themselves, Larkin doing "the one thing he is able to do; he lives with himself as best he can, and looks at it all." This,she convinces me, is how anger and shame can be mysteriously be changed into openness, light, blessing. By admitting his own complicity, not letting himself at his worst off the hook or avoiding himself at his worst, the poet wins the reader's compassion and pity, and the poem expands into a larger knowledge and grace. The openness of the poem becomes a gift and blessing to the poet as well as the reader.

All this takes me back to an experience I've had over the last several months. "Sarah", a colleague, perceives herself as outside the team and several of our team-mates have bluntly expressed the feeling that "Sarah" is not part of the team. "Sarah's" life is an open book to her colleagues, even though she has the right, and has chosen to keep the sordid details of her private life to herself. Yet, her life is an open book.

I'll explain.

A few years ago I went to a Sark conference, where she had us participate in an exercise where we chose as a partner a complete stranger. The stranger then did a "reading" of who we were, what we do, what our dreams might be, etc., whatever came up. We were struck at how accurately strangers were able to "read" us, how often deeply repressed and secret dreams were open books, even to a stranger! There was laughter and tears of relief! Our manner, our dress, our posture, our gestures, our language...dead giveaways to complete strangers. Oh, there was complicity too. Obviously, some strangers entered into the conspiracy of silence, or flattery, etc. required by our postures of self-protection. It was a profound exercise for me.

Also, several personal incidents have reinforced the fact to me, that our lives are an open book. A colleague made statements about me and my marriage to me years before I admitted the truth to myself. Several colleagues (we spend more hours with each other at work, after all, than many of us do with our families!), recently demanded "what's wrong with So-and-so? I know something is wrong!", or even went directly to that person and asked. At the same time, each colleague offered friendship, support, love, a listening ear, a hug.

Back to "Sarah". I should not have been shocked, but recently, as we talked about another colleague who had kept difficult details about her life from her mother, I expressed the opinion that a lot of problems might have been avoided if she had been open with her mother, perhaps preventing her mother from being used and taken advantage of. "Sarah" launched into a little sermon about too many in our workplace crossing the line of "professionalism", talking about their personal lives everyday to anybody who would listen, every day, every day...While I realized that there certainly are situations, and maybe this was one, where telling the mother was not possible or a good idea, I thought "Sarah's" reaction was off putting, to say the least.

It's only my opinion, of course, but I think generally there is a good balance of professional distance and personal friendship at my workplace. There are always odd cases where individuals cross the line.
However, as a rule, privacy is respected.

I think the reason "Sarah" feels invaded or persecuted or excluded or judged is largely her own doing. Having a belief, perhaps derived from her upbringing or social background, that a stiff upper lip is required, that reticence equals proper decorum and professional conduct, that divulging personal details of her life to colleagues is an invasion of her privacy and an invasion of her colleagues desire to listen...whatever it is exactly, this belief is cutting her off from perhaps her greatest lifelines. The perceptions by her colleagues vary from "she is a loafer and doesn't want to be a part of our hard-working team" to "she is a snob and social/and or professional climber who can't be trusted to not betray her colleagues to administration, etc. to serve her own ends." There are opinions and judgments all around the situation!

All I see is disconnection. As Kabat-Zinn says, we can be so closed to the wonder and vitality of fresh encounters, that if we are not careful, we can even forget that direct contact is possible.
We can live in a dream reality of own making without even a sense of the loss,
the gulf, the unnecessary distance we place between ourselves and
experience. Not knowing this, we can be all the more impoverished,
spiritually and emotionally. But something wonderful and unique can occur
when our contact with the world becomes more direct.

"Why not say what happened?" Indeed! It might surprise "Sarah" to know how well she is already "known", that her self-imposed walls are cutting her off from true support and friendship, and that her distance is impairing rather than maintaining her professional and colleageal relationships. She might indeed be relieved of the burden of trying so hard to be perfect, when we all know she isn't. Just being human is such a relief, vs trying to be right all the time, I have found. Usually, love and kindness is shut out by our own inability to touch them and be touched by them, because they are buried "below our own fears and hurts, below our own greed and our hatreds, below our desperate clinging to the illusion that we are truly separate and alone." She might be relieved of the anger and judgment that is squeezing out awareness, mindfulness, harmony and the enchantement of everyday life.

Frances Mayes closes her book by recognizing the cadence of her husband's step below on the road, hearing his voice asking "Are you home?", seeing stars streak across the sky, holding out her hand to catch one.

There's my wish. Let's catch a falling star or two. Why can't we do that every day: at work, at home, on vacation in a foreign country, in the garden, with our lover, with our children, with our pets?

"Are you home?"