Thursday, May 25, 2006

smileys or...not!

Tuesday was the first warm day for a long, long time. It was appreciated so much more too because of the misery of the May24Weekend. For non-Canadians who might not know, the May24Weekend is the first long weekend of "the Season", when cottagers traditionally make the treck out of the city to open the cottage, when the daring go camping, and "summer" has traditionally, if not officially, begun. It was actually Queen Victoria's birthday, but was declared a national holiday when we celebrate the Queen/King's birthday in Canada. I understand Australia celebrates on a different day.

Aa--ny--way! In my recent memory, the May24Weekend has been miserable, like the last kick at the can for old winter. Even after a week or two of lovely weather that we have had some years in May, the May24Weekend will arrive with rain and cold and even snow and ice-pellets in some areas. This year was no exception and we had a week of rainy cool weather the whole week before.

That is why Tuesday this week was so GREAT! I was out in the garden all day. I puttered and I planted and I weeded. I tell you, I was in bliss. The vege garden is finally taking shape. My plans have been altered a little, partly due to a shady corner, partly due to considerations of personal preference, etc. That's part of the fun. So, there I was, so blissfully absorbed that I did not notice that my shirt tail was not meeting my pants' waist whenever I bent over, and that was also for most of the day! And I am trying to be so careful about sunburn these days, wear hats, etc. etc.

At the end of the day I found I had a perfect bright pink crescent-shaped sunburn on my back. Imagine a red crescent moon on it's back in the middle of my back. When I stand up, it's smiling! When I bend over, it's frowning! If you can picture this, I feel a little sorry for you. But I feel more sorry for me, because like all sunburns, no matter how ridiculous the pattern, it hurts -- JUST A LITTLE! It's ridiculous!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

wild things

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought,
of grief. I come into the presence of still water,
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
-- Wendell Berry

doggie thoughts


"Mm - hmn - hmmmnn!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


This afternoon, after a very productive writing session on my novel-in-progress, I went out to enjoy the sunshine that had come out to play. Molly, Misty and Tasha were bouncing up and down around me when I noticed morels on the ground at the edge of the woodsy areas along the south fence. Morels are a spring mushroom, distinguished by their honeycombed surface. There are other mushrooms that look similar which are poisonous, so pick carefully or with the guidance of an expert 'shroomer at first. The edible ones have a hollow stem that is of one piece with the hollow cap. Anyway, we had morels for supper!

Sauteed Morrels with Garlic and Parsley
With a slightly smoky-woodsy flavor morels are lovely sautéed, whole or sliced open lengthwise, with just a little butter, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Or you can sauté them with olive oil or butter; then, when the mushrooms are golden, season with a little salt and pepper, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and toss with chopped fresh parsley and a finely minced clove of garlic. Sauteed morels are divine on top of a tender cooked pasta, accompanied by steamed asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, or peas.

Morels with tarragon and cream
Morels are also great this way: sauteed until lightly browned, seasoned with salt and pepper. Toss in a little dry white wine, simmer until wine reduced by half. Add cream and creme fraiche or sour cream, simmer some more. Add chopped parsley, garlic and tarragon and serve over toast or pasta.

Check out more information on morels, how to find them, how to cook them, here:
The Great Morel
Morels and More --photos

mourning dove

Today, as I was working in the vegetable garden (the soil was quite heavy, but I'm impatient) I heard an odd flapping sound, as if Tasha was playing with one of the deflated soccer balls she loves. But when I looked up, Tasha was right beside me, without her ball. I heard the noise again and noticed a mourning dove trapped in our basement, flinging itself against the basement window.

Going inside, I was able to come right up to it. How long it had been trapped in the basement is hard to say. We did have doors and windows to the basement open before the rains started about a week ago, trying to dry things out down there. If it was there all that time, the poor bird must have been starving and exhausted. That was probably why I could so easily place my hand over it and grasp it gently. It's feathers were so soft, it's tiny bones so fragile in my hand.

I took it outside, placing it on the concrete wall of the external stairwell to the basement. (The deck outside what we call the "back door" is visible overhead in the photo. It's an odd arrangement where a part of the deck is meant to swing upward like a trapdoor to access the basement stairs.) The bird looks quite stunned with shock in the photos, doesn't it?

When I touched the bird again, thinking to pick it up and place it out of reach of the dogs, it revived enough to fly off into the lilac. I like to think this mourning dove will remember and know I would never mean it any harm.

That reminds me of another bird story. Many years ago, I was digging out a new perennial bed for my friend, Alice. As I came upon one earthworm after another, I noticed a robin nearby, also busily excavating earthworms. When I came upon another worm, I tossed it the robin's way and he hopped on over and picked it right up. He flew off, but came right back and looked at me, cocking his head, as if to say, "Right then, let's have another one!" I tossed another earthworm his way. He picked it up and flew off, coming right back to wait for more. It went on like this for an hour or more until I had finished digging! This robin's version of a fast-food restaurant ?

"One earthworm, to go, please!"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

teaching and learning

Two recent posts by vastly different people regarding teaching had me in tears. Teaching is very dear to me and I applaud the inspired, dedicated teachers who often struggle in a very non-supportive political and social environment that does not value education.

The first is a Canadian blog, Nunablog, by two young teachers from the south who spent the last year in Nunavut. The touching story here describes this teacher sharing an enjoyable learning moment with a young lad, whose learning will take off like a rocket now, we hope.

The second is an excrutiatingly honest, brilliant blog, In and Out of Confidence, by a teacher of teachers, Tamar Jacobson. The bit I want to share is a quote about teaching that I would like on a plaque on my wall too.

the long view

The pictures that follow are submitted all the while feeling like I'm showing you my bare arse, not willingly or defiantly, oh no! More like trying desperately to keep it covered the whole while...sort of like the nightmares of arriving at work in your underwear or something. Keep reading and you will understand why. (It's a response to a sort of challenge I found in a blog posted by Randa, at Garden Geek. You'll also find the link to Randa's blog below.)

The view out the kitchen window of the crabapple trees in the rain:

This is the view from our back steps. An old-fashioned beauty-bush is in the foreground. By the hydrangea, the closest dark mound is a barberry. Behind it is a grey grass I can't recall the name of right now, behind it the purple heuchera. Around the bend behind the hydrangea on the north side of the house are hosta, geranium, ferns, holly, pieris, bergenia, etc. (trust me, ok!):

Oh, my! Isn't that an awful picture? Blown tulips, crocus foliage, spent white soapwort, not-yet-blooming candytuft ...There's a wild red columbine in the back there somewhere,under the clematis that I haven't had time to tidy up and secure to its trellis. Among the tulip foliage are a hosta and a sweetgrass. Some giant allium, a miscanthus, and threadleaf coreopsis are next to the hydrangea and among the tulips. In front are some hellebore, a geranium, a variegated soapwort, candytuft. Among the crocus foliage, I plan to put in some pink creeping phlox:
Heavenly lilac perfume fills the air at dusk and the scent delights from yards and yards away! Below it, a couple of pots of rhubarb roots which will go in the garden asap (when it dries up from all the rain a little). A white version of Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis), coming up under the lilac:

The front steps on the north side of the house:
At the west end of the house, a catch-all kind of place with a haphazard woodpile; ajuga reptans, lily of the valley and vinca intermingle:

A little bed under a large beauty-bush, with hosta, the daylily "Stella d'oro" and some geraniums out of view to the right; iris, bleeding heart, and artemisia.

The vegetable garden, from which I am in self-imposed exile until it dries up from the rain. For weeks we had sunshine and I couldn't get into the garden for one reason or another. Now, I have a stretch of days that I can call all mine, but it has been raining since last Thursday, every day, on and off. Mucking about in the garden would only turn the soil to clods of hard rock-like impossibility! Visible in the nearest bed on the left, asparagus. In the middle nearest bed, lovage and lemon balm, in the second bed on the left, garlic and French tarragon and more garlic in the beds beyond. Mesclun, beet, etc seedlings not visible in photo. Raspberry batch on right.

At the south-west corner of the main house, columbine and the dreaded stink-weed. A mock- orange shrub in the top left corner of the picture. The bricks are an attempt to keep the dogs from crawling under the deck:

This bed is along the south-facing L of the deck. The vegetable garden is beyond it to the west. Here, by the well cover is the Purple-flowering Raspberry, which is wild in these parts, some blue columbine, narcissi, the emerging foliage of a tall single Shasta daisy and a goldenrod. Somewhere, there are also some lavenders and a Russian sage, tucked into the corner and not yet tall enough to be visible.

The bed on the west side of the new addition & greenhouse:

Let's see, what's visible? a golden hops vine, tansy, the amur maple, ajuga, pachysandra, lemon thyme, some unnamed iris, another thyme, a white peony, the green nicotiana seedlings, white hollyhocks, a yellow rose, a blue geranium, absinthe, pink verbena, lavender, a pink clematis vine, the black-berry brambles, harebell(Campanula rapunculoides) seedlings (which I hope to pull out -- or maybe not...) and oregano.

Randa suggested that some gardeners like me are often reluctant to show the whole bed as it looks right now, because in our minds, it's always a work in progress, never nearly perfect enough. I'd have to agree. It's much more satisfying, to me anyhow, to concentrate photographing a single beautiful bloom.

So here you have seen some of our beds, showing the long view. Please imagine them in your mind's eye as I hope they will look someday, full and lush and perfectly balanced in design...Somehow, in showing these beds now, as they are, feels like I am going out in public somewhere half naked!

Plus! These photos were obtained in & between rain showers, while under the whining attack of clouds of predatory mosquitoes the size of small helicopters. (yes, I would swear under oath, that indeed, I feared for my life!)

Just as I finished my supper, I looked eastward watching the swallows in the air over the orchard and, behold! a rainbow!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

more pics from my stay at my daughter's...

Warm enough for bare feet in April! Who would have thought it! Weather patterns are so unpredictable in spring around southern Ontario! I think we were shivering in the wind the day before!

A barbecue supper on the back deck:

Our picnic lunch in the back yard:
Mustard mysteriously gets all over Gramma and Kaylee!

The saga of the car is coming to an end. I had decided to rent a car anyhow (my insurance would cover it after a hefty deductible) when Kia decided that since parts had been on back-order for three weeks or more, they would cover a rental. Good grief, I should hope so.

So I've been home for just over a week now, trying to catch up with laundry, mail, email, gardening chores, etc. I doubt I'll ever get organized anyway, anyhow, but I do have my dreams...Today, I got the call the car is finally done and I can pick it up. I hope to do that on Monday, if I can find someone who has the time to drive out to Georgetown with me.

Yesterday, it finally rained. We have decided to use the cistern despite our concerns re it leaking. The leaks from cracks in the foundation and under the basement door are much more serious than any leaks from the cistern ever were.

I spent a day last week trying to muck out the dirt in the basement, nearly an inch deep in spots, that had washed in with the leaking water, thinking at first that we had mold. We may still have mold, but it's hard to tell, now that it's wet again from the runoff from the rain. The eaves troughs are in a sad state. Streams of water pour down forming puddles outside the foundation of the house, in approximately the same spots where the foundation is cracked. Our landlords are in the process of getting much repair work done, so I'm hopeful.

Back to the cistern idea. After the weeks of dry balmy weather (practically no rain all of April), I am concerned that this summer may be drier and hotter than the last. It may just be that having a cistern full of rainwater for watering the garden may spare the well -- although I don't believe it did go dry at all last summer; rather, we had troubles with the pump, didn't we?

The peas I had planted before I decided to stay with my daughter have done nothing, except for two wee sad sprouts. Were the seeds dug up by the birds and squirrels or did they dry up? I thought I might have had more sprouts if I had put nets over the bed. I have very inconsistent results with peas: I get them in too early, too late, they grow fitfully, I re-seed the bare spots, they don't grow at all, or they go mad. I think one has to be a very serious, organized and neat kind of gardener to do well with peas!

The rain however gives me hope for my peas. Today, I was chatting with a local nursery owner who has noticed that all the copious watering his plants receive is nothing compared to the way they respond to a good rainfall! After a good rainfall, he said, the plants "just pop!"

I'll try to post more pictures and updates of the garden soon.


Granddaughter Kaylee kissed a boy at school. She had been talking about him a lot, so he must be beautiful, indeed. But Kaylee's Mommy and Daddy didn't think it was a good idea for her to kiss him as she said she planned to do.

The trouble was, she did kiss him anyway at school one day. Then her conscience began to trouble her and she confessed to her Junior Kindergarten teacher that Mommy and Daddy were going to be mad because she had kissed Bryce.

A couple of weeks later, Uncle Devon came over for supper. Mommy was telling Uncle Devon about the kissing-a-boy thing (she's worried Kaylee is starting early on being as boy-crazy as Mom was at 14 -- yes, she really is!--even though Gramma thinks 4 and 14 are very different!! A 14-yr old doesn't find endless amusement in potty-words like poo-poo and toot, after all.)

"Ac-tually!" Kaylee piped up. She had been listening to the grown-ups' conversation. "Actually, I kissed two boys and a girl! But don't worry. I kissed the girl a long time ago."

Auntie Alli reminds everyone concerned, that in Kindergarten and well into grades 1 & 2, she and her friends at schools held elaborate playground weddings on a daily basis, the arrangements of the bride/groom/ newlyweds changing daily.

My housemate Ann thinks we as adults have rather closed ourselves off, unable anymore to connect to our true selves, and freely appreciate a beautiful boy or girl and just kiss them!

It is rather amusing to think what a different world it might be if we were to be, as Jesus recommended, "as little children!"

on my hands & knees

Trout lily or Dogtooth Violet, Erythronium americanum:
Cut-leaved Toothwort, Dentaria laciniata:

Purple Trillium, unfortunately out of focus, Trillium erectum, not as common in our woods as the large-flowered trillium:

Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum:

Large-flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum:

I have been on my hands and knees again, crawling about the woods, trying to capture with my camera the breathtaking beauty of the forest floor. Already as the trilliums open out, the leafy canopy is filling in and casting them into shade.