Thursday, May 31, 2007

as May turns into June...

As May turns into June, blooms in the woods are less likely to be found, but the ferns will be in their glory soon.
mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum
trillium, Trillium grandiflorum -- there's still a few to be found

fading glory of same trillium as above

yellow lady's slipper, Cyprepedium calceolus

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more dirt

In response to Hannele's comment on dirt, I was reminded of something that happened to me in the line of my paying job.

Several years ago, I had a very nice older gentleman as a patient who looked far, far younger than his years. Very quiet, well-groomed and well-mannered, he had had what we in the business tend to consider a relatively minor procedure and he was recovering beautifully. In fact, I expected he'd be going home when his family cornered me in the hallway .

Apparently their concern was that he was actually a bit of a hermit, lived in the far north in a cabin with a dirt floor with no indoor plumbing, and, to top off the list of what they obviously considered to be almost crimes against humanity, he shared his living quarters with a horse, in the same one-room cabin -- at least that is how I understood it. Their expressed fear was that he was at risk for infection having just had surgery and everything. They also implied that the man was perhaps missing a few marbles...And I suppose that they wanted us to detain the man somehow and place him -- where? -- they probably hadn't thought that far of course. If the family had not brought up the man's lifestyle, there was nothing about his appearance or behavior to suggest that his was anything out of the norm (whatever that is).

Well, I didn't bother to explain the technicalities of a wound healing to them, nor the legalities of holding somebody against their will, but in the interest of respecting my patient's privacy and independence, I decided to remain neutral and check things out for myself after the family had left.

Well, the man was most certainly in his right mind, eccentric as hell, but only wanted to return to the peace and quiet of his cabin in the woods. He was able to clearly and coherently explain to me how he would comply with our suggestions for caring for his wound, etc. at home. And just from observing him for two days in the hospital, I was quite sure that even if he shared the cabin with a horse, the cabin was probably neat as a pin.

The family pushed enough to get Discharge Planning involved. D.P. was puzzled, perhaps at first, when it was confirmed that, yes indeed, the man lived in a cabin with a dirt floor with a horse. But anybody could see for themselves that the man was not nuts, was clean, was healthy and quite ready to go home. He was discharged that very day.

I still wonder sometimes what the family thought, that we, the supposed health professionals, were nuts as well? Or were they just worried if the truth about their family member's unique lifestyle came out, how that might soil their own reputations?

In most Third World Countries, I wonder how this might play out?

On a completely different tangent, it reminds me of how furious I was when I learned that a certain baby-formula manufacturer had successfully convinced somebody that it was a good idea to encourage mothers in Africa to feed their infants formula vs breast-feeding them. Never mind that bottles and formula are expensive and sources of clean water nearly impossible in many places and that finding fuel and/or money to buy fuel to sterilize the equipment is very problematic...etc.etc.etc. That struck me as the most cynical exploitation of desperation possible and still makes my blood boil. God forbid you should try to empower the women in any way so that they are not weak and starving and can feed their babies themselves in the way God intended. What is worse is that although this scandal occurred many years ago, you can still find remnants of that thinking in some of the literature and protocols of ngo's etc that provide aid and health care in Africa.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

controlling Mother Nature

In the past few days, I have been encountering a lot of and a lot about dandelions...

First there was Ottawa Gardener's post about them. Then I saw seas of yellow in many fields and my own yard followed by clouds and clouds of dandelion seedheads. I've been digging dandelions out of the veggie garden (I'd be a fool to try to dig dandelions out of the lawn and I refuse to use poisons).

Unfortunately, the dandelions in the garden are very happy there, huge things with seed heads (I know, I know, I shouldn't have let them get away like that) that shatter as soon as I touch the plant. The ground is literally white with fallen seeds in some places. I know: I'm shaking my head myself as I write this!

I grow a French variety of dandelion greens that does not seed as readily and often use the tender greens of the prolific wild variety too in salads. Somewhat bitter, it adds a nice touch to salads of mixed greens. While bitter greens are much more popular in Europe, dandelion greens are probably too bitter for most North American taste buds to use alone, the way many North Americans use iceberg lettuce alone in a salad.

Ki's comments on the ease of growing dandelions made me smile. We gardeners are an odd bunch. Maybe I shouldn't over-generalize, but, hell: we're never happy. That's what gets us out into the garden in the first place. We go out there, morning coffee mug in hand, to sit in the morning sun and relax in the garden and before you know it we spot a spent bloom and we're up deadheading this, picking a weed, down on our hands and knees up close and personal with bugs and dirt, digging, rearranging, pruning, transplanting, watering, mulching... As I've often said, I lose endless mugs in the garden that way!

Ki's suggestion to allow the vigorous weeds to just grow happily on without interference from us would take us out of the game completely! Whatever would we call ourselves if we could not stick our oars in and try to control Mother Nature's profligate abundance somewhat?

In my experience, gardeners are an odd bunch anyway. The really good ones stick out like a sore thumb, even in the suburbs where some attention to "the garden" is expected. But gardeners have their own aesthetic ideas, quite different from squirrels and often also quite different from their neighbors. Many's the gardener who has come to grief when their garden's exuberance passes the unspoken line of "nice" in the neatly manicured lawns and foundation plantings of suburbia. The exact position of that line varies from neighborhood to neighborhood, but let me assure you, it is there!

Reminds me of a crazy story from my childhood. I lived on a quiet residential street in the suburbs of Toronto long ago when the neighbors actually knew each other, even if only at the nodding acquaintance level amongst the adults. Children played outside until it got dark or the streetlights came on. If we got into mischief, we got told off and our parents heard about it and we got trouble again at home. It was a neighborhood where working class families lived cheek-by-jowl with middle-class profesionals. While everybody made some effort, not much fancy gardening was done. The lawns got mowed, but that was about all. Some gardens were memorable for this or that: a climbing rose here, a lilac bush there, a peach tree, an apple tree, a peony bush, a grape arbor over somebody's patio, a lawn shaded by maple trees. No big deal.

The exception was the house across the street from ours. Their lawn was lush and green with not one single weed in it. In the middle of that perfect deep, velvety green was a birch with sparkling white bark! How they managed that was a mystery because I don't recall seeing them out there working to maintain the lawn. Plus they owned a great big St. Bernard. I concluded they must have trimmed the lawn with nailclippers at night. As for the dog, he was usually in the house or the sideyard. And somehow, even though it was a corner lot, we all understood, by osmosis perhaps, that we should never take shortcuts across that lawn or play anywhere near there, or probably lightning would strike us dead. And even though the dog was big and friendly and tempting, we -- usually -- stayed away from him too.

One day, I heard an awful racket out in the street which of course drew everybody outside to see what was going on. There in the middle of the street, one of our neighbors from four houses down, Mrs. S., a small thin woman with her small yappy terrier on a leash had drawn the attention of the St. Bernard. Unusual to see the St. Bernard out on the front lawn, I thought.

The terrier was doing it's best to lead the way down the street, excited, barking, jumping up and down. Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip! Mrs. S. was not too successfully trying to control the terrier. I had never liked the terrier because besides not being trained to walk on a leash (this was an unusual event), the terrier always unnerved me with its ferocious yapping whenever it was out.

The St. Bernard of the perfect lawn was all attention, watching, barking. WOOF. WOOF. Things were already getting crazy, the terrier wrapping the leash around Mrs. S.'s legs, when the St. Bernard went into action.

Suddenly, the St. Bernard was in the middle of the street. Mrs. S. was on her back on the pavement, kicking and screaming, with a death grip on the terrier's leash. The terrier was bouncing around and around like a balloon in a gale, happy and nervous, yipping and yipping and yipping. The St. Bernard was standing over the terrified, shrieking Mrs. S.. A giant of a dog, he towered over the scene. Tail wagging as if he were contented with his excellent achievement, he was barking to the world in general: WOOF...WOOF...WOOF. He was all smiles, huge globules of his slobber glistening in the sun as they fell from his big red tongue.

At the time, that to me was so much more fun than the aftermath. I don't recall which of the neighbors came to sort things out. But I suppose they were sorted out.

Sadly, we saw even less of anybody actually living over there at the house with the perfect lawn after that, if you know what I mean. Even the St. Bernard. We didn't really miss the quiet man and angry woman of the house, but we kids, we missed the St. Bernard.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

eat dirt!

Via Rosemoon at Moonmeadow Farm I found this link to an article about research that shows exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system. I did suspect that for a long time. So it's not just for gardeners!

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Monday, May 28, 2007

endless bounty


what's happening?

Here's a happy colour combination, the silvery grey of the artemisia with the purple blooms of Ajuga reptans. This variety has purplish leaves.

The wild columbine in front of the foliage and climbing tendrils of a purple clematis, under my kitchen window. I don't know for sure the name of the clematis, probably a Jackmanii.

Pleasing spiky shapes of iris, this bunch near the acid green hops vine that climbs to an old bird house at the corner of the back deck.

The first of the iris to bloom. These unnamed iris were here, buried under blackberry brambles and oregano. I've moved and divided them and they seem to flourish quite well wherever I've put them!

I've realized that I love this particular shade of acid green. It used to be called "French Green" in my box of crayons, I think. Is it chartreuse? Love it with the purple-blue of the spiderwort blossoms!
The gorgeous deep purple columbine is scattered around the foot of the back deck and is seeding itself around and between the patio stones. As I find the seedlings, I'm lifting them and moving them to places where I'd prefer to see them appearing.

The last of the tulips around here. They were gathered from the woods and the oddest corners where, no doubt, the squirrels had planted them after digging them up from where humans might have planted them once upon a time. The squirrels' ideas about the aesthetics of garden design differ a bit from those of most humans I know.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

666, 13 and 5!

Ha-ha. I noticed that my last post was post #666. Well, I always knew that one of my alter-egos was a bitch with a W!

It reminds me of something I read long ago and I'll have to paraphrase because I have no idea where I read it. It was something like:

All old women are witches. They know how to make a sweater and mittens from the fleece of a sheep. Brown globes they stick in the ground turn into tulips. They know how to turn water, yeast and flour into bread. They know how to grow potatoes from bits of potatoes stuck into the ground...

Anyway, in this age of fast food, instant everything, and throw-away consumerism, those old-fashioned hands-on skills still mean something.

Call me a bitch or witch. I have blogged post #666 and worse yet, I'm not pretending it doesn't exist, a la 13th floor in many skyscrapers in North America.

Sometimes at work, the indicator light on the elevator doesn't come on as it passes a floor. It will be like that for days; at one floor the bulb behind the floor-number is blown and doesn't come on as the elevator slides past it. All the other floors' indicator lights blink on then off as the elevator passes them, whether or not we stop at that floor.

It always gives me a kick to say to anybody who will listen:

"Look at that. The elevator skipped the 5th floor! There is no longer a 5th floor!"

HUH??? I know, sick things amuse me.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

lemony things update

A comment from Kim about the lemony ants made me determined to find the reference to these ants I had encountered once before. Here it is, posted by Bev over at Burning Silo. Class: Insecta; Order: Hymenoptera; Superfamily: Vespoidea; Family: Formicidae; Common name: Ants; Genus: Acanthomyops, has perhaps nine species that are found in mid- to eastern North America. The most commonly mentioned species were A. claviger and A. interjectus.

Other lemony things in my garden: citronella geranium, lemon verbena, lemon balm, monarda, and a couple of lemon scented thymes.

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Beta Giyorgis

(March 18, 2007: Lalibela, Ethiopia.)
Perhaps the most photographed and most famous of the rock cut churches of Lalibela, Beta Giyorgis (various spellings are found), lies apart from the other churches, somewhat southwest of the northern group. To reach it, we passed the old village of Lalibela. Through the assistance of Unesco, the old village is being preserved and people have the opportunity to resettle in newer homes away from the historical site.

In the photo above, handwoven scarfs and shawls of very good quality are being offered for sale. For those in our group who purchased one, they were to come in handy on some very dusty days of trekking ahead.

Beta Giyorgis is carved into a large sloping rock platform of the same red volcanic rock found throughout the whole site in Lalibela. The two crosses on the roof, one inside the other, follow the overall shape of the church.

The pit it sits in is 12 m deep. In the walls of the pit surrounding the church are several openings that lead to hermits' dwellings, ossuaries, and storage chambers. Dedicated by the Holy King Lalibela to St. George (the slayer of the dragon), it is said that the hoof-prints of the saint's white horse are to be found imprinted forever in the stone on the side of the trench.

One distinct portion of the pit was not carved away from the whole. A river of stone there, if I remember correctly, symbolizes the River of Life and leads the eye upward to an olive tree which is symbolic of the Mount of Olives.

One can descend into the pit and thereby the church via a passage of steps cut into the wall on the downward slope of the rock platform. This is perhaps the best preserved of all the churches and unique in its cross shape. It is 12 by 12 m and sits on a triple-stepped plinth.

One ogilvie shaped window with ribbed capitals is found high up on each of the twelve outer walls. Remembering that this was carved out of solid stone, it is impressive to note the delicate carved decorations above each window had to be considered in advance, not added as an afterthought!

The three doorways on the west facade have the Axumite-style square monkey-heads at the corners in the same style found on many of the windows and doorways of the other churches. On the lower walls that do not have doorways, blind windows which do not open to let light into the interior, have the same monkey-heads at the corners.
It is the central of the three doorways which accesses the entrance staircase.
The interior again is divided into the three sections, with the easternmost sanctuary having a domed ceiling on which is a carved cross-pattée. The ceilings in the other arms of the church are flat and have plain crosses carved on them. The ceiling of the crossing is higher, also flat, and defined by four arches with bracket capitals.
One of the treasures we were shown inside Beta Giyorgis is an olive-wood box said to have been carved by King Lalibela in which he used to store his tools.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

pink & perfume

My grand old hibiscus, enjoying the warm day out on the back deck.

It must be possible, because just from inhaling the air the garden, I am happily drunk. The air in the garden is heavy with the sweet perfumes of lily-of-the-valley, lilac and sweet violets. Forget the air quality warnings on the radio! The air here in my garden, with the soft breeze off the lake gently rustling the leaves of the trees, is just fine!

As I rearranged some of the plants in the beds, I uncovered an ants' nest under a old pottery shard and much alarmed moving of eggs resulted...The ants are yellow and exude a distinct lemony scent! Isn't that amazing?? Sorry, the photo is a little blurry but you can just make out the ants. I was so pleased by the scent that I replaced the pottery shard and hope the ants will continue to thrive and prosper! Seems to me one of my favorite bloggers has mentioned these ants, and had the proper name for them who was it???

The yellow carpet of dandelions has turned into a low level cloud of white puffs.

The view out my kitchen or dining room windows is of the magenta of the crab apple trees (two, no, three kinds) that were here when I arrived, and beyond them the apple trees, a cloud of white in the orchard. There are also two apple trees in the back yard, just off the patio. I wish I knew the names of the all the varieties, as some of them are old varieties not available commercially anymore. Standing under the trees, the sound of bees among the flowers is a deafening drone!

When I step out the side door, the pink of the beauty bush is backed by the pink of the phlox and the purple of the lilac. A wild variety of columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, which offered last year, seeded itself generously behind the hosta and variegated grass. The magenta-pink phlox is great with the candytuft, but a variegated soapwort is reverting to the plain green leaves. I'm trying to encourage the creeping Gill-over-the-ground, Glechoma hederacea, among the stones by the drive. From the mint family, it is an introduced species with lovely aromatic leaves that stand up quite well to being mowed over and stepped on. Weeding out the plantain and dandelion from amongst the Gill-over-the-ground is proving to be... @&~*!#% !! , to say the least!
On the north (front) side of the house, I haven't done any weeding. Bergenia is blooming among volunteer violets -- and Herb Robert, Geranium Robertianum, and Virginia Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum virginianum. The maiden hair ferns survived and are unfolding their fronds to one side of the holly berry bushes. I'm thinking of moving the hostas forward to the edge of the bed. Maybe some shrubs in the back to give more height? This is still a work in progress. Humph!

Between the patio stones at the back of the house, sprinkled with a confetti of apple blossom petals, look at these sweet little violets!

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thyme after thyme

Some of my little collection of thymes.