Saturday, June 30, 2007

more mysteries

Mystery #1:
When did this happen? Those storms only gave us a little wind, not much in comparison to what knocked down trees in the city only an hour or so down the road (& no rain). And that was days ago. No, it was all quiet for a few days, hot, still and muggy. I come around the corner of the house from the veggie garden and voilà! I think this rotten old limb was just ready to fall down!

You'll remember that this is the same tree which dropped another large part of itself across the drive in nearly the same spot not too long ago!

Mystery #2:

Every morning, I hear what sounds like the purr of a motor, the rapid-fire of a small hammer on wood. The bursts of sound go on for several seconds at a time, up to 1/2 a minute sometimes. Todd, the young man I hired to mow the lawn, said, the last time he was here, that he heard the sound too and followed it to an old tree at the corner of that old abandoned house across the laneway from my house. There, in the old tree, there is a huge hole. He thinks it's the nest of the pileated woodpecker that he saw in the tree.

Now, I recognize the call of the pileated w.p., but they haven't been noisy in that part of the farm -- perhaps so as to not attract attention to the nest. And the hammering is not like that I've heard in the past from the adults either. I mean, as my former housemate, Ann, used to say, the adults sound like they are "puttin' a serious hurtin' on the tree" when they are hammering away! I wonder if it is the young who make that noise, most often in the wee hours of the morning?

Mystery #3:
Can you see the corn?? Nope, I can't either!

I did have a nice row of corn coming up (I really did!!), but something wanted to eat it now -- before the corn could even grow enough to form any ears. I even tried reseeding the corn...and that too has been dug up.

This is peculiar, and here's why. Farmers around here have fields and fields and fields of corn, and not too far away at that from my own little garden, so close that I wondered about possible cross-pollination. Why is that that whatever dug up my corn seems to ignore the farmers' corn?

Now I don't know if it isn't perhaps a gardeners' myth, but I've heard talk that even wild birds at the feeders prefer organically grown/non-genetically modified seed. Could that be why the relative banquet not even a km away is scorned in favour of my teensy-tiny corn patch (which is now non-existent, by the way, because I'm giving up on corn for this season)?

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Friday, June 29, 2007


Today is a national native day of action in Canada. Native groups are trying to draw attention to outstanding land claims and many other issues that Canada's native people want to educate us about.

I have been to one powwow in my whole life. It made a profound impression on me for many reasons. Today's day of action reminded me of something that occurred at that powwow that I have not forgotten.

Near the end of the day, an elder stood to pay tribute to a friend who had passed on. In the course of talking, he mentioned that he had had the opportunity to speak with one of our Prime Ministers. He wanted to speak to him about his personal experience of the abuse of native children in the residential schools. Perhaps the politician started to respond with the usual platitudes, because the elder said he told the Prime Minister:

"Wait. I want you to listen until I'm finished speaking. I will tell you when I'm done speaking."

We are not very good at listening, are we? We are already making up rebuttals, or thinking of something else perhaps completely unrelated to the speaker's words, or just waiting for an opening to jump in with whatever it is that we want to say ... anything but just listening.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

pests and troubles

This is the post where I show you the dirty underside of my garden! You just might want to skip this 'cause it can get pretty ugly, particularly if your tastes go to the neat and trim style of gardening!

I'm an inconsistent gardener at best. I can be obsessive about every microscopic seedling one day, then too exhausted to think about it for days on end. During those days, the weeds march inexorably on in their bid to take over the garden and the tender seedlings of my 'intendeds' start to shrivel up, suffering terribly of neglect! When I get back into the garden, I swoon with guilt for a second or two. Then I get inspired to abuse my little 'intendeds' even further by yanking them up after I've decided they look better somewhere else. They get plopped into their new home, drenched with water my amazement, nearly every time, my garden continues to surprise me with the determination of even my tender and abused 'intendeds' to grow and bloom!

I think that is part of the blessing that a garden is for me. In observing the beauty that results inspite of my bumbling interference, I realize that life is irrepressible! Life will come up for more again and again, inspite of everything that seems to be against it. Life is exuberant and abundant and gorgeous.

Oh, this is terrible! Is this evidence of Japanese beetles munching on my Apothecary rose?? And look at that! Those @#$% tawny daylilies persist, even though I thought I dug them all out of this bed beside the greenhouse!

Can you see the pig weed masquerading as basil in the middle of the row?? How did I miss that in my weeding? The root on that sucker will be as large as a Japanese radish!!

The cilantro last year seeded itself far beyond the original bed it was in, right into the path. I've already enjoyed many a meal in which the bright, musky flavor of cilantro just sang! But even I can't get to all the cilantro and in this heat, it is quickly going to seed again, as you can see. This is fine, actually. Only hitch with this is that it is now largely in the middle of what I intended to be a path through the garden and if it self-seeds here, am I going to revise the direction of the path to go round it?? I've found that lifting the seedlings of cilantro to move them to a "better" location doesn't work as easily as it might with say something like dill or fennel.

Bronze fennel generously seeded itself about, and where it's not a complete nuisance, I've just let the seedlings grow on. The fuzzy bits of the unfurling leaves did give me a start on first glance, making me think I was looking at a furry caterpillar! Of course, you see I'm not keeping up with the weeding, lamb's quarters, purslane and green foxtail grass being far too generous with their seedlings, thank-you very much!

The first little signs of fruiting on the tomatoes. I'm pretty relaxed about "pests", but I'm keeping out a very careful watch for the tomato horn worm (shud-d-d-der!!!!).

It started with just the ripening berries going missing. Now, it's not just the berries but most of the stalks as well that are being bitten right off! I should put netting over this bed. It's worth doing even this late because this is an ever-bearing variety and I could reasonably expect more berries all summer long.

Netting might keep out the critter responsible for the destruction -- unless it's a bug-like critter. I was going to say "thieving" but I think that's highly inaccurate as the critters with whom I share this world don't have any idea that I think I own the strawberries.

I have noticed earwigs are rampant in every part of the garden.

And we still have had no rain.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

herbs and stuff

English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Look how attractive it is to butterflies! 'nough said.

Golden lemon thyme, Thymus x citriodorus 'Aureus', a gold-variegated form has a strong lemon scent.

Mother-of-thyme, Thymus pulegioides (T. serpyllum), a ground cover that perfumes the air when trod upon, wild thyme can be used in cooking and aids in clearing mucous congestion.
Absinthe, Artemisia absinthium, now illegal in some places probably because it has the reputation of causing madness, the extremely bitter absinthe leaves have been used flavor absinthe, vermouth and other liquers. The dissolution and madness portrayed by such famous painters as Degas were probably just as likely due to the residue metals in Parisian water, the 100 proof alcohol used to produce absinthe, or the unscrupulous use of additives to produce the famous green colour of absinthe. Absinthe stimulates the appetite, improves digestion and is one of the oldest known remedies for worms.

Siberian motherwort, Leonurus sibiricus; naturalized from Europe, motherwort is used as a vasodilator, diuretic and to relieve menstrual disorders.

Common mullein, Verbascum thapsus, (clary sage and lovage in the background )the erect, woolly stem with tightly packed yellow blooms on the flowering spike, rises from a rosette of thick, velvety basal leaves the second year. Common now in fields, roadsides and waste places in North America, mullein is a biennial introduced from Europe. All parts of the plant have uses, from the stalks dipped in grease for use as torches, the leaves used in moccasins or stockings to keep out the cold, to all parts used to produce yellow, bronze or grey dyes. Teas made from the leaves, flowers or roots are variously used as remedies for coughs, hoarseness, bronchitis, earaches and croup.

Satolina, Santolina chamaecyparissus, often seen in knot gardens or as low hedging, dried santolina flowers can be used in floral arrangements, or hung in bunches in closets to repel moths. The leaf oils are extracted for the perfume industry.

Ox-eye daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, the familiar wildflower of waste places, meadows, pastures and roadsides was introduced to North America from Europe. It can be employed to relieve chronic cough, asthma and nervous excitability.

Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, decorative and a prolific self-seeder, feverfew leaves in tea or even a few in a salad or sandwich are said to reduce the number and severity of migraines in some sufferers. It also reduces tension, gives a sense of well-being and provides some relief from arthritis.
Clary sage, Salvia sclarea: the attractive aromatic flowers are on a handsome sized plant. Collect the seeds. Soak the seeds in water to make a mucilaginous eye bath which safely removes foreign particles from the eye.

Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is an herb with a delightful lemon scent. The tea made from the dried leaves is said to stimulate the heart, calm the nerves, and is also effective against herpes. Fresh chopped leaves are interesting in green salads, salads made with mild beans like canneloni, added at the last minute to soups, or to season chicken or fish.

From left to right: lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, wonderful dried and used alone or in herbal tea blends; lovage, Levisticum officinale, the leaves with a relatively strong flavor reminiscent of celery can be used to flavor soups, stews and casseroles; carnation, Dianthus; clary sage, Salvia sclarea; French tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus sativa, the well-known culinary herb, suggestive of anise or licorice, used in such famous sauces as bearnaise, hollandaise and mousseline, lovely as the basis of a vinegar to flavor salads, or in butter over steamed vegetables and intrigueing in omelets, marinated meats or poultry stuffing. In the foreground, volunteer cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, its pungent, citrusy leaves a favorite in South Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American cuisine, the seeds used to add a fresh, spicy flavour to soups, stews, chili sauces, and curries.

French tarragon.

Ooops. The idea was to capture a photo of the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars which were busy stripping the leaves of my lovage (Levisticum officinale) plant. But, I have missed them and they are probably in the chrysalis form now. I searched but could not find the chrysalis. My lovage towers way over my head, the flower heads resembling dill flowers.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Where better than in a garden, can one contemplate the rapture of being alive?

Astilbe x arendsii 'Bridal Veil'.

And this is exactly what it looks like, the top-heavy flowering stalk of delphinium has flopped and snapped in the wind. It is supposed to be the shorter and sturdier variety Magic Fountains 'Sky Blue', but is obviously not short and sturdy!
I don't recall which varieties of geranium, hosta and fern these are...Every geranium variety I have is very attractive to insects: bees, small moths, butterflies.




Verbena 'Ruby Queen' and Geranium 'Orion'.

Rosa 'Golden Wings', a bit chewed up by ?earwigs.

Since I refuse to use poisons in the garden, I must allow for some nibbles on the rose bush.


Purple-flowering raspberry, Rubus odoratus. The bumble-bees are busy competing with the moths and bees.

The spent blooms of the iris are kind of interesting too.

The large mock orange bush was covered in heavily perfumed blossoms that were wildly attractive to all kinds of insects. The blossoms are just beginning to shatter now.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

two weeks ago

I can't keep up. I notice something has opened up and I have every intention of getting a photo of it. Maybe I should just give up: recording it is as silly an obsession as the idea that I could possess everything beautiful, hold on to it somehow, delay the inevitable, push away the impermanence of life.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

chemistry sets or guns?

Thanks to chuck b., of whoreticulture, my twisted mind was refreshed by good dose of insane laughter at the expense of the seriously stupid minds of too many politicians and legislators, when I read this, about the outlawing of basic chemistry equipment and supplies. We are sometimes uncomfortably close to our neighbour to the south, a neighbour that I often admire, actually; still...with our current government in power, the one that wants to be our neighbour's little brother ("me too!" "me too!" "me too!"), this is scary.

Read the comments too. There's lots of good stuff there too.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

90 percent!

This is amazing. I don't know if I have the patience to systematically think through everything that I consume, but you just have to be inspired by this story by Kate at Cider Press Hill. I think her story actually starts here at the Riot for Austerity 90% Emissions Reduction Project. I'm blown away by this! I'd love to hear about anybody inspired to try something similar. I'll have to think about this as there are several other things going on in my life at the moment...but it's so intriguing!

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book crossings

I know a lot of people do this, leave a book they love behind on the bus, or train, or subway, with the intention that somebody else should also enjoy a book we've enjoyed. Now, if it matters to you, via urbanist , I found out about a way that those to whom this matters, can track the journey their book takes once it leaves your hands.

Anyone who has a book that they liked but don't want to keep is encouraged to register it at, write a note in the front, with the "Book Crossing ID," then leave it somewhere where others will find it.

Seems like a fun idea.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

until the full moon

OK, sensory overload here!
For some perverse reason, these peonies remind me of brides, and as cynical as I am, not believing much in the institution of marriage, the only reason I think of weddings in association with peonies is because they are so blowsy in their beauty, something like a bride in a very full and fluffy wedding dress.
Perhaps there are a couple of things that weddings do have to recommend them: a chance to wear yards and yards of lovely gauzy fabric and a big party afterwards! This, therefore, should not be a once in a life time event, should it?? New rule here, new rule: at least every 3 - 5 years, every woman should have a reason to get dressed up in impossibly frilly gowns just to feel beautiful and adored and there should be a big party afterwards!!
"Come, let us take our fill of love
until morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
He took a bag of money with
he will not come home until
full moon."
~~Proverbs 7:18-20

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Monday, June 18, 2007


My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Viscountess Kati the Querulous of Deepest Throcking
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
In case you were wondering what my claim to fame was! There you have it. I was gratified to find my ah, ahem, title-ness via Ron, at Toad in the Hole.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Eastern Churches

(March 19, 2007: Lalibela.)

Beta Qedus Gabrae'el Rufa'el:

The winding approach from the north, to the church dedicated to the archangels Gabriel and Raphael, is up an incline after crossing the River Yordanos, with the village on the east side. There is a large stone cross in the River Yordanos valley which marks the junction of tunnels that lead to Beta Qedus Gabrae'el Rufa'el and Beta Giorgis. Crossing another bridge over a rock-cut trench, the impressive facade of Beta Qedus Gabrae'el Rufa'el comes into view.

I'm sure I've muddled this up because I can't find references to it anywhere else. However, our guide said that at one time, the only access for the devout to this church was by climbing up the wall on the right hand side, above. The legend is that only the holy could successfully make the climb. And, if one fell off, what happened? Well, they would be going to "the other place"!

Now, a right turn takes us up to a covered gallery, the roof supported by elegant pillars. This gallery faces the northwest facade of the church across a trench 15m deep. One has to cross this trench on a third wooden bridge to reach the entrance to the church.

The church sits on a plinth excavated on three sides right down to the bottom of that 15m trench.

The facade, so elegant and exotic to me in the afternoon sunshine, has an ogee arcade with corbels formed by columns which are attached from top to bottom. The blind niches have doors in the third (above) and the sixth, with ogival windows on the wall of each of the remaining. This east doorway, the main entrance, is in Axumite style, with the square monkey heads in each corner. The west doorway opening out onto a high stone terrace is not visible in my photos and is shaped like the ogee arch and corbels of the arcade. The repetition of the ogee arch and corbels in the windows is quite pleasing to me.
I believe the stone pillars that form the railing of the bridge and the facing gallery were added during some reconstruction work and are not original. However, I think they were very thoughtfully done, and add to the overall design.

It is thought that this building was not originally a church because it has an irregular plan, with chapels that do not follow the conventional orientation of churches in Ethiopia. It might have been part of the royal palace.

From the western chapel doorway, which opens out onto a rock terrace, one has a view of the entrance gallery and bridge across the trench to the main steps and east doorway.

Passing back through the entrance gallery opposite the church, a tunnel leads into a rock chamber with a window which overlooks the east end of Beta Gabre'el. This room has this massive iron-studded door. Continuing down beyond this doorway are passages that lead to Faras Bet.
Faras Bet:

Faras Bet, means Horse House, and the legend is that this was Lalibela's stable. Or it may have been a beta lahm, (also called Arogi Bethlehem ) for baking the eucharistic bread. The upper openings would have allowed the smoke to escape.
Beta Marqorewos:

From Faras Bet, we took a long curving tunnel through several chambers, emerging at Beta Marqorewos. Also perhaps not originally a church, Beta Marqorewos is remarkable for eighteen of twenty massive stone columns that still survive. Although parts of Beta Marqorewos have collapsed, on one of the columns still visible are paintings of crowned figures wearing what might be royal robes.

Inside Beta Merqorewos, there is also a beautiful fresco done on fabric which is believed to date from the 16th century, added perhaps after it was converted into a church. Plastered onto the wall with a mixture of straw, ox blood and mud, it is thought to depict the three wise men.

Here, a phonolith (stone 'bell') suspended on a wall, has quite a clear ringing tone when struck. Naturally, some of us had to test this out for ourselves, to the amusement of a watching priest.
Sometimes, although the group of mostly English travelers in our group were ....well,....English, I think our guide found us a bit shocking.
At one point, he tried to patiently explain to us uncouth foreigners that women's shoulders should be covered in the churches, not, here he pointed to G.'s bare shoulders, dressed in their underwear. "Wha'??" she exclaimed in her broad accent. "I'm no' in me underweah!"
What ensued was much hilarity as our guide tried to find the word he had meant to say, while the rest of the group had a laugh at G.'s expense, with G. laughing the most. Of course, G. did cover her shoulders in the churches and this conversation took place earlier in the day, on the trek up the mountain to Ashetam Maryam, I think.
The group didn't seem to have much trouble understanding each other even though there was much ribbing of the different accents from various parts of England, Australia and Zimbabwe. Being the only Canadian, of course, I didn't have an accent (I did not!) and felt like I was often a beat or two behind the conversations at first. By the end of the trip, however, it was all too easy to start adopting G.'s lilting intonation, with the half swallowed syllables: "Wha' djew think? Shall 'e 'ave 'nathah beer? You 'kay, then?"

Bet Amanu'el:

One of the most magnificent of the monolithic rock cut churches of Lalibela, Bet Amanu'el, above, is of a grand Axumite style, from the doorways, to the windows and inside, the Axumite-style double frieze decorating the nave.
Isolated in a rock cut pit of its own, Bet Amanu'el stands on a plinth of three steps, widening by the doorways to four steps. Into the walls of the courtyard, little holes have been cut into the stone to attract the sacred bees.

We descended from the courtyard of Bet Amanu'el via a staircase, a tall and narrow tunnel, and more stairs to Bet Abba Libanos.

It is five o'clock. We are gently being urged to finish our tour so that we will get out of the way of the afternoon services of Lent. Already the faithful are arriving, the women covering their heads with the light cotton natala, the men with the shammas or gabi draped around their shoulders. In his hand, the man ascending the stairs is carrying a bundle of waxy tapers to use like candles.

Abba Libanos is unique because it is three-quarters cut, that is, freed from the rock on all sides, but attached by the roof to overhead rocks. The legend is that Lalibela's wife, Meskel Kebra, constructed this church in a single night, assisted of course, by angels.

Nearby, it was pointed out that there is a monastery-village where monks and nuns live in tiny caves 4m by 3m hewn out of rock.

By now, most of us were ready to contemplate hot showers, a meal and some fun out on the town, so visiting the monastery seemed a little incongruent anyhow.

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