Sunday, 21 May 2017

White Petals

Yard work continues, anti-inflammatories are taken.  We had some lovely rain last night and the flower bed that I weeded and rid of Rudbekia looks very nice with its dark, wet soil. I dug out an insipid shrub (don't even know that it actually was) that always grew spindly and boring. I told myself I would go to the garden centre and find something beautiful and plant it there, instead. So I bought a hydrangea that will be luscious and lovely with white blooms that turn pink.

I find that I can be much more ruthless with my gardening now. I used to save things that I dug out. I would create rows of perennials in my vegetable garden that I called "nursery beds" where little slips grew, divided irises flourished, and small clusters of daylilies became larger clusters. I realize I am NOT going to create new flower beds (I can barely keep ahead of the ones I have now), and most people do not want extra plants (I work with mostly younger people now and they are consumed with childcare, not gardening). So now, they get tossed into the cart to be dumped on the "half acre" of scrub land that borders us. Yesterday I tipped out Rudbedkia and creeping phlox without a backward glance.

Years ago when I was still foolish enough to have yard sales, one of my best selling items was irises which I had dug out and divided and stuck into plastic shopping bags. Now I don't bother with having yard sales (the money I make is not even close to the hassle it is to drag items out of the house, price them, then put them back when nobody buys them at the end of the day), nor do I bag up irises. The only plants I have given away recently were strawberry plants to a coworker who was expressing the desire to have more strawberry plants, and I, of course, have more than I need, so I potted up 8 or 9 and happily gave them to her.

This is the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada. It is traditionally the weekend to either go to garden centres, or go camping. People often book months in advance for camping sites. It almost always rains at some point over the long weekend and this one is no exception. Tomorrow (Monday) is a holiday, so people don't have to rush to get home on Sunday night so they can get to work the next day. We are most definitely not campers. I am happy to garden and husband spent a lot of time yesterday doing pool chores to get it ready for the season.

These are some pictures I took a couple of days ago. White petals are prominent right now.

These are promises of strawberries to come!

My love/hate relationship with our ancient old apple tree continues. It is covered with white blossoms and is beautiful right now. I saw an oriole feeding in it yesterday which fills me with joy because I love orioles so much. However, these blossoms will become little green apples that are no good for eating and no good for baking and end up falling on the ground for weeks and weeks. Guess who cleans them up?

Currently, I do love it. In the wind and the rain of last night and this morning, petals have fluttered down, which still look pretty on the ground.

Lastly, no white petals here, but much promise of rhubarb custard pie and strawberry / rhubarb crisp. My rhubarb is lush and full this year. I still have many frozen bags of rhubarb, so some stalks may be taken to work, in case co-workers want to do some baking.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

gardens, blackflies, and new jobs

I've been remiss in my post writing recently. I've been trying to get out every evening after work and supper to tackle something, anything, outside. Our weather has been mild, warm, even sometimes hot and I already losing ground (so to speak) in the gardening department. I really do think that Rudbekia (black eyed Susan) could take over the world, if given the chance. I've been mercilessly ripping it out of a perennial / shrub bed. I've been edging and cleaning up perennial stems and such that I didn't do in the fall. I have barely put a dent in things.

I used my trusty rototiller on the vegetable garden. The area that is available for vegetables is quite small because now I have fully established strawberries in about 2/3 of the space. This year I created some paths (sacrificed some strawberry plants) which is a good thing because last June I was playing a game of Twister every time I went out to pick berries. Now with paths, I won't be stepping on plants or missing out on berries that I didn't even know were there because it was just too dense.

I will rototill again before planting. I am hoping to put in potatoes and lettuce very soon. I'll wait a bit on beans and tomatoes and whatever else I can squeeze into the small space.

Mother's Day was nice. We had my husband's mom over for a lunch (she has dementia, but is physically fit as a fiddle). She loves watching The Crown on Netflix with us, as she lived in England for a few years. Both of my kids were working on Mother's Day (grocery store), but met us at a restaurant when they were done after 6:00. My treat was the wonderful sticky toffee pudding that the restaurant makes. Soooo good and decadent! My gift was a fitbit, which is what I specifically asked for. My daughter also framed a nice photo of the four of us, something I never think to do anymore.

To get back to the great outdoors, I actually had to abandon my rototilling last night before I was done due to the blackflies. I truly have about six bites on one arm, as well as a very scary one on the back of my hand. I swell up terribly from blackfly bites and the itching is ridiculous. I took a benadryl just so I wouldn't scratch my arm off in bed. It amazes me how something so small can be so mighty. They fly at my eyes, nose, any exposed skin... Thank goodness they don't last all summer.

Lastly, our daughter just began a new job today (while off university for the summer). In addition to her job at a grocery store where she has worked part time for about four or five years now, she is part of the "fun squad" for a radio station. She gets to drive around our area of Ontario to attend events and hand out free loot, make draws, promote the events by making recordings which then air on the radio, and just generally be a bubbly, interested human. She is studying Communications in university, so this is right up her ally. She has also enjoyed doing customer relations at the grocery store, always competed in public speaking, and even M.C.ed a school concert by the seat of her pants. Talking with people and being friendly is easy for her. We are very proud of her and she's really excited to be doing this.

And if you care, when you reach 10,000 steps, the fitbit celebrates for you and buzzes against your wrist. If only it could chase away blackflies.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Hello Tulips!

Today was a little sunnier, and a little warmer. I went out right after supper and took some pictures. Then I photoshopped (see how I turned that into a verb?) them into a collage.

I really don't have many tulips, like some people do. Some of them came from gifts of potted tulips that I then transplanted after they had died down (the pink ones and orange ones). I don't fuss much with tulips (no extra fertilizer or dividing them) because they actually sort of get in the way when perennials start to get bigger around them. They do add some nice early colour, however.

Side note: I've been smugly proud of myself with my increase in exercise. I've gone from being way too sedentary to just sucking it up and doing weights, or walking briskly on the treadmill. I have even started doing Jillian Michael's "30 Day Shred" video. I have done 6 days so far. Well, nothing squashes your pride quite like your 21 year old daughter offering to work out with you, first time doing this video and sailing through it without swearing or anything!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Happy Birthday and the Week that Was

On Wednesday of this past week, we celebrated our daughter's 21st birthday. We went out for supper at a place we had not tried before and it turned out to be very good! The owner was moving around the restaurant, taking part in bussing the tables and checking that everything was good. He sat and talked with us for a while and was really passionate about his restaurant and the quality of what he was serving. We all enjoyed what we had ordered and the energy of the place was pretty great, considering it was just a Wednesday in a small town.

When asked earlier in the week what she wanted to do for a cake, if she wanted to order dessert at the restaurant, if she wanted my usual chocolate layer birthday cake, or if she wanted to try something new, daughter was adamant that it be the "usual". So I baked the cake Tuesday night and on Wednesday when I got home from work, I made the icing and assembled the cake, with daughter and her boyfriend assisting in licking the beaters and scraping out the bowl!

I'm not really one to post pictures of us online, but thought I'd make an exception. Here's daughter and her boyfriend at the restaurant.

She took this picture of her ol' ma and pa.

This is all of us back at the house for cake. Yes, 17 year old son is doing bunny ears behind her head. And yes, that is a lot of facial hair (when did my baby grow a beard???).

This past week was not the most stellar week in terms of the weather. The days have been cool, verging on down right cold, grey, and rainy. The rain continues to fall and we are all getting a little tired of it. I still have much yard work to be done, but the rain is making all of my perennials and bulbs grow very well, so tearing out and cutting back last year's growth is going to be a bit more difficult. I know many parts of Ontario are getting more rain and flooding than we are, so I'm at least grateful for that. Today's plans involve throwing a hunk of beef in the magical cooking pot, and doing a thorough house cleaning. Who says I don't have an exciting life?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

How We are Ruled by Cats and a Sky Shot

After my last post about cats and doves who get a second lease on life, I thought you might like to see the other feline in our family. Sampson is about 15 years old. We adopted him from a shelter. When he came to us, he didn't know how to purr. He was a pretty cool cat, though, doing his own thing and occasionally blessing us with a visit on our laps and a few head bumps.

He's not a big meower either. To let us know that he want out, he pulls at the mat in front of a door, lifting it up and letting it drop a couple of times to get our attention. If he wants to be let in, he rips the hell out our screens.

He does hunt and kindly leaves us offerings on any outdoor mat leading to a door. The worst thing he ever killed and left for us was an indigo bunting. I hated him for about a day after that.

He hasn't given us too much grief over the years, with only a couple of issues that needed vet assistance. As with many pets, he is a creature of habit. One of his habits (which likely is our own fault for having started it) is to expect to be dried off when he comes in wet from the rain or moving through long wet grass. One of us grabs a towel from the "to be washed" towel bin and does his bidding.

First, place cat on towel (or sometimes if you lay the towel out and invite him, he will go on his own).

Next, wrap cat in towel and rub gently.

Finally, note look of complete satisfaction and air of superiority on cat's face as you complete the task.

Now moving onto weather, as every good Canadian should, we had some pounding rain on Thursday evening, just in time for husband and I to leave after work to drive to the city where daughter is wrapping up her third year of university. We took both vehicles down so we could get all her stuff packed and moved home. At one point, I pulled over at a gas station to wait out the heaviest of the rain because it was a little hard to see while driving. At that time, an Amish horse and buggy with passengers went past and I thought, "This is not a good time to be Amish!"

We got there within 20 minutes of each other and daughter was all ready for us, we just took a few elevator loads down in her residence building, loaded up, and stopped off for supper. Daughter drove with me and we chatted the whole way home. The rain stopped by then and the drive was very nice. The setting sun was magnificent so I pulled over to take a picture. Daughter insisted that she take the picture (presumably I am incapable), which she did and then proceeded to enhance this and diminish that... here is the result:

Today is sunny, but not particularly warm. I might still manage to get some more yard work done and husband is working on taxes today (bleh!).

Monday, 24 April 2017

Welcome, Spring!

Here are some hopeful signs from two or three days ago. I think we might actually be enjoying spring and that it is here to stay.

Forsythia is just beginning to bloom. I have this type of shrub in three locations around the property. Very pretty right now, not so thrilling later.

There are little wee clusters of tiny purple violets in the lawn. They're so delicate and such a nice shot of colour.

Peonies are emerging with their wine coloured feathery tops rising up over last year's stalks.

Hostas are just starting to poke up in a new bed that I planted last year. I'm hoping for even bigger clumps this year.

The pink hydrangea from that same bed are also showing some nice growth.

Early tulips are putting forth leaves.

The rhubarb is even bigger now.

Husband and I cut down some dying / dead scrubby little trees and lilacs from the edge of the property, cleaning things up nicely. The bigger trunks will be cut up to add to our firewood. The more branchy stuff goes to the burn pile (which will be a towering inferno if we're not careful).

Since I took these pictures, things have greened up even more. The air is full of birdsong and it just feels lovely.

Speaking of birdsong and on a completely different note, Husband and I were sitting on the front porch after work this afternoon, telling each other about our days and just relaxing. I saw Scooter the Cat with No Tail coming along the rail fence. I could tell he had something in his mouth and it looked big, but I couldn't see clearly because of the fence. At first, I thought it was a black squirrel because there was so much on either side of his face and it seemed to still be moving. The cat kept trotting along, coming toward the house. Of course, I shouted to my husband to do something, but by the time the cat came up to the front walkway and husband got up to "do something", we could see it was a bird. He had the bird more or less by the head and both wings were stretched out, very much alive and moving. I don't like the thought of animals suffering and the cat just came right up the steps onto the porch where I wanted Husband to pick the cat up and force him to drop the bird. The bird, by the way, was a mourning dove. They are not small birds.

The cat saved us the trouble. He opened his mouth and the bird flew out, scattering small feathers across the porch. The cat turned to look at us with a couple of small feathers still stuck in his mouth and whiskers. I think he was so proud to have caught this bird that he was bringing it for his humans to see and the whole thing just backfired on him.


This is likely what I would have done:


Actually, Scooter is black and white, much like Sylvester the Cat (except of course, with no tail).

                                    Looks rather innocent there, doesn't he?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

How Do You Like Them Apples?

You know how you go into the grocery store and you don't need to buy laundry detergent, or a lot of meat, or something from the vitamin aisle and you think this won't be a big grocery bill this week? Then you get to the checkout and you're helping to load up your bags and the sweet girl at the counter announces your total and it's still over $200.00. So you pay for your groceries, then as you are leaving, you check over your bill and you see that you paid $13.74 for four apples. So you assume it's a mistake and you catch the eye of someone important and they say, sure they will check that for you, and you find out it isn't a mistake and they really do cost that much.

What kind of apple costs $3.44 per apple?? Well, I'll tell you: honeycrisp. Yes, I was almost the proud owner of some incredibly expensive apples. However, I decided I didn't need what seemed to be gold infused apples, and they gave me my money back and I went home apple-less.


After I got over my shock, I decided to find out why one needs to decide if they want to make a significant investment when they buy apples. It turns out that although Honeycrisp apples are truly delicious, they are incredibly hard to grow. In fact they are a huge pain in the backside for apple growers. Here are some articles that I read, from which I got my facts. This one  as well as this other one .  The trees are prone to breaking easily, so they have to be trellised, the fruit can't just be harvested one time when they ripen, instead they tend to ripen at different times, so they are usually harvested three times over the season. Honeycrisp bruise very easily due to their thin skin and even their own stems cause bruising so the harvesters need to hand clip the stems very short. They are also prone to a vast amount of diseases like cedar apple rust, black rot, cork spot, bitter pit, and soft scald.

These very finicky apples also must be stored at very precise temperatures when they are first harvested to prevent a whole host of other problems. This all adds up to extra costs for the grower which of course get passed on to the consumer. I don't begrudge the growers. If I had to mess around with a plant that was that problematic, I probably wouldn't bother. Just like flowers in my gardens, it is survival of the fittest. If a plant is not growing well and has to be moved, or treated specially, I don't waste my time trying to save it. But apple growers know that consumers love the texture and eating experience associated with Honeycrisp apples, so they deal with the hassels of growing them.

However, at $13.74 for four apples, I decided I didn't need to be an apple "foody". I was really only planning on cutting them up to take them to work as part of my lunch. I can certainly do that with a lowly Mackintosh, or maybe a Gala for the fraction of the cost.

In general, I find that groceries are very expensive. Importing produce from other countries so that we can have fresh fruit throughout the year results in expensive fruit and vegetables. I buy berries every week. They are a big part of my diet. But good lord, sometimes they are ridiculously expensive. Sometimes I don't want to spend $4.99 on a tiny box of blueberries, and so I don't, and I stick with just strawberries instead. There are many fruits that I won't buy during the winter months even though they are in the grocery stores. Peaches and melons tend to be hard, tasteless things unless "in season". I grow some of my own vegetables so I don't spend much when my own garden is producing, but of course that is just for a short amount of time. Winter is long here.

So there you go. Honeycrisp are so very good and so very expensive,  because they are so very annoying to grow. Happy eating!