From a few seeds

Now summer is really over. It turns out fall is somehow better than summer – sunny, warm, and sometimes the wonderful fall wind springs up.  Beautiful leaves are tugged off the trees.  The grass is a magical green because of all the rain we had.  The garden was mixed.  Kale a great success, potatoes not bad, the novelty of the blue ones adding an exotic note.  The tomatoes were a disaster.  Swollen and tasteless with rain, sometimes rotting on the vine. There were only a few peppers, onions not bad. The garlic simply disappeared but the onions were fairly good.

And here are these wonders.  Great sunflowers grown on a whim from a few seeds found in an old package that had been shoved into the back of a drawer.  Strong thick stems are still not equal to the task of holding up these great heads.  We stuck one up into a small evergreen as a makeshift bird feeder.  The others, their heads hanging down wait for the first frost.

I love the mysterious geometry of the pattern of the seeds. Look how they spiral around perfectly.  I don’t know why but it reminds me of the complexity of quilting or embroidery.  So much effort in our worlds to create such a pattern.  So effortless in nature.

How do I love my Country

 

Broad and generous

when she changes from

thick dense greenery

to brilliant hues of crimson, of pink

of unlikely yellow and brown.

when her sunsets make me raise my head

from the sink where I wash dishes

or chop vegetables.

The sound of leaves scudding along the country road

or the cry of wild geese wondering if they should leave.

Wild turkeys shy, grouped together and hurrying away

at the slightest noise

leaving behind a single bronze leaf.

How do I love you, my country

with no great patriotic songs sung to you,

a few poems praise you

but carried in the hearts of those

in the little town, close by

a certainty, a solid bed-rock of caring.

In the Canadian Tire Shop, in the Tim Hortons

now wearing camouflage hunting gear,

sit the coffee drinkers.  No poets, no politicians here.

Those who walk their dogs in the back roads,

those who go to the Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

benefit for the Anglican Church.  Those who close up

the cottage, pull up the dock or those who stay all year long.

How do I love you, my country?  In these back roads,

in these woods, in these countless lakes,

in these leaves, changing, blazing, burning out

as I am changing, blazing, burning out.

How do I love you, my country?  As my mother,

as the cells of my body.  So do I love you.

 

 

Sky mirror

 

This wonderful white gladiolus flower appeared suddenly this month.  I had planted bulbs at the end of each vegetable row and they all came up, red-orange and beautiful.  Then when all were completely finished blooming, this white one appeared.  A mystery which seemed to be reflected in yesterday’s sky.

Woody Woodpecker

 

Ladies and gentlemen… here he is, fresh from Hollywood, just as raucous, cheeky and impudent as ever… your favorite and mine, Woody Woodpecker! It is very hot and sunny in Muskoka.  Confused birch trees are gently dropping their small brown leaves in the still air. Not a breath of wind disturbs the bees as they gather the last of clover nectar.   All is tranquil until Woody appears on the scene.  With a series of screeches he flaps around the property, examining the bark of various trees.  After a few half-hearted pecks he immerses himself in the leaves and branches of a choke cherry tree and makes a feast of the ripe fruit.  He hangs upside down, his red poll conspicuous in the leaves.  With a squawk he flies off to the next fruit tree, cackling as he goes,.  He flies very low from one tree to another so that I sometimes get the impression he is dive bombing me. The white underside of his wings make a show as he flaps around from one tree to another.

I always loved  cartoon Woody Woodpecker for his naughty ways and loud voice.  Well, here he is in the flesh and feathers! He hung out in our back lot all afternoon and probably went off to scare up a little feminine companionship with his cackling laugh and pesky ways.  Never a dull moment with Woody!

Our potatoes

image.jpeg

Potatoes have sustained nations.  Now, the ones I planted myself sustain me.  In the late spring Joe tilled the ground and returned with his arms frozen into the pose of a Hells Angels biker.  It is hard to till ground in Mid-Ontario.  I hesitate to call it Northern Ontario because of the respect I have for those who live in Timmins or Sudbury.  Parry Sound area is North enough to make planting a vegetable garden an exercise in optimism.  Well, we did.  We planted potatoes, many varieties, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, garlic and onions.  We planted some carrots too.

The summer was dismal.  It rained all the time and  a tornado descended on us once a week. One of them uprooted a twin-trunked poplar at the edge of the trail.  Poplars are not very strong trees but still, it is disconcerting to see a wall of sod appear where the tree is upturned.  All this time we fretted over our vegetable garden.  We never once had to irrigate so that tells you something about the sunshine level all summer.

The garlic simply disappeared.  We never found a trace of it.  The peppers sulked and finally sent out a few measly specimens  in August.  The tomatoes grew large but most had to be picked green and ripened indoors. A squash, a cucumber here and there, two carrots, helped keep our spirits up.

The acid test would be the potatoes.  Here they are – so different from those awful monsters covered in foil and baked in the oven.  Aren’t they nice?  We ordered heirloom species during the cold days of March and now for the first time ever I get to eat fingerlings, blue and red potatoes and to serve them with a superior smirk to my guests.

We did learn a few lessons.  First, we needed to till the earth more.  Potatoes like more aeriated soil.  Second, we should have planted them further apart so they had room to grow bigger.  Third, we should forget all about the other stuff and only plant potatoes.  Joe does not agree with that but my peasant side comes out.  I know I can buy tomatoes, onions and cucumbers for pennies at harvest time.  However, nothing can duplicate the joy of munching those potatoes that my poor Irish ancestors depended on to survive – or to perish.  I feel like calling down the centuries, “See, I can  make potatoes grow too!  You would consider the blue ones funny looking.  But those are the South American ones, the original ones.  I plant them to say thank you to the mountain people who grew them in the wet climate and who ate them to stay alive.”

My guests had lamb shoulder too, falling off the bone in a sauce of onions and garlic and the potatoes in a garlic and oregano and lemon juice sauce.  No Irishman or South American could have asked for more.  The guests dragged the serving plate this way and that mopping up the juice and did not leave one potato.  I looked at my hands as I washed the dish late at night and thought of the cool earth into which I had pressed the potato segments, each with an eye to grow the green plant.  I liked what my hands had done. (Joe eventually was able to open his fists and lower his hands but next year he swears we’ll ask the neighboring farmer to till that patch.)

 

A Cord of Wood

 

 

image

 

Yesterday they delivered the wood and we stacked it in the woodshed. Yesterday was Sunday but today is turning out to be the day of rest.  Some may be wondering what a cord of wood is and how it got that name.  I wondered too.  Turns out the cord was the string wound around the stack of split wood to measure it.  It cannot be sold by weight because different woods weigh different amounts and whether the wood is green and wet or dry also makes a difference. The mass should be 128 cubic feet.  The classic dimensions of a cord of wood is 4 x 4x 8 feet. However, it turns out that wood dealers have a whole vague other set of dimensions and names for the loads of wood they offer.  You can buy a “bush cord” a “face cord” or an “apartment cord” and this is one area where no one is going to offer too much of a guarantee.  Problem is that stacking the wood calls for a certain skill.  You want some air between the logs since they have to dry out and yet stacking too loosely leads to instability and inaccurate measurement.  Trust and an understanding of what the buyer and seller mean by a “cord” is important.  Suffice it to say that $330 Canadian dollars for fuel supply for the winter delivered to the door of the woodshed seemed about right.  Yesterday we stacked split wood to a height of 7 feet across a width of 8 feet with a depth of 3 feet (two rows of logs one behind the other.  That’s a lot of wood for two oldies to haul and stack.

You need work gloves and decent shoes.  The loose wood pile is a bit unstable so having an errant log tumble onto sandaled toes would be a disaster.  A short wheelbarrow ride brought the loads inside the woodshed ready to be stacked.  There was something satisfying about seeing the wall of logs climb up.  The hardest part was getting the back wall up high enough.  Each log weighs about ten pounds so the higher you have to stack them the more exhausting it is.  We sweat, we took breaks, we drank lemonade, we persevered even though at some points I thought the pile of wood would never diminish.  There is another wall of logs in the shed from last year.  It is already dry and ready to burn.  In a region where snow is deep and  winters are long and cold, you want to be sure you have your supply of wood in early in the season.

I love the woodshed.  The floor is a beautiful smooth stretch of rock – pure Canadian shield like the rock the house sits on.  The walls and a lot of the roof is made of reinforced plexiglass so there is a lot of light in there.  I proposed to my oldest grandson that he sleep in there when the family came to visit recently.  At that time it held only sweet-smelling dry wood. A little rill that feeds the creek runs down beside the shed.  He still opted for the tent out back. The idea might grow on him though.

The pictures show part of the load delivered and ready to be put in the shed and where the two walls meet – dry wood on the right, green wood just stacked on the left