Monday, June 05, 2023

The Joy of Spring 2024....

 ...OK, I keep a gardening journal to remind me of what I need to do next Spring. Rearranging a garden is a little like rearranging a room, except that it's usually done in Spring and can take 2 or 3 years to see the results. The picture below is from my journal for Spring 2023. I needed to change the location of the Hosta and the Rudbeckia in a back bed. The Hosta is low growing and the Rudbeckia, when in flower, is well above the Hosta, although, it doesn't appear this way in the picture, (it's early for Rudbeckia). So one mild April day, I swapped their places. I like the results.

Now, of course, I see that the peony needs to be moved and I have to fill in the empty space with Bleeding Heart, Astilbe and Lady's Mantle. I'm remaking what was once a flourishing vegetable garden into a shade garden. New neighbours planted trees, now tall enough to block out my sun to the south. Did I mention that they have three screaming kids, as well  - gardening in the city is a challenge and enjoying one's garden in peace is even a greater challenge.

There were a few other chores to be completed from my journal for "Spring 2023." One was another "swap" of Hosta and Daylilies, which I have done. I didn't manage to "remove a large Hosta" - actually two, so they will go back into the journal for 2024, unless, I get really frustrated one day and decide to just take an axe to them.

I was also planning to redo a back "patio" next year. It's an area largely used for storage. But, we had robbed it of it's "good" stones to extend the patio near the house, so "something" had to be done with the remaining space. Well, as fate would have it (must have a word with the three sisters), I needed a place to replant some Rudbeckia from a ratty area in front of a back bench and also some Hosta dug up from the front.

Enter, the storage area of missing stones!! - half flagstone, half dirt and the most forlorn bit of Earth I have ever seen - well at least in my garden. Yes, forlorn pieces of earth exist almost everywhere. It breaks my heart!

Once I'm on a mission, little can stop me. So, after the remaining stones were lifted, I planted the Hosta and Rudbekia. I then dumped the stones, some were quite heavy, in an area that will be repurposed for storage near the compost bins and "bob's your uncle" or maybe "Nick's your son" because I'm hoping that he will relay the stones in the new area.

 Now, what to add to the Joy Jar for this week. I think it has to be my planting and replanting, as well as my garden journal. Also the realization of the notes, I made last year and knowing that the notes, I have made this week will bring me Joy in 2024.

Have a joyous week!!

Monday, May 29, 2023

Warm weather Joy....

 I am a warm weather person. As a family, we went to Florida in August. I could live in the tropics. How I ended up in the cold of Canada is something I often ask myself. This last week, though, was a warming up week. Everyday that the temperatures nudged up - 14ºC, 15ºC, 16ºC... were moments of pure Joy.

The garden has progressed with the warmer temperatures. The Rhododendrons are in bloom, my beans are up. I've planted the tomatoes, various annuals and dug out the invaders, for the moment.

The sprucing up of the house continues. I have ordered new basement windows, got a quote for a new door - it was ridiculous, so I guess I'll just paint the front door.

The noise of the build next door but one is deafening. Yes, they stop on the weekend, but then the kids next door take over and scream through most of the remaining 48 hours and if they are away for a few blissful moments, someone in the apartments at the back of the garden decides to talk to a friend on her phone, so all the world can hear.

I may be hard of hearing, but, unfortunately, I'm not deaf!!

In addition to the weather and the garden there were some other slivers of Joy this week.

1. A friend came over for dinner to celebrate Victoria Day and we smoked some ribs and chicken legs to go with a number of salads. It was delicious!

2. I had lunch with another friend on Wednesday. Always wonderful conversations about music, knitting, the creative process and life in general.

3. I decided I needed a plan for the next 10 years - working on it.

4. I watched several episodes of "Slow Horses" with my son. It's the first TV, I've watched in 6 months and it was fun.

On weeks that are "slow," it's difficult to decide what to select that is Joyful from a field of uninspiring routine. However, since I am here to elevate the mundane to the sublime (maybe), I have found that material "things" work.

1. (Mundane) Bought and assembled an outdoor storage box to tidy up the patio clutter. (Sublime) Did it myself without help.

2. (Mundane) Found some "cheap" doors on FB, just hoping something comes of it. $12,000.00 for a new front door is definitely not a go! (Sublime) Got reimbursed for a deposit scam on FB marketplace. There are too many out there.

3. (Mundane) Filled orders at work. (Sublime) It's quiet there and it's an escape.

On the less material side..

1. (Mundane) I have decided to buy the book, "Obscure Sorrows" by John Koenig because I need help in elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary with some new words and some new concepts!! (Sublime) - to come.

2. (Mundane) I can take my cooking to the next level by having pre-made Herbs de Provence on hand and maybe some ready-to-shake Italian seasoning. I have all the individual herbs, but I might just put them together in a jar to make it easier. (Sublime) - Jars of herbs with Summer Savory and Lavendar are transporting!!

3. (Mundane) I made BBQ'd pizza on Friday. It's a lot of work, but we ate the leftovers all week. It's festive, well received, a recipe from a friend and it's a summer meal. (Sublime) It elevates the frozen and the ordered in, to the made from scratch, cooked on the BBQ amazing!!

Now, what can I extract from this week of nothing particularly special to add to my Joy Jar? I think it has to be that my Rhododendrons are in bloom. These are my late husband's flowers. He planted most of the bushes years ago. They reminded him of Scotland, where the "rhodos" grow wild on the banks of the Clyde. 

It is good to have something embedded, not only in memory, but also in place. We need a permanence to our lives. "Never cease to know, for whom the garden grows."

The second picture is of my ubiquitous Columbine. These are the free spirits of the garden. They grow where they chose and mutate, as they please, to some amazing colours!

Have an awesome week!

Monday, May 22, 2023

Victorian Joy

 It's been a quiet week leading up to a long weekend. Monday is a statutory holiday in honour of Queen Victoria. I'm sorry. I'm a royalist and I celebrate our connections to Britain, if only for the traditions that give purpose and meaning (maybe) to our lives. 

The 24th of May - or whenever it is celebrated, is also known as "firecracker day." It's the first long weekend of Spring/Summer and it has many traditions. 

1. For those, who have cottages - there is the tradition of "opening up" the cottage.

2. For those who don't (have cottages, that is) there are picnics, BBQs, a day "off" and.....

3. There are Firecrackers!!

I know many have decided to "do" fireworks on July 1 - Canada Day. Sorry, it's just too American for me. Yes, we should celebrate Canada, as a nation, but let's not give up so much of what has made us Canadian - our ties to Britain.

I'm not prepared to celebrate Nov 5 - Guy Fox, as the Brits do. It's too soon after Hallowe'en. However, Victoria Day, has a certain classic vibe, that counters all that is new, trendy and passing. If we give up fireworks on Victoria Day, might we think of giving up the traditions of Remembrance Day too?

It's a short post this week. I've spent most days in the garden. However, I did find a white shawl, I designed and knit, several years ago, to give as a gift to a friend of my eldest. She will be married in June and my son has been invited, as have many of the graduating class from their high school. It will be more than twenty years since they all went to school together. I'm all about keeping friends and traditions.

The picture - Victorian lace, for a Victorian weekend. Victory is also in keeping all that is precious and meaningful in our lives.

The slip for the Joy Jar this week will be finding this lace shawl intact. Giving it to someone in honour of their very special day and remembering how much I love this first celebration weekend!!

Have a cracking great day!!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Joy of Adventure

This week, my eldest sent me a text to say that he and his partner had put in an offer to purchase 80 acres of land in Northern Ontario. I had promised him a small sum from his uncle's estate, for any real estate investment. That small sum, has paid for a sizable piece of land just south of Cochrane ON. Yes, it's quite far north - 6.5hrs from Toronto. However, three nearby towns have hospitals; they may actually be on a train line and it is close to a dream come true!

They plan to take possession in the Spring of 2024 and live "off the grid" there, all year round. It takes my breath away to think of the -50ºC temperatures in mid-winter with nothing but a wood fire. I worry about the truck breaking down, the snow becoming impassable, or someone taking ill.

Still, my great-great grandmother arrived in Canada from Ireland in 1853. She homesteaded north of Mount Forest, ON with a 13-year-old son and two young daughters. Her husband joined her ten years later. He remained in Ireland to work their passage over. I come from a long line of survivors.

I wired my son the money on the day that would have been his father's 74th birthday. I was told that the transfer would take about four days. It took four hours. I have to believe that the powers that be are supporting this adventure.

In fact this entire week has been a portal of pure Joy....

1. My youngest has relaid the looks amazing!!

2. Jelena finished painting the dining room table. The last piece in my 35-year-old Ikea furniture collection - sofa, large chair, dining room table and 6 smaller chairs. I love it.

3. I may have found a "doable" route to add 4 basement windows, 1 new front door and 2(maybe) eco-heating systems with rebates and interest-free financing to the house.

4. My daughter has proposed a holiday to NYC in July to see a baseball game or two, plus a show - The Lion King. We just have to work out the details - another adventure.

5. I have been able to do a ton of work in the garden!! This is an ongoing garden adventure.

6. My son and my daughter took me out to dinner for Mother's Day Eve - It was wonderful.

7. I went for cocktails at my next door neighbours.....initially to discuss eco-heating solutions.....and, well, life in general!!

8. We prepared a pork roast tonight to be cooked on the smoker tomorrow. This food adventure is coming closer to perfection!! 

The picture - so sorry there is just one (OK, now there's two) and not at its best. It's the front garden with the re-position dwarf Iris in bloom. I have to remember to photograph & post the garden more often.

My slip for the Joy Jar this week has to be the purchase of a piece of Canada!!! - My home and native land!! - Gotta love her and the people who inhabit her - we are all a special breed!!

Have an adventurous day!!



Sunday, May 07, 2023

The Joy of Scales.....

 I probably should have said the Joy of new windows, but the disruption of any sort of renovation takes away a lot of the Joy!! Still I have 3 new windows at the front of the house upstairs and the main window downstairs clad in the same colour as the upstairs windows, so I never have to paint any of them again.....future Joy!

My real Joy that day was how I occupied myself for the 12 hours it took to do the installation!

It might not be everyone's idea of a good time, but...I worked out all the major and minor scales in music. OK, I usually pass the time doing crossword puzzles. I like puzzles. Well, from my Coursera course in music theory (from the University of Edinburgh), I learned that there was a pattern for the major scales and another pattern for the minor scales. Obviously I had missed this somewhere along the line. My daughter knew the patterns, as I'm sure almost every beginner in music knows them. OK, I didn't, but now I do.

This exercise got me half way through the window renovations. For the other half, I finished the improvements to the book I am writing. I now have to get it professionally edited and go from there. Windows let in so much more than light!

There was little Joy in the rain most of the week, except that the garden looks very green. The cold Spring has kept the blossom and the lime green of the young leaves a little longer. These are Joys I look forward to every year.

Finally, there was the Joy of working in the garden on a sunny day. I mended the raised bed, with a wooden plug from Ikea. One of the original plastic plugs that came with the raised bed had dislodged itself and the frame was threatening to break apart. I raised it; inserted the plug and Eureka! It worked.

I prepared and fertilized this bed. Dug the front bed and prepared it for fertilizing tomorrow. It will be planted with tomatoes, cucumber, zucchinni etc. after the 24th of May. Finally, since I didn't want to leave a gorgeous Spring day, I dug out a dozen huge weeds from the patch of grass we still keep.

 The Periwinkle is in full bloom, as are the wild tulips, the Azalea and some Forget-Me-Nots. On Friday, I began the planting of a shade bed under a False Cyprus with Astilbe, Primrose, Lady's Mantel, and I will transplant some Bleeding Heart there, as well. 

This is a working blog....a blog in progress.....and it can be, at times, a little pedestrian. Although I enjoy working in my garden, the work is about progress and "getting things" done. So I sense that my writing here is a little laborious. Things will improve, once I move from the real to the sublime...just give me a few days to find my magic wand.  :)

Now to select just one Joy for the Joy Jar this week. It probably will be my new windows...."All the better to see you with, My dear."

Have a joyous week.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Joy of Solving Problems....

I have a list...yes, OK, I have dozens of list. They are there to avoid a "listless life" - no pun intended!!

One of the items on my list for the front of the back yard.....(it's a big yard) to stop a basement window sill from rotting. 

"Something there is that doesn't like a wall (or a well)." Years ago, we had timbered in a small space below a basement window. Well, (gotta love that word) over time, the timbers rotted, the soil seeped in and the wood framing around the window decomposed. Why hadn't I noticed this before? Well, (there it is again) I hadn't been in the mood for thirty - odd years to paint the basement windows. However, I am getting new windows for the front of the house and I decided that the basement windows needed to match - almost.

Enter the window-well tradesman (and his wife). I called a few companies that advertise in a small local newspaper. Fortunately, one responded. The quote was OK and he arrived on time. Did a great job and filled a number of holes in and around the foundations with the leftover cement at no extra charge.

I can now make a small tick beside a big problem that has been resolved.

The next problem was to re-do an adjacent flag stone patio.

Enter my son!! He promised to help and I held him to it. What I was surprised to find was a master craftsman. He relaid the flagstone, we had removed to facilitate the work on the window well and went on to repair the entire east side of the patio. I can now tick off two of three items for the back yard list!!

The last item is a small extension to the patio, which my son has offered to do and I think I can find enough good flagstone in the various "areas" of the backyard to accommodate.

Joy this week has not been all "bells, whistles and gongs," nor as it been "sunshine, birdsong and blossom." Rather it has been shovels, pitchforks and brooms. There is a certain Joy in the work ethic. It does elevate the slog and bring a certain rapture (maybe) to the bricks and mortar.

So, in spite of a cold week, we managed to solve a few problems, move through the chores, save some money by doing things ourselves, cultivate the garden, play the piano, fill orders at work, have a lovely lunch with a friend, and write about the Joy of being able to do it all.

I think that my slip for the Joy Jar this week is the fact that my son did an amazing job on the patio repair. Did I mention that he wanted a canopy with lights for the picnic table? Everything is a trade off!!

The pictures? I added flowers because they are prettier than the well.

Have an awesome week!!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Joy of "Obscure Sorrows"

 Mostly the weather this week has been very "unjoyous." After a week of summer, we are back into the cold and grey of a Winter/Spring. However, coffee this week with a friend was joyous! In fact my friend recommended a book that I might like - "Obscure Sorrows." The author, John Koenig, creates words based on their Latin, Greek, etc, roots to explain, what is often obscure feelings or states of mind. 

For example:
“Sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

From the German word for special.


“Adronitis - n. the frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone—spending the first few weeks chatting in their psychological entryway, with each subsequent conversation like entering a different anteroom, each a little closer to the centre of the house—wishing instead that you could start there and work your way out, exchanging your deepest secrets first, before easing into casualness, until you’ve built up enough mystery over the years to ask them where they’re from, and what they do for a living.”  

From the Greek word Andron - the part of the house reserved for men.

For Andronitis, I might use Eonitis, from the English word "eon" - ages and ages. For Sonder, I might use Amassonian from the English - masses.

I have said before that I am a wordsmith. I love using words, finding new words, coining words and arranging words - a.k.a. writing.

I am, however, more fascinated with John Koenig's thoughts behind the words than the actual onomatopoeic value of his words. I am obviously a very superficial person. It has never bothered me that I could spend years getting to know a person and yet never really plumb their core. Nor does it bother me that I don't know much about the lives of passersby. Wait, I am very curious about people who are out and about at 3:00am. Never cease to know for whom the clock ticks in the wee hours of the deepest dark. Serial killers abound.

In this cold but productive week. I bought a grade four Conservatory music book and I am learning a new piece - Allegretto in E Minor, which curiously has an F-sharp. I also joined the University of Edinburgh's Coursera to start to understand music theory. Both small joys in the sense of moving forward. I even thought that I might resume my conservatory studies with lessons.

For the Joy Jar, the highlight of my week has to be coffee with my friend and her recommendation of Obscure Sorrows. I think I have to buy the book.

The picture? Now I am curious about the artistic process. Above is a model of The Globe theatre in London. It's been on my mind lately. I did a tour of the rebuilt Globe a few years ago and promised myself that I would see a play or two there one day - unfulfilleditis - maybe.