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Location: Canada

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Trouble with Trees

 The trouble with trees is that they break off, fall over in a high wind or otherwise mess up your home or road or power line. Oh, and they shed huge quantities of leaves and crud in the fall, pollen in the spring and nasty bugs on webs in the summer. Their root systems head unerringly for your drains or lift your walkways. Wayward branches tap on your window in the middle of the night or fall off the tree onto your head. (This actually happened to me.) Tree trunks provide a home for various nasty creepy-crawlies and if there is decay, woodpeckers go after the bugs until your head pounds too. Why, she asked rhetorically, would anyone want a tree?

Why would anyone not want a tree. They provide shade. They adorn landscapes with brilliant colours in the fall. The wind makes music soughing through the branches. Draped with snow, dotted with tiny spring buds or naked against a pewter sky, trees are always beautiful.

When we built our forever house in the woods, we chose a site on slanted ground at the edge of an old orchard.  When it was a working orchard, there was a rail fence surrounding these trees and after the orchard was abandoned in about 1905, young deciduous and evergreen trees grew up around the fence. Bears, raccoons and other hungry wildlife destroyed most of the apple trees over time, but one still remains and, when we built, we left a line of the volunteer trees on the south-west side of the house.

One, especially, an oak sapling, became a favourite as it grew from a single whip into a shapely shade tree. There were also both red and sugar maples, a birch and one majestic pine.
The oak sapling can be seen in front of the back end
of the floor joist I am carrying.

Grown into a shapely oak.

The full line of trees, sugar maple on the left, oak busily growing, red maples.

The pine, the birch and the oak are still with us, but all of the maples are now down. First the sugar maple died, probably from having its roots, clinging to shallow soil above bedrock, pounded during the building process. Two more red maples followed it into firewood, leaving a great growing space for the oak and remaining red maple. But, in a wind storm this summer, a large branch of the red maple broke and fell onto the roof. And it was determined that the tree must be cut down to prevent the rest of it from destroying the living room’s big glass windows.

JG invited a neighbour to help and they put a cable around the tree, tied to the tractor, so that the tree would, they hoped, fall exactly between the oak and the birch, damaging neither. This worked pretty well although we did lose a couple of branches off the oak. The tree was cut up, the log hauled away to become firewood (we heat with a wood furnace) and the debris raked and taken away. And there is now a big gap in our shade line.

The gap is not entirely bad. We had been so surrounded by trees that the sunset and night sky were barely visible and now I can see both coloured cloud at sunset and stars at night. JG put up a rattan blind to give my favourite porch chair afternoon shade. And the oak has room to grow into a mighty tree.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Not a baby any more.

The obigatory spring posts used to start out "I am in the city babysitting the grandkid" but I can't start that way any more. Yep, in the city. Replacing the parents while they fly off to a conference in Europe. Sitting by while the almost 15 yr old does her homework, practices her music, looks after the menagerie and packs her own lunch. Doesn't get much more peaceful than this. She even gets herself up in the morning and prefers to walk to school. Mind you, between music practice, sports and her job (!), I do not see much of her.

I did clean up the kitchen a bit this morning, but her mother has thoughtfully left a whole list of precooked meals and a menu of what gets used on which night, and so I am not cooking much. Not to mention that the YD has stocked her sister's freezer with lasagna. And is booked to drive Miss G to  her track practice. I am left with nothing to do but chat with the cat. And enjoy a glorious spring day, not at our place where the black flies are rampant but on city streets where there are few to none.

Booking coffee dates with friends. Shopping. Sitting out on the patio with a new book. (Not sure yet if I like it or not.) Eh baby, you have come a long way and I have landed in clover.

Looking after her used to be a lot more work. Mr frog had to be towed back to the top of the hill and so did she.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A not so daily diary ...

Some while ago

I am once more a ten-fingered typist! Had carpal tunnel surgery on Thursday and already the feeling has returned to my index finger. The thumb is still numb, so the spacing might be a bit off. Also, the hand is purple and blue and quite awful looking. But it works.

We are having cold gray March weather. The month came in like a lamb, blue sky, mild temperatures, revealing lots of mud and wet leaves and newly freed small burrs for the YD’s madly rolling dog. Even the cat enjoyed the weather on the screen porch until I forgot to let her back in. The sliding door to the screen porch is now covered with paw marks and needs a good cleaning with Windex. Not sure the wrist is up for that.

I do have a lot of time to follow the news, though, until it heals a bit more.

I even had time to watch some videos of the gowns worn to the Oscars, the ones that the punditistas deemed worthy of notice. The skirts slit from the floor to above the waist were a bit much. But Jane Fonda, at age 80, pulled it off. And looked lovely. Although it was quite clear that she had been sewn into both her dress and her face.

Meow. Someone should shut me out onto the screen porch.

At some point I popped some stitches in my incision and it looks like hell. Oh well. I now have sensation back in two fingers and am probably managing 25 wpm on the keyboard. Whoopie.


After a few days of continual slow snow, the weather has now cleared and it is sunny and cold. The first day of spring should not be a fine winter day.  I slogged to the back of the field to feed the deer and the walking was quite nasty. It looks good, though. Lots better than mud. We have one robin and I heard geese a few days ago. Plus, I am told the trumpeter swans are here early.  Climate change, it could be argued. My first intimation of changing climate did in fact come from birds. The mourning doves that had been summer residents only started overwintering some years ago now. I would trade them all, though, for even the density of monarch butterflies that my grandkid found searching for caterpillars only a few years ago. We had hardly any this year.

It is probably a truism to everyone else, but I can be a slow thinker. This afternoon I was mourning the latest series of mass shootings and it occurred to me that I could not recall one mass shooting, whether in a school or elsewhere, where the shooter was a girl or woman. And it is not that women are not gun enthusiasts. Around here a lot of daughters and wives shoot with their families, although I do not know many solo women hunters. My own daughter joined first army cadets and then the militia as a girl and young woman and is completely competent with long guns. It is not just boys who know how to shoot. So, what are we doing right with our girl children that we are not doing with the boys. Boys such as the poor sap who shot his sister over a board game. What???

Edited to add. As of today we have a woman shooter. Am I a jinx?

Anyway, someone is raising wonderful kids who are out protesting the lack of gun regulation in the US. Good for them. May they succeed.

Easter Monday

We have just passed through a cold and soggy, but sunny, Easter weekend, and have freezing rain forecast for tomorrow. Our elder daughter was born on April 4th, and I still, after half a century plus, remember vividly how annoyed I was with the changeable April weather. I wanted to put the little, um, darling into her buggy and wheel her around the streets so that she would sleep. Some days I could do this but other days brought sleet, cold rain and similar inconveniences. And I would be trapped inside with Miss Sleepless wonder. The same thing happened with HER daughter whom I was called to look after when she couldn’t go to daycare. Wheeling her in the stroller brought instant cooperation and a fine nap. Bad weather, thick winter snow and other impediments made Grama into a wet rag by supper time and the return of her doting parents.

I am just back from six days of grandkid supervision in the city, with a whole pile of new books, new clothes (plus limp plastic credit cards) and a great appreciation for houses with bathrooms on every floor. The ED’s house is an infill on a very small lot in the older part of the city and is, essentially, a series of staircases with rooms off them. Lots of bathrooms, but none on the main floor. I huffed up and down a lot of stairs. And I did not see all that much of Miss G who is in two bands, takes several additional lessons a week on her instrument, trains for track three times a week, seems to have piles of homework and is tasked by her parents with all of the pet care while they are away. She likes to keep active, she says. Especially stressing is a huge salt water tank full of expensive tropical fish and even more expensive corals; it requires additions of this and that, pump supervision and feeding the fish exotic treats. Plus, the temperature has to be exact. One night she whipped open some windows to cool off the tank and also cooled off her grandmother quite a bit.

In fact, I have been chilled for quite a few days, the cold feet kind of chill, not the Zen one. We heat with wood, using a forced air furnace when it is really cold and wood stoves in transition weather. JG has decided it is now transition weather and is running the downstairs stove. With a fan to move warm air up. This is perfect on sunny days as we have big southwest windows upstairs and the living areas are nice and warm. Not so good on cloudy and windy days although it is cozy on the stair landing between the floors. Tomorrow we are forecast snain and wind. I will don wool socks and long underwear.

Ah, life in the bush.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Writer's coffee block.

I started this last month.

It is dark and cold and damp outside, plus we are expecting a 10 cm snowfall. I am typing with two fingers, because of carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, and I have let my coffee get cold while playing useless games. Nor do I have anything much to say that is either fun to write or interesting to read. Time to shut down the blog, perhaps. I am thinking about that.

Reheated the coffee.

It is a truism that we don’t appreciate health while we have it, but it is also true that I didn’t really grasp how much of a truism that is until I became unhealthy. For most of a year before my heart went on strike I felt lousy and since the bypass surgery I have been alternately fighting to get some strength back and sitting in an easy chair feeling sorry for myself.

Just glugged down some sort-of hot coffee.

You know what – being unwell is boring. All the time in the world to read books, do crafts (painting and sewing in my case) and keep up with the world, but none of this makes up for being tired and cranky almost all the time. I have joined things like an exercise programme and let them go again because it was just too much trouble. A lot of things, like cooking supper, are just a pain. My [censored] husband got me an ‘Instantpot’ for Christmas, hoping to inspire me, I guess. I would just as soon continue to do things the way I have done them for the last fifty-five years, frankly. That will be fifty-five years next Friday that we have been married. Holy cow!

I am out of coffee again. But if I go and make another one, I may never get back to this.

Last month the YD and I and a couple who are good friends of hers went to southern California for a week and stayed in a most opulent rental with its own pool and hot tub. YD and I drove a lot of the coastline and she and her friends did a lot of hiking, in which pursuit I declined to join them. Iron Mountain? You have got to be joking. We were in a small town called Del Mar, north of San Diego, where there are lovely parks (One we found by accident had a seal colony.), great scenery and a lot (a LOT!) of people and planes. That was fun, all but the traffic jams. No wonder road rage was created in California. One of the YD’s friends took a surfing lesson (big surf). A while ago I would have been right in there with her but not now. I was happy to sit in a beach-side restaurant and drink coffee.

I took a Kindle load of books to California, and am really fascinated by the contrast between David Frum’s Trumpocracy and Charlotte Gray’s The Promise of Canada. Positive and negative poles apart. Not that Canada is a wonderland of positive feelings, for sure, but we seem to be holding on to “Peace, order and good government.” Sort of. So far.

Lunch. More coffee. Have to come back if I am closing this, don’t I?  CONTINUED

Next day. Lukewarm coffee and lots of sun sparkling on the snow piled up everywhere. CONTINUED

Next week, or maybe the week after that.

We have had some beautiful sparkly new snow and blue-sky weather, but it is now heading for the end of February and today there was a grey sky and freezing rain that I did not quite outrun on my way home from grocery shopping. Ice on the windshield. Luckily, I have a great defrost system and I made it into the garage in fine style. CONTINUED

Still thinking. If all I have to talk about is the weather, I SHOULD close. Other people are talking about assault rifles and the Prime Minister’s dress up trunk and climate change much more eloquently and successfully than I probably ever could, although I have strong views about most of these excitements. Small ‘l’ liberal views. Ban assault rifles. Do not arm teachers. Do not arm students. Armed guards only work if they are at the right place at the right time. 

I am the grandmother of a 14-year-old girl who attends a city high school. I can imagine how a lot of the grandmothers in the USA are feeling just now. We have Raging Grannies up here in Canada. Glad to export the concept. Feeling helpless and furious at all of our politicians.

Nope. Not going to quit today. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Twenty Questions

Courtesy of Anvilcloud.


1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
- coffee. What else?

2. Where was your profile picture taken?
- in front of the Pacific Ocean

3. Worst pain you've ever experienced?
- trapezoid muscle spasm. I would rather have a baby than do that again.

4. Favorite place you've traveled to?
- Blue Ridge Parkway

5. How late did you stay up last night?
- About 11:30. I mostly wait till my husband has finished watching TV.

6. If you could move somewhere else, where would it be?
- I like it here.

8. Which of your Facebook friends lives closest to you?
- Alice

9. How do you feel about Turkey burger?
- Ick

10. When was the last time you cried?
- Monday

11. Who took your profile picture?
- the YD. I think. could have been Tam.

12. Who was the last person you took a picture with?
- I take a lot of nature shots in the yard. A deer and fawns were photographed Monday.

13. What's your favorite season?
- Autumn

14. If you could have any career, what would it be?
-  artist/photographer.

15. Do you think relationships are ever worth it?
- Depends

16. If you could talk to ANYONE right now who would it be?
- my deceased best friend.

17. Are you a good influence?
- Hope not.

18. Does pineapple belong on pizza?
- Never

19. You have the remote, what channel?
- I'm a wife. What remote?

20. What are you most afraid of?
- mental degeneration.

Please fill free to copy this and put your own answers in. I would love to read them if you do it, so please let me know.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

As sure as God Made Little Green Apples

I love our apple tree, or trees I should say. The major tree, trunk almost hollow with age, is the last of the trees planted in the old orchard created in the 19th Century on the land we bought in the 1970’s for recreational use. The smaller trunk is, we assume, grown from seed that germinated under the original. When we first bought this land, there was an old gentleman named Pollock McDougall who filled us in on a lot of the history of our place, and he told us the tree was a Macintosh planted around the turn of the century, one of two, the last trees planted. It seems to exist with only the bark to support it at the ground.
In Bloom

The original orchard was fenced with rails because cattle or sheep had been grazed on the field around it. It was in terrible shape when we first arrived, with some trees down and others half broken, but most of the trees were producing wormy and scabby apples and I could easily gather enough for a pie when I wanted one. There was one antique snow apple tree that produced a few amazing fruits every year. From the other trees, my mother collected boxes full one year and made apple jelly.

A Sad old Orchard

We spent several years trying to bring the trees back, pruning and spraying and chopping, but the better the apples became the more bears and porcupines and raccoons and squirrels attended the orchard, breaking off big branches from the brittle old trees and creating havoc. JG shot a few, but since we were only able to defend it on weekends, the trees were killed one by one until only the one Macintosh remained.

We decided to build our forever house where the orchard had been to take advantage of the fall of the ground that gave us a walk-out basement (and a miraculous lack of bedrock). But we kept the Macintosh.

putting in lawn seed around the apple tree

It is now starting to die. It will probably last a few more years, but every spring there are more dead branches and every summer more yellowed and prematurely dropping leaves. It is not only I who will be very sad when it must be cut but also the flocks of little birds who hide in it before attempting to get seeds from the bird feeders. There are goldfinches in the summer, purple finches, chickadees who use the branches as anvils all winter to extract the seed from the sunflower corms. Blue jays (who are beautiful as long as they keep their beaks shut) and shiny grackles use the tree as a launch and a refuge, red wing blackbirds hang out in the spring in it and youngsters of all species hone their less than perfect flying skills among the branches.

A fall haircut. With cat.
As I watch the juvenile birds’ antics I also see the bare branches and diseased leaves. I also see a great many little green apples, soon to be little red and yellow scabby apples, beloved by squirrel and deer. The deer like the leaves as they fall as well. 
The tree today

The deer, in fact, seem to be taking over. I looked out the kitchen window a few days ago and saw a sleek young doe eating my orange lilies. !!  Deer are not supposed to like orange lilies; the flowers bloom with impunity in every ditch. Not mine. This [censored] doe and her friends have stripped two lily beds in my yard. And we feed the wretched animals fine deer ration regularly. One of my Facebook friends lost her geraniums to an equally deranged doe and is threatening to shoot.

 What would our world be without birds and trees and flowers? Without deer too, beautiful and unpredictable animals that they are. I imagine, sometimes in my worst moments, a wildfire roaring through our peaceful wilderness. My husband imagines bulldozers and a pod of ticky-tack houses built on the other side of our road.  We do not have to imagine the climate changes as they take place under our noses; the disappearing Monarch butterflies; the changes in bird populations; invasive species of weed in every ditch, and the dead branches and leaves on my brave apple tree. There are still lots of little green apples for the deer this year but I can foresee a time when they will be gone, when so many things will be gone. 

Is this what it looked like on the tree in Eden when we were tempted and we fell?

Friday, 23 June 2017

A few reflections on being full of holes

The thing that hit me is called an NSTEMI. I had to look that up and I bet most of you will too. For several months previous to this collision I had been complaining of severe back and gastric pain and fatigue. And I had been convinced that my back was the problem to the point of snarling “It’s my BACK!” at the wonderful NP who was looking after me when he wanted to do heart tests. Duh. The poor guy relented and sent me for a back x-ray and it, surprise, showed a very large aortic aneurism. Had to be fixed! I was sent to the vascular surgery at the Ottawa Hospital and one day, I think, ahead of my pre-op tests the NSTEMI hit me, at home, in the evening and JG said, as he had been saying for a month, “Shall I call an ambulance?” and I finally agreed.

The next while is a blur in my mind but, when I finally was aware again, I found myself in the OHI (Ottawa Heart Institute) scheduled for bypass surgery. Also, I was hooked to oxygen, hooked to two separate bags that had to be rolled around on a pole and was entertained by a succession of smiling nurses and technicians who all wanted to stick a needle into some portion of my anatomy. A hospital is a strange place. The food was terrible. The noise is incredible. I lost a lot of weight and a lot of sleep, but did not lose my mind because of my wonderful daughters who distracted my mind with ideas for bathroom renos and because of their wonderful friends who smuggled in doughnuts and drinkable coffee.

It is disconcerting to go from a person who thinks she is healthy except for her back to a patient in a hospital with two Very Serious problems. These dismal diagnoses made me very angry. At first, I was mostly angry because I was not dead and felt completely lousy. It would, I mused, have been much easier all-round if one of the VS problems had killed me on the spot. However, as my brain came back on line and I got a little more observant, I could see the worry in my daughters’ eyes beyond the cheer and smiles; I could see the panic in my husband. Friends dropped by to visit, some to cheer me up and some because they said they needed to see me. I stuck a notice on line and was overwhelmed by how many people there were who wished me well.

And not just people. The grandkid came in for a visit and left behind, on the white board on the wall a love note from her house’s menagerie. She is fourteen and very funny.
The message cheered me up a lot. Pluto is a fish from the huge salt water tank that is kept (terrifyingly) on their mezzanine floor. Miso is the cat I once hurled across the bedroom. Peanut is the grandkid’s mini hamster that lives in her bedroom. Quejo is a Brazilian tortoise that arrived in Canada in someone’s pocket as an illegal immigrant and is now the size of a large serving bowl. Charmy, the gecko, belongs to a step grandson who left home without him, and ‘and etc.’ which is all the other fish, some of whom have been known to escape the tank. How could I let them down? Miss G looked frightened by my appearance. How could I let her down?
It was not easy, but I stopped being angry and started to think. The decision was that I had to do this. I could not let everyone (including myself) down.  Although I was not very enthused about major heart surgery and a life sentence of prescribed exercise and diet, no smoking and a lot of hassle, I could imagine these things and, except for the smoking, live with them. What I did not expect was to be punched full of holes. Even while I was still stowed in a hallway, nurses were coming at me with needles, some of them trailing student nurses and encouraging them to make their first try at establishing a cannula. At 3:00 AM.

The holes? Blood for test taken every morning, fasting, by a lovely woman in a sari whom I started to call the Butterfly Vampire. New cannula positions every couple of days. After the bypass surgery, one massive hole in my chest and four more where veins were extracted from my leg. After the vascular stent four weeks later, two more in the lower abdomen and several in my back from spinal anaesthetic, plus a few others here and there, where drugs were injected.

Other delights included being forbidden to use my arms and upper back for six to eight weeks while my breastbone, which had been sawed in half, knitted back up again. I am now trying to get the muscle back, at a snail’s pace. Restricted fluids, a heart-healthy low-calorie diet, daily weight monitoring and lots of post op tests to check on the surgery results. After I was allowed to go home, this meant trips back to the city, driven by my poor husband. And even the car trips hurt, as the various procedures had wrenched my neck and back and the muscles kept locking up. This last problem made the rehab walking and exercise a lot (not) of fun. I think I was on at least a dozen medications when I left the hospital and I only kept track of them thanks to the ED who numbered all the pill bottles and correlated them to a list and time of day.

I made it through all this. Cranky, depressed, and with a tendency to fall asleep every time I sat down, but improving anyway. I can now drive again and iron clothes and walk for over half an hour at a slow pace. I have weights to lift that JG bought for me and an assortment of wildly-coloured elastic bands to pull. Since it is local strawberry season, I am cheating like mad on my low-calorie diet but managing to do without a lot of salt, to eat plain yogurt and to (mostly) eat my fruit and vegetables. It is a life sentence alright, but it is life. It almost wasn’t.

And I have a lovely renovated bathroom.