Thursday, 28 May 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 28, 2015

A year ago today, American icon Maya Angelou passed away, her words though will always be with us. The post I wrote about her at the time is just as fresh today as it was then. Enjoy her words, let them infuse every corner of your life.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Monday Moanings - May 25, 2015

An Old Bag of Bones

I went to the gym this morning only to be confronted with too many things I couldn't do. I lurched and stumbled through my routine. I had to back off all the weights. I had to settle for the treadmill, my least favourite cardio machine. Why you may ask?  Because my back has betrayed me. It has up and decided to go out on strike because I asked it to do something it has been doing without complaint for nearly forty years. Now I ask you, is that anyway to be treated? Of course not!

I know what I'm doing. I've honed my skills over the years to near perfection and great satisfaction. Like a diamond cutter choosing just the right spot to cleave a rough stone, I study each sixteen inch high piece before hefting the axe high overhead. Then with full body swing I bring it down across the wood face. A sharp decisive crack announces a perfect strike. With a straight line splintering, one becomes two. It's magic!

Though we get almost all of our firewood cut, split and delivered and have done so for the past ten years or so, I still manage to get my swings in each year. There is always dead fall to be cleared out of the forested part of our land. A week ago we set our sights on the mighty poplar which came down in a wind storm some eight months ago. Chain saw, splitting wedges, sledge hammer and wheel barrow got trekked into the woods. Umpteen loads of pre-cut logs came out. Time for my splitting skills.

For the record, I do wear steel toed boots when working in the wood lot.

Day 1 went really well! Though I did note a little muscle stiffness along my right side. Given size of the tree we were working I was neither surprised nor alarmed. Day 2, I threw myself once again into my work. Split wood fell left, right and centre. Then a twinge of pain developed in my left lower back, not a terrible pain but one that announced itself clearly with every swing of the ax. I finished off with half a dozen more swings, (but maybe it was double that?), then called it 'job done' for the day.

OUCH! The sledge gave way too.

Hindsight is such a marvellous thing - I really should have stopped at the first twinge. But I've always split wood! Every year I hone my axe swinging skills and I've never suffered more than sore triceps and abs. By last Thursday, the anticipation of the explosion of back pain suggested by a mere hint of a sneeze coming on, was enough to send me into a panic. I am somewhat improved now, no meds, and it is safe to sneeze, cough and laugh, but still I feel like an old bag of bones.

Are my axe wielding days over?
Am I really too old, as a few have suggested, to be doing this sort of thing?
Is this the beginning of back issues for me?
Will life ever the be same?
And what if...
WINE! Now there's a idea!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 21, 2015

On the Wild Side

It's a gorgeous if but coolish day here the rural routes. In four days the temperature has gone from a sultry 30°C (86F) down to a low of 2 yesterday morning and now crawled up to 17, and all without a drop of rain. It's dry out there on the land, not nearly so desperate as California, but when the soil underneath your feet is mostly sand with only just a few narrow bands of clay, it doesn't take long for green to turn to brown.

In our early days here, the pioneer days as I like to call them. we worked hard to maintain lush green lawns, a beautiful but small garden and three, count 'em! THREE bountiful vegetable patches. The lawn was the first to fall from the maintenance list, then the corn and potato patch, followed by the pole beans and tomato patch and finally the salad crop patch. The rhubarb plants have flourished, mostly because all they need is watering. They will be joined by a half dozen cherry tomato plants in about two weeks. And I do keep two small gardens of annuals (slated for planting this weekend and next) but most of the floral beauty I just let swing from hanging baskets.

Though I do cut the grass, (well most of it is grass but there's also a lot of indeterminate green stuff too!), there is no weed and feed, no lawn watering beyond what Mother Nature provides. The rest of our land is rather unkempt and I'm being generous with that adjective. What has/is happening is that the grounds are returning to nature. Still there's much to celebrate in fresh greens and blooms outside my door.

So come with me, let's step outside and take a walk on the wild side.

A mix of perennial rye grass, twitch, sumac sprouts and those lovely yellow flowers...
Just look at that smiling Dandelion face! What's not to love?
Forget-Me-Nots - these are spreading wonderfully along the western edge of the yard.
The last of the choke cherry blossoms. These tress were here before we arrived in 1978
Apple blossoms - the trees have been untouched for nearly 30 years.
Oregano escaped from the herb garden in 1980. It's everywhere now and joined by creeping thyme.
Wild strawberries run throughout and the berries are delicious if I get to them before the birds do.

"But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks."
John Muir, July 1877

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 18 May 2015

Monday Moanings - May 18, 2015

Victoria Day Weekend 2015

A 3 day stretch of bbq's, gardens, and fireworks as the folks in these parts celebrate not so much the late great grand queen, as the first long weekend of the summer season. Also known as the May TWO-FOUR weekend, which more and more seems to refer to a case of beer rather than a day in May. This is the weekend that garden centres, hardware stores and gas companies get really excited about as winter weary Ontarians dig out the planting gear and drive to the garden centre to buy bedding plants; haul out the lawn mower and drive to the hardware store to get parts to make it work; and/or drive up to the cottage then drive to the hardware store and garden centre to get parts and plants. Oh, and beer. There's got to be beer. The Two-Four, remember? Wine is also permissible, red is preferable.

And Mother Nature has delivered up a cracker of weekend. Saturday and Sunday offered up a taste of summertime with blues skies and warm temperatures. Perfect for burgers and beer. Oh and yes, yard work! The electric lawnmower has been rolled out of the shed for the first time this season and its whirling blade did a nice number on both the front and side yards. Two of the 40V lithium ion batteries were not quite up to the task but I'm happy to report that the other two picked up the slack and no trip to hardware store was required. I did head out to the garden centre where I bought two hanging baskets of begonias and two containers of geraniums. These all can be sheltered should frost make another appearance as it did this past Thursday morning.

Original artistry rendered  by Jack Frost, May 14, 2015.

Today, morning clouds have given way to more sunshine, but a shawl of humidity hangs in the air. Still it is comfortably warm and breezy. I'm going to harvest the rhubarb, make a rhubarb crisp for dessert tonight and get a few pies into the freezer.

Queen Victoria painted by Andrew Melville in 1845
(public Domain)

And just what would the old Queen think of all this? Gary Toffoli of the Royal Royal Heritage Trust, says that,

"In Victoria's time there was, I think, more a sense of communal celebrations...the idea of coming together and having giant picnics with hundreds of thousands of people,"

Well we have the celebration part down pat, so I'd like to think she would be pleased. And May 24 is also the official celebration of Queen Elizabeth's birthday in Canada (It's celebrated in June in England, even though ER II was actually born in April. Go figure!). So banish the moaning, break out the cake and candles along with the gardening equipment, burgers and beer. Light up the sky with shooting stars and roman candles.

Three cheers for Victoria and Elizabeth. 
                Hip Hip Hooray!
                Hip Hip Hooray!
                Hip Hip Hooray!

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 14, 2015

So I've been told...

I've been sitting here in front of the computer for nearly 2 hours and still no blog post has emerged from the ends of my fingers. Lot's of possibilities, lots of flapping around but not a single idea has taken flight.

I would like to give up fretting about this lack of words, BUT I've been told that it's bad form, very bad, to just up and leave an empty spot where a post should be.  Apparently it suggests to followers that they have been abandoned. So I've been told.

Well I truly wouldn't want anyone to feel that way. Will two short paragraphs and a few pictures from last year's Spring gardens suffice? Sure hope so.

The sun is shining, the temperature is 18°C and I'm going out to mow the lawn.
Wanna come with me?

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 11 May 2015

Monday Moanings - May 11, 2015

A letter to Mom

Not a moaning, but a tribute, written four years ago on the first anniversary of her passing. Still as true, not just on this past Mother's Day weekend, but every day.

Dear Mom,
It's been quite a year since you headed off on the next great adventure.  We've transited the year of 'the firsts' since you've been gone with grace and decorum and some times of celebration too. I'm guessing you know all about our happenings?

I felt you standing beside me when the ship docked in Mumbai.  Together we watched Dad marching on the pier while the band played the Colonel Bogey March.  I know I saw you in Madrid at the Elizabeth Arden counter in that upscale department store.  Did you get the red lipstick you wanted? And the fragrance too?

At Geoff and Kath's wedding you were standing in the middle of the circle for 'your song', Sinatra's New York, New York.  What a great celebration that was! Auntie Elaine remarked how much she saw of Daddy in Geoff.  I don't know as I had noticed that before, but I see it now.  Geoff and Kath make such a lovely couple!

It must have been you who gave Kristen her fashion and makeup sense. She surely didn't get it from me!! I wouldn't be surprised if you've been at every one of her photo shoots, including the ones in Japan.  She is her Grandmother's girl. Gorgeous, smart and lover of books! And it sure looks like she's found the love of her life.

I know that you are as happy as I am with the new kitchen. I've heard you singing along with me while doing the dishes, or sweeping the floor, or making a meal.  Have you seen YOUR bookshelf?  It has your Fannie Farmer Cookbook (aka the Boston Cooking School), the Casserole Cookery book, one of your coffee/tea cups, the old juice strainer, the screw down nut cracker we used for hazelnuts and walnuts, and that old fish scale.  I tucked in 2 little bookie from 1958: The German & Viennese Cook Book and the  New England Cook Book.  I can look up at your picture whenever I'm sitting at the desk.

Kristen and I are making a celebration supper in your honour today - "Macaroni & Fisherman Sauce a la Cudbird".  I've had to make a few changes to it - I do hope you approve!  I'm replacing the oysters with scallops.  I recall oysters were more Dad's thing than yours, and that if you were given a choice between the two, scallops would win hands down.  Also I could not find a can of  Manhattan Clam Chowder, so I going to use tomato broth and add more clams!  Oh, and I have some left over grilled tuna steak which I will use instead of a can of solid tuna.  You wouldn't believe the variety of fresh and frozen fish I can get at almost any supermarket now!  And pasta in all shapes and sizes too.  Back in the day, it was just spaghetti and elbow macaroni, then lasagna appeared.  Remember the excitement when 'wagon wheels' came on the market?  I recall pleading with you to buy them and eventually you did, even though I suspect they were a tad expensive.  <Sigh>  Anyway, I've stayed true to your recipe and elbow macaroni it is!

For dessert, I've made Ebinger's Crumb Cake (Kristen's idea).  I think she just wants the crumbs.
Remember the fights we girls had over the crumbs when we were at the beach?  Those were the days.  I think we'll have some pistachio ice cream on the side.  What do you think?  Never mind, I can hear you smacking your lips already!

Time for me to get back to work on this celebration.  If you're in the neighbourhood, I'd love to have you drop by for supper, or even just to share a spoonful of pistachio ice cream and a bit of crumb cake.  There isn't a day go by that I don't think of you.  I miss you, but I'm so happy you are free.
Heaps of love.

p.s. There's a lovely bottle of 2009 Pinot Gris chilling in the fridge.  Cheers right back at you!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 7, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

So many memories,
So many stories,
So much love.

Thanks Mom.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
Still miss you like crazy.

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 4 May 2015

Monday Moanings - May 4, 2015

It's bloomin' Spring!

It was a marvellous weekend - warm sunshine, BBQ suppers on the deck, and the simple joy of being outside without coats, boots, mitts and tuques.

The snow tires came off the car, the snow shovel was put away, the snow blower and lawn mower traded priority spots in the shed. The gardens got tidied - the big turnover postponed until I can truly tell the good from the bad, the welcome from the weed. The bird feeders got thoroughly cleaned and re-seeded, and the hummingbird feeder was put out. The usual visitors were quick to welcome the gleaming, full feeders,

along with one not so regular.

Then the lawn raking began. It's pretty mindless stuff; pulling debris from the lawn into piles of beige-brown twigs, leaves, and grass. It's slow work - there is no such thing a quick rake, especially when one has as much lawn as I do. I love being outdoors. I truly do enjoy the mindless time, trolling through the grey matter of my brain, solving all the world's problems and even a few of my own, while the rake does something similar for the lawn. BUT, there is a limit as just how much daydreaming time I can tolerate.

I've reached my limit. Even my back and my arms and my histamines are at their limit. I'm groaning with every movement, sneezing, wheezing and sputtering. The thought of getting out there again is more than depressing, it's paralytic. At this rate, the raking will be done in time for the Fall.

So here I sit, legs tucked up inside my wagon, reluctant to kick off into a new week. I'm going to need a little push and a lot more antihistamines!

But it's bloomin' Spring -
a grand feast of colour, fragrance and sound.

You folks go on ahead. I'll catch up in a bit

©2015 April Hoeller