Thursday, 30 July 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - July 30, 2015

A Mid-Summer Gleaning

A civic holiday long weekend hovers, ready to shove a doorstop under summer's swinging screen door. The days are getting shorter by about two and a quarter minutes every day, making for a quite noticeable 15 minute loss every week. But despair not, for the sun and heat of the past week have brought on the lagging tomato and corn crops along with other fresh vegetables and fruit. Ontario farms are bringing to market broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, corn, potatoes galore, and cucumbers and zucchini hang heavy on the vine.  Strawberries have been and all but gone, but raspberries, currants, apricots and some early Niagara peaches are filling up baskets at Farmers' markets. The land here is so generous, always yielding the best it can, come wind, come weather.

When we first moved up here to the rural routes from the city back in 1978 our new neighbours, soon to be treasured friends, wasted no time in acquainting us with the gifts of the land. In the barn out back of their house were the chickens, the pigs and a big brown cow. On a small plot in the front, Dave and Vera Francis grew much of the vegetables they and two sons needed for a year. When the ripe time came, it was all hands on deck to pick and shell peas, gather in the beans, the corn and whatever else was growing. A family that eats together, harvests together. Once they had all they needed, we were invited to glean, to take our pick from their field of plenty. We gathered in asparagus, rhubarb, peas, green beans, carrots, and as Fall approached, winter squashes of all shapes and sizes.

Dave, Vera and the boys made use of local growers for berries and other fruit, often inviting us to come along. In those fields, with Vera's gentle instruction, I learned how and what to pick. "Make sure you pick clean," she would say, meaning that I was to slow down and pick absolutely everything that was ripe within my arms' reach before moving along to another spot. "Lift up those branches like this," she said while moving the back of one arm under the foliage to reveal luscious berries underneath. "See, there's real good fruit under there."

"If you pick it, make sure it goes into the basket," Dave offered another rule of good harvesting, "even it's not perfect." This one came with a small exception - it was acceptable to eat a few berries, "Well you gotta taste 'em to make sure they're good." It was hard to miss the rivulet of berry juice on his chin.

Picking done, it was time to preserved the harvest for the winter months. Veggies were blanched and frozen, fruits were put up in mason jars. Again Vera was my teacher taking time to explain all I needed to know about glass jars (clean with hot soapy water, rinse then put in oven at 250F), metal rings (no dents and perfectly round), Bernardin® lids (inspect for roundness), canning kettles and boiling water baths. I learned how to make jams and jellies, marmalade, preserves and pickles. I learned how to have the taste of summer in February.

I still make jams every year, still pick the berries at the same farm Dave and Vera took me to thirty-five years ago, and then hurry home to get the summer goodness packed into mason jars.

Every Friday from June through October, I drive out to a local organic farm to pick up a bushel or so of fresh veggies for our meals during the week. I don't put by any for the winter months now and we no longer keep a vegetable garden of our own.

But come mid-summer every year I remember when we did. I remember the indescribable sweetness of fresh picked peas, crisp snap of green beans and carrots, and the squirt of juice from a sun-warmed tomato.

And I remember Dave and Vera who were so generous with their time and friendship; who taught me so much about country living and the gifts of the land; who opened their hearts to a young couple from the city and invited them to glean in their field.

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 27 July 2015

Monday Moanings - July 27, 2015

Who perpetrated this outrage?

How can one awake in the morning feeling so energized, positive, excited and grinning from ear to ear and less than eight hours later feel knocked down, dragged out, flat on the sofa, utterly wretched? That was me yesterday. This morning not much has changed. I have been taken hostage by that most awful of demons, the summer cold.

On what is forecast to be the hottest week of the year with temps 30°C and above (humidex at 40+), it's not a week to be laid up with some goo-infesting pestilence.

When the worst of winter rages, it's all well and good to tuck up my runny nose, raw throat, mental fog and vague feverishness under a blankie and sip mugs of honey-lemon tea.

Remember this? Just six months ago...
But under a blazing summer sun such soothing coziness melts away, sizzling into a vapour of misery.
Monday. Moaning. Misery. 

Same view this morning
But the garden needs watering. I hauled my reluctant body outside into the warmth - already 27°C at 10am.
The day lilies stretch out for the sunshine... do the gazanias. They love it!

Like me, the begonias will struggle this week.

All will enjoy a cool drink.

I'm "IN" for the day, a frosty glass of orange juice by my side along with a box of tissues and the TV/DVD remote control.
Stay cool this week, folks. And remember to practise "Safe Sun".

©2015 April Hoeller

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - July 23, 2015

In Recovery

Thursday? It's Thursday?? Really??? Okay, I guess I'd better write something, especially as it seems this hump-day-plus-one time slot has been empty for two weeks.

I've been busy, as you know, being mother of the bride. But now the party is over; all the 'after parties' are over; the guests from afar have gone home and the newlyweds are honeymooning down east. My dress has been put away, my shoes put back in the box; even my elegant chapeau has been tucked up in it's own hatbox.

Only the nail polish on my toes testifies to there having been some grand event; that and all the photos (in a few weeks, the pro's work will add even more images of the day).

I'm feeling a bit bereft, a kind of mild postpartum depression. For hours, days, weeks and months planning and preparations ramped up expectations, hopes AND the imagination machine. All those what if's, I hope's and must have's wound themselves together into one tight dynamic ball of energy - a heady mixture of anxiety and joy.

The wedding happened. The food was amazing, the dancing energetic even in the heat, and the night time skyline of Toronto dazzled all as we sailed back to the mainland.

What it looked like to me at 1am Sunday morning

What it really looked like

All went very well. The good imaginings came to pass and the disastrous ones did not! Then suddenly it was over. This introvert soul, one who craves quiet, order and regular doses of solitude, is oddly restless with this week's lack of urgency. Isn't there something I should be doing, some task swinging wildly on a short tether of a timeline?  Sighs and shrugs are the only answers that come to me.

Eddies of doldrums swirl around me. Snippets of music and conversation, snapshots of faces and scenery from the days preparation and celebration - these memory movies bubble up, bringing smiles and chuckles. Methinks I'd be wise to enjoy this quiet interlude. The pace of regularly scheduled life will pick up soon enough with the usual round of triumphs and disappointments, gains and losses. So today I rest and smile in the afterglow of a family celebration enfolded with love.

It really doesn't get much better than this.

©2015 April Hoeller

Monday, 20 July 2015

Monday Moanings - July 20, 2015

Too Pooped to Pop

I promised you I'd be right back here today, ready and eager to share stories and photos from an amazing wedding. And here I am, EXCEPT I'm too drained to come up with much more than mumble and a smile that stretches from ear to ear.

Saturday was the hottest day of the summer here. It was very humid = lots of 'glowing' people. Oh heck let's call a spade a spade - there were lots of sweat soaked clothes and glistening faces on Ward's Island Saturday afternoon.

BUT there was way more joy and love and fun.

My job was Mother of the Bride, not photographer, so at the moment the pictures I have are somewhat limited to the early part of the day. My love snapped a few during the ceremony and my sister Pat clicked off some afterward. Here's just a sampling, with a promise to share more stories and pictures in a bit...

The day began at 7:30am with the bride and her Dad making a quick trip over to the Island to do final set-up. It was an 'atmospheric morning' with mist wafting in and out.

While they were off tending to that chore, the bridesmaids and I were treated to the skill and care of master hair stylist and makeup artist, Jennifer O'Leary of  Jennifer's Hair Boutique.

Kristen's hair has always been a challenge as well as a delight, and Jenn has always been equal to the challenge, which explains why Jenn has been Kristen's #1 hair stylist since she was 10 years old.

It was indeed a great privilege to have Jenn play such an important part in Kristen's day. Thanks Jenn!

The Hoeller Women and Bridesmaids shared a toast...

then it was off to the water taxi and across to the Island for the ceremony and party.

This last photo was taken by my sister. Thank you Pat!

This is what the photographer called "The original Hoeller family" - Norbert, Kristen, Geoff & April. But in our hearts and lives, we are larger than this. The marriages of both of our children have added one new daughter and son each. So the original four have become six. We couldn't be prouder!

©2015 April Hoeller