Saturday, May 25, 2013

Halloween in May


At about 11:00 last night, Kim let Frankie out for a last pee before bed and then waved frantically at me through the kitchen window. "Bring your camera!" she mouthed through the glass.

The full moon was spectacular, but taking a picture in the dark with my little point and shoot?

I underestimated the super powers of said point and shoot, because all I did was (you guessed it) pointed and shooted  (okay, shot) and this is what I got.

Go ahead, click on that baby and get an even better view of our Halloween moon.

I don't know what to be more impressed by: Mother Nature or my Canon PowerShot.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Working smarter and ageing gracefully


There is a property down the road from us that I call The Storybook Farm, because it looks like it has been transplanted straight from a children's book about an English country farm. The buildings are faced with stone, there is a matched set of five black horses in the paddock, the potager garden is full of lavender plants lined up with mathematical precision, and the flower pots lining the drive are always beautifully blooming. It's a lovely place, one that fills me with awe every time I drive past it, and while these people exert more control over their garden than I want to or am capable of, they clearly know what they are doing.

So when our third spring at Mucky Boots came around (in other words the first spring I had my head enough above water to notice) and the middle of April came and went with their garden still full of winter stalks and dead stuff, I thought something must be wrong, and even though I don`t know them, I worried. I shouldn't have, because in short order everything was looking as spiffed up as I had become accustomed to. Maybe they were just a little late getting started, I thought with the tiniest amount of self-satisfaction.

And now, near the end of our fifth spring at Mucky Boots, I think I get it. They really do know what they are doing: it's all about working smarter.

My practice has been to dip into all my garden beds multiple times through the spring explosion. I usually manage to get the winter clean-up done before the fast spring growth starts, but pretty quickly I'm going at the creeping bellflower wherever and whenever it appears, and trying to clean up the spring bulbs as soon as they start looking bedraggled. And weeding, weeding, weeding. I figure each of the many beds in the perennial garden gets six or seven passes before the hot weather hits and growth settles down.

Well, I have learned a thing or two. For example, I have learned that the best way to deal with invasive perennial weeds like the creeping bellflower is not to try digging it up, which only compounds the problem as all those little root filaments birth new plants, but to cut it down once or twice a year and never, ever, let it flower. So now instead of going into attack mode every time I see some, I let it be and do a complete pass through the garden when the quantity of it merits.

Here's another example. We have such masses of spring bulbs here (especially winter aconite, snowdrops and bluebells) that when they start to die back the garden looks a bit shabby. In the past I have cut back individual plants as they reach the point of no return, but now I pretty much wait for the bulk of them to reach that point, then I clear them all out (the exception being when they are smothering other perennials just getting started). That's way less work. It means living with a bit of a mess for a while...



...but it also means I can stress less and enjoy more.

That's especially important given that the Annual Spring Arthritis Flare-Up seems to be a regular fixture in my life - just when there's lots of work to do, and just when I'm excited to be getting down to it, my joints require me to carefully weigh the necessity of each task.

Working smarter, and not being in such a rush to clear out my beds, means I have had more opportunity to enjoy the special beauty of blooms past their prime, like the wonky tulip at the top of the post. Which is also smarter, because none of us is getting younger.  So in a spirit of affection and respect for all the ages in my garden, here are a few blooms ageing gracefully.


 


Looking for the really funny "Gotta love that cupholder" post? I'm so sorry, but because of technical issues I threw up my hands and deleted the post. But it was funny. Really, really funny. I'm still laughing...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fairy godparents in the garden


A few weeks ago our neighbour's dad visited them for a week, and while he was there he pruned their entire orchard. We were sort of hoping he wouldn't realize the friendly fence between us actually marks a property line, and would continue his pruning roll right on into our orchard, but he didn't.

We know the magic of visiting parents willing to pitch in. On her very first visit to Mucky Boots my non-gardening mom weeded the entire strawberry patch, obliterating every trace of the wood sorrel that had infested it. And my dad contributed to my combat-perfectionism-by-enjoying-my-garden-more campaign by assembling new garden loungers that came in a million parts, with nothing but his engineering expertise and some badly translated instructions.



The magic of visiting parents indeed. Fairy godparents in the garden. And we're being visited by some now: Kim's folks are visiting us from Ontario, and, bless his heart, her dad is a gardener and brought his pruners.



Their very first morning here they were on a mission: Ken watered, shovelled compost and spread straw mulch while Saundra helped me plant squash. And that was just the first morning. The next day Kim fired up Johnny D and loaded up the trailer with compost, and then she and her dad started in on the backlog of plants waiting to be transplanted while Saundra weeded, kept us all hydrated, and kept me and my sore joints from overdoing it.


Friends in the garden are as good as fairy godparents, and we were also visited by some of them on the weekend: Margaret and Julie came for tea.



This was Julie's first visit to Mucky Boots, and it was so much fun trailing after her as she recognized historic landmarks from her faithful blog reading: "Oh, that's the chicken door Kim had to crawl through when she locked herself in the coop!"

When the tour was done we had tea in the garden.





Those amazing lilacs aren't ours - Ken bought them for us at the farmer's market, to help me celebrate my new sense of smell.



Tea was accompanied by a treat, of course: rhubarb coffee cake made especially for Margaret, who thinks rhubarb merits its own food group. She has a point.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Clean


You would be excused if right now you're wondering whether we took the glass out of our kitchen window, it's so see-through.

No, it's there. But it's clean. So clean you can hardly see it. Last week we had our windows washed - all of them, inside and out - for the first time since we moved here. And lest you think we're complete slobs, we have done spot cleaning. The French doors onto the verandah, for example, that are normally covered in Frankie's nose prints. But most of the windows, and all the skylights, require ladders - big, tall ladders - for cleaning, and somehow that has just never been a priority.

What makes it even better is that it was a gift from my mom, whose speciality is the kind of slightly self-indulgent present on which the recipient would have a hard time spending money, but that is an instant quality of life enhancer.

A nice day spent watching someone else wrestle with ladders and buckets and sloping roofs. And now sunshine coming through sparkly windows and all the beauty of the garden on display. That's some present. Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tulip Parade 2013


This is an annual event at Mucky Boots: the cataloguing of the year's entrants in the Tulip Parade. You'd think this would be repetitious, because it's not as if I plant any bulbs. So you'd expect the same tulips, appearing in the same locations as last year. And there is some of that. But there are also many surprises: tulips I swear I have never seen before, or in locations they've never been before. Someone has a sense of humour, and I'm guessing it's Mother Nature.



Tulips are the flowers that make me want to be a painter. An impressionist painter. Because when I step out the door and see the mass of green punctuated with bright splashes of colour from all the tulips, and when I try yet again to capture it on camera and fail yet again to capture what I see, I think the license I could take as a painter might allow me to show you how magical it is.

But for now, here is the Parade.




















And because they don't get their own parade and the tulips feel sorry for them, here are some tag-a-long columbines.



Oh, and the tulips have also asked me to include a photo of the anemones my friend Elisabeth gave me last year, because they are newcomers to the garden and the tulips want them to feel welcome.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lilac


Today is a happy, happy day at Mucky Boots. Yes, the sun is shining, and it's gloriously warm (the thermometer on the porch is reading 29 degrees - in May, no less). But all that is secondary to something I have been waiting for for years: the lilacs are blooming and filling the air with their scent and I can smell them.

Until my sinus surgery last fall I had virtually no sense of smell for years. Years and years. And of all the scents I missed, the only one that made me want to cry was missing the perfume of lilacs blossoming in the spring. Well, it's spring, and they are flowering, and I can't keep my nose out of them for more than ten minutes, making up for all those years of lost sniffing.



Lilacs!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to turn orange in 30 days

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I have been on an elimination diet for the last six weeks or so in an attempt to figure out if anything I eat exacerbates my arthritis. I have a suspicion there is, and I have a good idea what it might be, but I thought I would try a systematic approach so I can find out for sure.

The program I am following can be found here, and it works like any elimination diet: you begin by restricting yourself to a small number of  foods least likely to be causing problems, and then once your symptoms have subsided you slowly add foods, one at a time, watching for any kind of reaction. The plan sets out three groups of food - Phase I, which should be safe for most people, Phase II which has foods that are more problematic, and then Phase III which contains the heavy hitters like dairy and gluten and nuts.

For someone with a chronic inflammatory condition like the arthritis I have, the suggestion is to stay on Phase I for at least 30 days. I won't bore you with all the other details, but what you need to know (for the purposes of this post) is that many of the Phase I foods are orange.

Sweet potatoes. Squash. Carrots. Peaches. Orange, orange, orange, orange. Yes, there are green foods too - green beans, peas, broccoli and zucchini. But ever since I regained my sense of smell I don't like broccoli, and zucchini is a stretch.


Here is a typical meal: chicken, rice and veg.


Here is another typical meal: chicken, rice and veg. Sigh.

I know I am not too compromised nutritionally because I am also taking a hypo-allergenic supplement while my diet is so restricted. The problem is, I am turning orange.

This first came to my attention about Day 30, when Kim was walking behind me and said "Your ears are orange."

"No," I said.

"Yes," she said.

"No they're not," I said.

"Yes, they are. You're turning orange," she said.

Then a couple of days later, when I was taking off my gardening gloves, I noticed that my palms had a distinct orange hue. I moved to a different light. Still orange.


I cook my orange vegetables in bulk these days.
If I had to choose between being orange and having arthritis pain I know what my choice would be. But still, I think it might be time to start eating some kale.
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