Saturday, 18 May 2019

Saturday Photo: The Flowers That Don't Bloom in May, Trala!

Work on replacing lead water pipes leading into our 116 year old house continues.  Ten days ago the city replaced the ones on its side of the property line because a leak had developed.  This week we completed the work by replacing those going into the house.

All seems well--except that during the  time that a hole was open in the foundation to allow the water pipe to be changed, a pesky critter entered, it seems. 

About twilight, a mouse skittered across the kitchen floor, apparently having come upstairs from the basement.  Drat!  We've had them in the fall when a door was inadvertently left open and one of them, seeking a warm place to pass the winter, decided to move in.  But this is the first time in the spring.  Have traps set all over: such a nuisance!

And as you can see, the front garden is pretty well trashed.  This weekend I'll bring out some big house plants and place them strategically, but the effect is not going to be the usual! The other photo is of bee balm that most years is quite nice, but I think it has been trashed. Well, gardens are always a work in progress...

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Saturday Photo: The Flowers that Come in May...

This long, wet season is finally improving, and I saw this glorious display this morning. 

The garden centres are full of plants, and the elementary school our kids went to is holding a plant and flower sale today.  But I think I'll wait before I put anything outside.  In this year of fickle weather, this time of climate change, anything can happen!

Friday, 3 May 2019

Saturday Photo: The Front Garden This Summer

Those two round blue things in the middle of the photo are what are called bonhommes  à eau here. They're the valves to turn off the water coming into our house and into our neighbors. The name comes, I think, from the way they frequently are put in so that they stick up above the ground, sort of like a little man.  Or that's what I figure since  I haven't been able to find a proper explanation

The gravel surrounding them are what the front garden is going to look like for most of the summer.  Usually we have an exuberant mass of perennials growing--hosta, golden rod, asters and many other things whose names I've forgotten. But because the city is going to do more work on water lines this summer, it will be July or August before we get a chance to replace some of the gravel with earth.

Well, I suppose we should be pleased that we have piped water of good quality, and that some of the plants will continue to grow.  It ma be a long summer though...

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Saturday Photo: Plant a Tree Day...Or Plan to Plant One

Back when I was a kid in California Arbor Day was a big thing.  In our windswept, semi-arid neighborhood, we were encouraged to plant trees, particularly around Arbor Day which was, I see from Facebook friends, April 26, or yesterday. 

In this climate it's too early to plant trees--must wait a few weeks to make sure the ground is completely thawed and/or the floods have receded--but I've been thinking of doing that.

The lower photo is of the bumper crop of ornamental oranges we got two years ago.  The grandkids and I harvested them and Jeanne and I made marmalade which wasn't half bad.  Then we planted some of the seeds we'd salvaged in little pots.

It took about three months for them to germinate and several more months for the seedlings to grow large enough to be separated and transplanted into pots.  They now are growing to respectable size.  The other photo is of two of them, happy in our sunny entry.  (The tulips were chosen by Jeanne as an Easter gift, by the way.  She and her two cousins also each took home a little seedling on Easter.) 

We'll see how the seedlings I've kept do this summer.  The tree from which they were propagated was started maybe 20 years ago by my son.  I'll take outside as soon as the weather gets warmer.  But no question of planting it there, alas!  This is not the climate.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Saturday Photo: The Beauty of Natural Easter Eggs, or an Ethical Contradiction?

This is not the first time I've posted this photo.  It dates from 2015, actually, and shows four eggs I'd dyed red according to the recipe my old Latvian neighbour gave me.  All you need is onion skins, water, vinegar and eggs: you boil them for about 15 minutes, let them sit for a while longer, and you get this wonderful colour.

That year Easter was April 5, a whole two weeks earlier than this year, and snow had lingered in the front yard.  I posed the eggs with a couple of Dollar Store decorations, and the result is rather pretty, I think.

But this morning I'm wondering about the little gimcracks.  What were the working conditions of the people who turned them out?  What is the environmental footprint of shipping them across the ocean (because I'm sure they came from China)?  Why did I think I was so clever to make Easter egg dye, but didn't think about the ethical implications of  the rest of my little mise en scène?

The contradiction continues.  The grandkids will be over tomorrow and I bought little Easter bunny headband/hats for them yesterday at the same Dollar Store.  I've sure they'll like them because they love the Santa reindeer ones I bought a few years ago.  But I made my purchase without thinking of the people (perhaps children) who may have been working in a sweat shop to turn them out.

What to do? Be a more thoughtful consumer, first of all.  After that, I'm not sure.  One argument runs that buying things from poorer countries will ultimately raise the standard of living there.  Another is that such purchases should not be made.  Certainly I'm not going to throw out either the bunny ears or the little chicks (which I still have, they last quite a long time if you only bring them out once a year). Doing that would just be more wasteful.  And in the immediate future--like 10 minutes from now--I'm going to dye some more eggs red with onion skins.

Happy spring time holiday, whichever  one you are celebrating, right around now.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Saturday Photo: What a Difference a Day Makes...

Crazy week:  freezing rain that left 200,000 people north of Montreal without power for a couple of days, followed by a quick thaw and Spring!

The first photo was taken in Mount Royal Cemetery on Wednesday, and the second the next day just down the hill on Côte Ste-Catherine road.

There were more disturbing reports on climate change too.  Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, it seems, and there isn't much we can do about it...except try to prepare for weather extremes.

Temperature at the moment in Montreal:  13 C.  Time to think about work in the garden?

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Saturday Photo: The Importance of Keeping the Hard Copy...

The fellow in the middle is my maternal grandfather, J.F. McDonald--or at least that's the name he used for the last 50 years of his life.  It was taken when he was working on the Great Northern Railroad about 1916 or 17 in White Fish, Montana.  That it still exists as testimony to times past is wonderful, but documents like this may become increasingly rare.

I was reminded of this by an article in the New York Times this morning.  "Does Anyone Collect Old Emails?" Peter Funt asks."My two kids, now in their 20s, have mostly digital keepsakes. Increasingly they rely on Facebook and the cloud to store memories. Their letters from college, sent by email, are long gone. Many photos, never printed, have disappeared. I worry that for them, personal history already doesn’t reach back as far as it should."

It used to be that libraries had collections called "ephemera" that included all sorts of things like playbills, menus, pamphlets, sometimes letters. They may still, for all I know, but the problem of saving what we have around us is growing since so many of the things that a collector might give to an archive, a museum,  a library or even a family photo album are far more emphemeral these days.  They are gone in a key stroke, never to be seen again.

This is a shame, so here's my manifesto for today: print that photo you took yesterday or that series of emails you sent to your children or your sweetheart!  You--or someone in the future--will be glad you did.