Sunday, May 29, 2022

Sunny Sunday Evening


Today is my parents' 67th wedding anniversary. How young they look - my mother was just 18. 
Regarding my previous post about my childhood home, someone asked if my parents still lived in that home. No, they don't. We moved from there the year I turned 13. My parents were having a larger home built, but before we could move into it, my father was transferred to another town in the Interior of BC, and that's where I spent my high school years, and met my husband. 
My parents now live in the Fraser Valley region of BC, where they themselves grew up and still have lots of siblings and friends. My two siblings also live nearby. We joke in the family that I'm still living "overseas" because I'm on an island, although not nearly as far away as I once was in Ecuador! 

I've been doing a little sewing lately. We purchased a travel trailer, used, just when Covid began, and we're very glad we did. But the interior was all brown upholstery and I found it rather dark and dreary. I stitched new upholstery covers and cushions to brighten it up. The table is off just now because Tim is replacing the dark tabletop with a brighter one. 

Iris will be having her third birthday soon, and requested a nightgown similar to the flannel pajamas I made for Christmas.
I found some fun fabric with pink zebras, swinging monkeys, flowered hippos, and other animals, and stitched up a new nightgown. Then I thought it would be fun to make her a tutu skirt for dressing-up play. Of course, if I made one for Iris, her little sister, Cora, would want one, too, so I made two of them, one smaller than the other. I think they will enjoy playing with them. 

Now, around 7:30 pm, bright sunshine slants in through one side of the house, and shadows play on the living room wall. It's been very windy all day, and rather chill at times. But the warmth of the sun seems to be increasing, and I'm so very pleased about that. 

An early peony, red, bloomed lush and full. I cut a bouquet last week, and yesterday, while sitting reading, I heard a soft plop as most of the petals fell in one swoop onto the fireplace hearth. The later peonies are slowly forming fat blossoms and they will be pink and white. 

Columbine, Siberian Iris, California Poppy, and White Alliums are currently blooming. I planted the alliums a number of years ago and they bloomed one year and never again. I thought they had died, but this year, with the cedar hedge removed, they shot up and produced some lovely blooms. The bees enjoy them, too. The unnamed rose in our front garden produced the first roses, as usual. Lots of buds are forming on Gertrude Jekyll and Boscobel, too. 

We've been eating radishes, baby spinach, and arugula (rocket). I planted them at Easter, and the cool weather slowed down their growth. 

Tomorrow begins another week of teaching - just three weeks remaining. It's flown by, mostly enjoyable, but I'm ready to retire for good this time. 

I hope your week is full of lovely moments. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Friday Thoughts: On Walking to School


A bunny sits very still as I pass, hoping to escape notice

When I was 3-1/2 years old, and my sister just 13 months younger, my parents bought their first home. It was brand new, surrounded by other new homes along a not-yet-paved street, partially stuccoed, with wood siding painted in turquoise circling the house like a pretty ribbon.  Small by today's standards, it was a split level, with a living room and dining room with smooth hardwood floors, and a kitchen on the main floor. A short flight of stairs led upstairs to three bedrooms and a bathroom. Under the bedrooms was a full-height basement where my mother had her wringer washer, and later, automatic machines. The house was situated on a 1/3-acre lot which soon had green grass in the front and part of the back, with a large vegetable garden behind. 

Hawthorn now in bloom, perfuming the air

I started Grade One, not kindergarten, just before turning 5 years old. The school was half a mile from our home, and according to my mother, I insisted on walking without her from the very beginning. Like many children, my first grade teacher was my heroine, and could do nothing wrong. "Mrs. Cook says this," and "Mrs. Cook says that" must have been quite tiresome for my parents. 

When other children moved onto our street, we walked to school together summer and winter. My mother insisted that my sister and I wear dresses to school, even in the winter. Warm pants were worn underneath our dresses and removed in the cloakroom. 

A cluster of Camas Lilies in a Garry Oak meadow

For part of the way to and from school each day, we passed fields of asparagus. Asparagus spread and filled the roadsides with green stalks in the spring, and later, tall ferns. Oddly, no one picked the asparagus, and I wonder about that now. It wasn't as popular a vegetable for us as it is now. 

The variegated Weigela in front of the house puts on an extravagant show each May-June. The bees are very busy there just now. I prune the bush after the blooms fall off, and it grows back just as luxuriously the next spring. 

While walking one day this week, I met clusters of children en route to school, accompanied by parents. Others descended from cars or busses. Seeing them caused me to think about my own getting-to-school experiences. 

Did you walk or bus? Did your parents drive you to school? 

We have a few plans for this weekend, including dinner with friends. I'm providing dessert and have been pondering what to make. Whatever your plans, I hope they bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunny Days


Along the path where I often walk, native Camas Lilies (camas quamash) bloom in clouds of blue. Morning shadows lie long across the brown trail. For the past couple of weeks I've been out walking in the morning, trying to catch the best weather. It feels good to get my first 5000 steps in before 8:30.

The lily bulbs were a staple in the First Nations Peoples' diet. Pit roasting the bulbs results in a soft, buttery, nutlike flavour that is highly prized. The bulbs are eaten freshly roasted, or dried and pounded into flour. 

Harvest time only occurs when the blue flower is visible, for another similar bulb, with white flowers, is known as the Death Camas. I have a small patch of Camas Lilies in my garden, but they are not yet in bloom, and I do not plan to eat them!

On Thursday morning, I came to a rather abrupt halt when faced with a massive tangle of a downed Garry Oak tree. A fierce windstorm the night before uprooted the tree and tossed it like a matchstick across the trail. I debated turning back, but instead clambered over the branches and thick trunk, and continued on my way pondering the power of the wind.  

It's a long weekend here, and extra long for me. Friday was a Pro-D day at school, but I'm exempt, so I spent the day in the garden. The sun shone and the birds sang as I planted and weeded and watered. I was so happy to see several types of bees among the flowers. Tomorrow, Monday, I plan to spend more time out there, tidying my potting bench and the patio. There's no hurry to pull out the patio furniture, however, as clouds, rain, and cool temperatures are forecast for the rest of the week. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Boats and Lilacs


We belong to a small boating group with the only criteria being that the members have to have owned, at some point, an Albin boat. Quite a number of these Swedish-made boats were imported to British Columbia in the 1970s, and ours is one of them. They are small and very sea-worthy. 

Between May and September several rendezvous bring a number of Albin boats and owners together. We enjoy chatting, and there is a lot of looking at boats and engines and other boring-to-me things, as well as a potluck barbecue one night. This past weekend was one such meet-up. On Saturday morning we pulled out from the dock in the pouring rain and made our way to Port Browning, about 1.5 hours away. In the end, it was a small, select group of four boats, each with two people. Rain and wind caused quite a few to cancel. 

Late afternoon the skies brightened and I took a few photos. We stood and watched the heron hunting for a few moments. How quick he is, darting that menacing beak into the mud with ferocious accuracy and coming up with a bite to gulp. 

In recent posts I may have mentioned been whining about the chilly weather. I felt vindicated when I read that this is the coldest May in 100 years. Farmers are worried about their crops and the lack of bees.  

The cold weather caused we hardy sailors to cancel the barbecue plans and eat dinner together in the pub, seen above. We were warm, dry, and much more comfortable. 

Apple blossom in the evening light is a beautiful sight. The rain returned with a vengeance on Sunday morning as we made our way back to our island. It was so lovely to take a hot shower and put on warm clothes at home. 

Today we are between systems. I watch the clouds moving in, covering this morning's blue sky, and I'm glad I went for a walk early. As I type, the lilacs outside my window wave at me. 

My piano is being tuned this morning. The tuner came last Tuesday and after a bit asked me if I wanted an adequate tuning, or a really good one. It was VERY out of tune. The really good tuning requires this second visit. A job worth doing is worth doing well! Even last week's tuning was a great improvement. I'm looking forward to playing more often now that it sounds better. 

There is a vase filled with lilacs on the mantel. How lovely they smell when I walk through the room. Their season is so short that I make every effort to enjoy it to the full.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday Thoughts on Writing


Outside my window this morning layers of white and grey clouds drift inland from the Pacific, promising more rain. The garden is lush with green, but the flowers are slower to open because of the chilly spring temperatures. But wisteria hangs in fragrant clusters over the garden shed and just standing under it is intoxicating. 

Every spring I smile at the way fig trees begin to leaf out from the very tips of their branches, looking like butterflies about to fly off. 

In a writing group I belong to, the question of the month is "What writing projects make your heart sing?" I've been thinking long and hard about this topic and have come to a few conclusions. 

I love writing this blog. Few of my real life friends read it, along with a few family members, but for the most part, I've never met my readers face to face. Yet something connects us. How could that connection be defined? I'm still thinking about that one. 

I love writing about nature, and combining words with images. Not in a scientific way, but just observing the wonders of creation - what goes on in my garden, and in the geographies I visit. 

I love writing little stories about my life - short interactions with strangers, or sweet things I observe about my grandchildren.

Yesterday I went for a walk with Iris and Cora. Cora is slow to talk, but doesn't miss a beat. I mentioned the word 'park' at her house and she made a beeline for the door. Later, on the walk, she stopped occasionally to cup her little hand behind her even tinier ear as if to say, "I hear something" - a dog or construction machinery, or a bird, and she nods vigorously, and says 'yes', when I mention what it is. 

Not all stories make it to the blog, of course. I'm working on a memoir of our family's time in Ecuador. It's been derailed by teaching this semester, but I will soon continue work on it. 

I love to write the kinds of things I love to read - mysteries (they are hard to write!), poetry, essays or paragraphs about food and home-keeping, stories of the past and the present.

In my collected quotations this one, again by L. M. Montgomery in Anne's House of Dreams, where Anne is conversing with Gilbert, perhaps describes my favourite writing projects best, 

"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. 
"I don't exactly want to make people know more...
I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time 
because of have some little joy
or happy thought that would never have existed 
if I hadn't been born."

I'll leave you with one last cloud of fragrant wisteria, and wish you all a lovely weekend. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Early May in the Garden


The bright sunshine outside my window looks like spring, but the chilly blast that greets me when I step out the door assures me that we're still below normal temperature for the season. Looking on the positive side - the tulips and rhododendrons are lasting longer than usual. 

And the lilacs are in bloom! I have a small vase on the window ledge beside my computer and the fragrance is so sweet. Lilacs make me think of Anne of Green Gables. One of my favourite things about L.M. Montgomery's writing is how in tune with the seasons she was. Anne's affinity for the natural world is evident in every book in the Green Gable series - she delights in blossoms and light, and mourns the loss of beautiful trees. She said, "The world looks like something God had just imagined for his own pleasure, doesn't it?"

In 2016 Tim had a business trip out to Prince Edward Island, and we took a week's vacation before his conference. It was June, and a very late spring on PEI. A friend took me to the Green Gables site and I was so pleased to see the lilacs blooming all around the white house. 

More than lilacs are blooming in my garden just now. There are hopes of strawberries, the wisteria is draped over the garden shed in profusely scented clusters, and tulips still stand proudly. Little Italian Wall Lizards are awakening from their winter sleep and scampering all over the garden. They are invasive and I do wish there was some way to be rid of them. A number of years ago a man had a private zoo in our area and when he died, or was done with the zoo, the lizards were set loose. They have multiplied like crazy and are spreading throughout the south island. 

Cornflowers (centaurea montana) are also considered invasive here, but I enjoy seeing them in my garden. They are easy enough to control here, and I haven't seen many of them while out in the woods. How happy I was to see a half-dozen bees busy about the blue flowers on Sunday. It's been so cold that many insects have not yet appeared. We have done some pollinating with a paintbrush on our apricot and apple trees. 

I'll leave you with a quote from Anne, "Dear old world, you are very lovely and I am glad to be alive in you." 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Tulips on a Whim


On the spur of the moment, I took myself out to Butchart Gardens yesterday morning. A bit of mizzle covered the car windshield as I drove and I wondered if the rain would continue. It did not, although the sky was heavy all day. Let's walk together through this beautiful site. 

As we walk from the parking lot, through the trellised walkway and into the patio surrounding the cafĂ© and gift store, you might, as I did, feel the corners of your mouth lifting involuntarily. It's such a happy place with huge pots of tulip adding colour to the patio. 

As we enter the gardens themselves, wave after wave of tulip heads nods a welcome. Stand still for a bit, to simply admire the explosion of colour and texture. Behind the tulip beds blooms rhododendrons and azaleas, and a few late prunus trees. You will feel like you are inside a painting. 

The fountain waves a cheery greeting at all of us behind not-quite-open tulips. 

Behind an open gate blooms bright pink tulips. There are so many wonderful combinations - fuschia tulips planted with white hyacinths, lots of blue or pink or white forget-me-nots underplanted with red, yellow, or pink tulips. Some beds focus on contrast; other beds are more monochrome. 

Delicately scented narcissus still bloom in many beds, interspersing the glowing tulips with paler shades. 

Many of these photos were taken in the Sunken Garden, seen above from a small shelter where we stand admiring the flowing colour below. Just under the center red flower you might notice a pair of black legs. Three employees stood in front of one of the beds, each of them holding a three-ring binder and a variety of flower catalogues. I heard them talking about "not variegated here" and "dahlias". As we passed by, we complimented them on their design work. 

Isn't it beautiful how your eye is drawn further into the garden to the narrowing river of tulips surrounded by shrubs and trees? Along with plenty to admire, there is much to learn here.  

Along with many hues and tints, the tulips display a wide variety of shapes and textures. There are ruffled petals, fringed petals, short round blossoms, tall thin blossoms, and everything in between. With our cool spring, the tulips are lasting a long time, and there are still plenty of tightly closed buds. 

We exit through the Italian Gardens where mass plantings of single colours fill each geometric bed. Our mouths are still curved up, as the beauty of this place stays with us for a long time, filling our minds and hearts.

There was no time for tea this morning, but you can be sure there will be another visit soon.   

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Wildflowers in the Woods


(photos enhanced with a digital watercolour pencil effect)

A very quick post this evening. This afternoon we went on a hike in the woods with our eldest daughter, her husband, and their daughter. We walked 10 km (7 miles) in 3.5 hours. My daughter and I were busy taking photos and were told that if we didn't stop we would be in the woods until quite late. So we hustled more on the last half of the hike.

So many wildflowers are blooming just now - from left to right on the top: Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary, Trillium, Yellow Wood Violet. On the bottom there is a Lady's Slipper Orchid, and unfurling fern, and Wild Bleeding Hearts. 

I'm sure we'll sleep well tonight after all the exercise and fresh air. What a beautiful world we live in. 

Days Not at Home

  Last Wednesday morning we boarded a plane for The Netherlands, landing midday on Thursday, Amsterdam time. After figuring out our e-sims a...