Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Last Day of October


Late October. The air is crisp and clear. Frosty mornings that melt into sun-drenched afternoons. Leaves, gold, red, and brown carpet the wooded trails. They ruffle the edges of the road, and I cannot resist scuffling in them. 

We put out our birdfeeder over the weekend and birds of all feathers came to visit - sleek nuthatches, tiny bushtits, scrappy sparrows and House Finches, chickadees and Spotted Towhees. A Northern Flicker stopped by several times, along with a Stellar's Jay. It was a bird party, or maybe a conference to discuss the arrival of the cold. 

My parents were here over the weekend and what a good time we had. Lots of family visiting, a puzzle to work on, games to play, and lunch out at a restaurant overlooking white sailboats perfectly reflected in the still blue water. 

Yesterday was my birthday. A fairly quiet day, with a promise of celebrations in a couple of weeks together with a couple of other family members. Lots of loving messages and greetings came my way. Now it's Halloween. Fewer trick or treaters than last year. In the distance I hear the crackle and pop of fireworks. 

And so ends October. Tomorrow is November, a quiet month, although the calendar is beginning to fill up with a few fun things. Soon it will be time to think of Christmas preparations, but for tonight I'm admiring the flickering candle on the table and the low flame in the fireplace. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Favourites


Fuschia blooming against the dancing fountain at Butchart Gardens

A quiet Friday afternoon with sunshine streaming in the living room window. One granddaughter, with a half day of school, sits reading on the floor. My mother, on the couch, stitches a quilted placemat. Outside, my father putters with Tim. I chat a little, then write a little. 

A chilly wind riffles the red and green leaves of the acer outside. Bright blue skies belie the temperature which dropped Wednesday night, bringing us two nights of frost. Having read the forecast, I took myself to Butchart Gardens. While wandering the paths I noticed several groups of people planting bulbs, hyacinths and tulips, for next spring. The gardeners tossed bulbs onto the prepared soil from big buckets, later tamping them into the ground. In other spots, people were busy stringing lights for the Christmas displays. 

Leaves created a colourful carpet under the trees, leaves that lifted and danced when caught by a breeze. 

Heart-shaped leaves and shadows on a grey wall. 

And the long border of dahlias still so showy, glowed in the sunlight. I wonder how they look now after the frosty nights. 

Curtains of colour marked with dark sculptural lines. 

This morning we took a trip to Goldstream Park. The salmon run is just beginning. Leaves twirl from the trees to the ground or water. 

I recently read this article The Lovely World of Susan Branch which may interest you if you are a follower of Susan Branch. 

Enjoy these last days of this most beautiful month. As Anne of Green Gables once said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

Monday, October 23, 2023

October Favourites


Lake Huron, late September

Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is filled with leaves
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves.
Humbert Wolfe

The wind is indeed rising today and cooler, wetter, windier weather is in the forecast. I love it. Every season has its delights and I thought I'd share some of my October favourites. 

A List: October Favourites, 
in no particular order

1. apples - good in cake, pies, crisps, and salads
2. layering up with sweaters 
3. the sound of rain on the roof at bedtime
4. lighting a candle for the table
5. scuffling through crunchy leaves
6. sunshine on the water
7. the glow of light through autumn leaves
8. walking with my husband
9. dried hydrangea blossoms
10. reading in a pool of lamplight
11. homemade soup
12. a cozy throw or shawl
13. cups of tea in bone china mugs
14. tending my houseplants
15. leaves swirling in the wind

And one more thing to share. I walked with a friend this morning and rounding a corner on the path, we saw a flurry of feathers as a startled Barred Owl flew a short distance from us. Unafraid he watched us, occasionally tilting his head, just as we watched him and told him how lovely he was. What a special thing to see in my favourite month!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

To Plan or Not To Plan


Although only one blade is visible, others are added when the windmill is put into use.

I'm a planner. I like to make lists, check off items as they are accomplished, and generally know where I'm headed in my day. Except on vacation. We had a rough idea of the things we wanted to see on our cross-Canada trip, but details were very sketchy. When I read about Isle aux Coudres in a tourist brochure, we thought it would be a fun place to visit. Sandy beaches and a 22-kilometre bicycle ride around the island attracted our attention. We drove to Baie-St. Paul and took a ferry to the island. In the rain. 

Water is brought from the pond to the waterwheel inside the stone building. The miller and his family lived in the adjoining house. 

Alas, the beaches were drenched with rain and cycling was out of the question. Instead, we visited Les Moulins de L'Isle aux Coudres - The Mills of Coudres Island. On this small island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River a waterwheel and a windmill still grind grain in the old fashioned way. It was a fascinating glimpse into the way life used to be lived. 

A small bridge over the stream accesses the inner workings of the waterwheel.

Jacques Cartier was the first European visitor to the island in 1535. He named it for the plentiful coudriers, an old French word for hazelnut trees. Later, in 1687, a monastery was established on the island, followed by granting land concessions to settlers. At that time, grain grown on the island had to be taken to the mainland by canoe, a journey of about two miles. It wasn't until 1825 that a watermill was constructed. However, with unstable water to supply the mill, a windmill was also constructed on the site in 1836, providing two power sources for grinding the all-important grain. 

Old millstones lie here and there on the grounds; some used as planters for flowers and herbs. The mill continues to grind grain. Jerome Desgagne, a modern miller says, "Every time I fire up the millstone to grind wheat, I think of our ancestors who needed to feed the island families with this flour that was their food staple." 

A modern house seen from the moss-covered stone windmill.

An old stone building sinks oh, so slowly into the ground. 

A cross marks the spot where Jacques Cartier erected a similar cross in 1535, and also marks the final resting place of sailors who succumbed to the difficulties of the long sea voyage. 

I bought a bag of fine whole wheat flour from the mill and kept it in the freezer on our trip. Today, finally, I baked four French bread loaves from the flour. They tasted just fine! 

Our spontaneous adventure to Isle aux Coudres was a great success in spite of the rain. Tell me, do you plan your vacations or do you decide at the moment? 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Autumn Things of Note


Misty mornings and bright afternoons. Breezes that swirl with golden leaves. Drizzling rain. And dahlias. I was so pleased to see plenty of dahlias lighting up the garden on our return home. I'm cutting flowers for the house every few days. 

The garden has needed some serious work and we've cut and trimmed, pulled and pruned. I love how the colour of hydrangeas vary on one plant. The stems above are from one of the bluest of summer flowers that turn to ruddy reddish purple in late summer. But the sheltered flowers underneath the huge bush are this gorgeous lime green with violet accents. In my mind, stunning.

Aren't they amazing? The little purple bits look like butterflies swooping in to land. I'm hoping the colour will be preserved as they dry. So far, so good. 

October is full of celebrations, one of which is Thanksgiving. I made two pumpkin pies from my mom's old recipe that she wrote out at least 45 years ago. Now she sends me links, or types recipes to share. I love the handwritten ones best.

I still have an old-fashioned recipe box (actually two of them, wooden, made by Tim) and when I pull out a recipe with a family member or friend's name on it, I'm reminded of them, and often of the first time I tasted the dish. 

Anyways, back to pumpkin pies. I read a tip to add some freshly ground black pepper to the pie mixture, so I tried that. Everyone agreed the pie was good, but whether it was better than before, who knows?  An apple cream cheese tart was also baked for those who don't care for pumpkin pie. Both were served with clouds of whipped cream. So, so good. 

Here it is Saturday morning. The annular solar eclipse was visible between cloudy periods. I was reminded of seeing an eclipse when we lived in the jungle of Ecuador. Thousands of tiny eclipse shadows danced on the ground outside our home as the light filtered through the leaves of a tree. I looked for a similar occurrence today, but didn't see anything similar. 

Today I'm doing some laundry and baking a cheesecake for tonight's dinner with friends. October is a good month for a bit of fall cleaning - windows and such are in desperate need of washing after a hot dusty summer. He'll do the outside, I'll do the inside. A good division of labour! After the work there will be tired satisfaction and definitely a cup of tea. 

Monday, October 09, 2023

Quebec City

Cloudy skies. A few welcome raindrops. Milky chai tea. A quiet house. It's Thanksgiving Monday here, and celebrating yesterday means for tranquility today. It was lovely to be together with our children and grandchildren.  

The Chateau Frontenac and lower old Quebec City as seen from across the St. Lawrence River.

Shall we take a short visit to Quebec City today? The tie-in to today's weather is the rain. Here it's a drizzle, but the first day of our time in QC was filled with pouring rain. 

We stayed across the river from the old city, in a campground that provided a free shuttle to the 10-minute ferry ride that dropped us off at a most convenient spot for exploring. 

We wandered through the streets - there's Tim with an umbrella under the parasols - and thoroughly enjoyed the charming old stone houses with their painted doors and shutters. 

Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City in 1608 and the French have maintained a presence in North America since that date. The Lower Town, near the river, became the economic hub of New France as trade via sea supplied the people with goods and supplies. Administration and religion were centered in the Upper Town, a steep, but short walk up from the river. 

The Place Royale is considered the birthplace of New France. The outline of Samuel de Champlain's house can be seen. Originally, the buildings were made of wood, but a fire in 1686 destroyed most of the area. Authorities insisted that houses then be built of stone, with common walls to be higher than the rooftops to prevent the spread of fire.

From the Upper Town one can look over the old defense wall to streets and buildings below. We took a bus tour of the city, but it was frustrating to not be able to see out of the windows because of the pouring rain and fogged glass. We preferred to get wet and still see something. I loved the window boxes filled with greenery and flowers, so pretty against the stone buildings.

Just outside the old city lie the Plains of Abraham where the decisive battle between Britain and France was fought in 1759, during the Seven Years War. Both the French commander, General Montcalm, and the British commander, General Wolfe, were killed during the 30-minute battle won by the British. 

The Plains of Abraham make up a small part of The Battlefields Park which stretches along the cliff overlooking the river for some 2.4 kilometres. There are markers indicating the spot where Wolfe died (Montcalm was carried off the battlefield and died shortly after). 

The Martello Tower above was constructed in 1806, one of four defensive towers as conflict with the USA was heating up. We visited the park on a cloudy day, but the rain held off. It's now a peaceful place for relaxation and play.  

Maison Jacquet was constructed in 1675-76 and is one of the oldest buildings in the Upper Town. It's now a restaurant where we enjoyed a traditional Quebecois meal, including meat pie (tourtiĆ©re) and cabbage and turnip. It was a delicious, but heavy meal, reflecting the heartier food of the past. 

On our last day in Quebec City we cycled along the river opposite the city, enjoying the glimpses of the town seen between the trees and cottages we passed. 

I would love to visit the city again, perhaps flying next time. Driving across Canada was fantastic, but something to do just once, methinks. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Home Again


An old-style wheelbarrow at Fort Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

I couldn't help smiling as we turned into our street. Arriving home after a lovely adventure is one of the best parts of travel. We walked through our front door late on Monday night after spending a day with my parents on the mainland. 

That first evening, in the dark, I took a tour of my garden. Dahlias are going strong, there are a few zinnias and roses. Lots of purple Concord grapes and some very sweet green ones whose name escapes me. 

Fishing floats dangling in the sun

Since then we've been busy - clearing out the camping trailer, laundry, shopping for groceries - and to complicate matters, our daughter-in-law broke her ankle Tuesday morning. Surgery was today. Family is pulling together with meals and chauffeur duties. 

Beautiful views from a cliff on Newfoundland

When I have enough of inside duties, I go out to the garden for a stint of clipping and weeding. There is a lot to be done and the weather is cooperating. Roses have grown long thorny branches that I am cutting ruthlessly. I'm eyeing the apples - our children have assured us that they have picked all they need and we've offered them to others, but there is still a goodly amount to be made into applesauce and pies. All in good time.

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. The children have everything organized and we were tasked to bring drinks. Now that Katie is immobilized for a few weeks, I volunteered to make dessert - her task. 

As I sort through photos and sift memories in my mind, there will be stories shared here in between the everyday happenings. I've begun reading and commenting on blogs once again and look forward to catching up with you all soon. 

Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...