Thursday, December 15, 2022
In my fever to get things done around the property, I hit upon the idea of putting in an orchard. Not a massive orchard, you understand, but a domestic sized orchard with a few apple trees, a pear tree or two, maybe a peach tree, and a specialty tree: I wanted to plant a crabapple tree in memory of my friend Natalka's mother, Daria Husar Struk, who died in 2020, at age 100. Daria was a marvel. She even picked her time to die very well: just before the advent of Covid-19, which she would have enjoyed even less than the rest of us. Daria loved the pink blossoms of a crabapple tree, and I discussed with Natalka my wish to plant a tree in her memory. The first summer I moved here, an excellent young guy named Mark built four raised vegetable beds for me. Mark has a business called Gourmet Greens Organics, and he's a wealth of knowledge about planting vegetables. I sent Mark an email, asking if he'd come and inspect a flat area on my south lawn for its suitability as the site of a dwarf orchard. This flat area had previously been a large gravel children's play area with swings and slides and a climbing apparatus. I'd removed most of the gravel, depositing in on my neighbours' driveway, whereupon goldenrod plants took over, rooting very lightly amidst the gravel. Mark agreed that we could plant a drawf orchard of about eleven trees, but first we'd have to cut down about a dozen old pines that were casting too much shadow on the lawn. (Notice I refer to "we". In truth, the only "we" part of this operation has been the sunny afternoon that I pulled up lots of dead goldenrod.) Mark chainsawed down the pines and a dead spruce or two, plus one maple which will make excellent firewood a few years from now. Yesterday he brought in a wood chipper and - you know how it is when you steam spinach? You put a mountain of spinach in the steamer and four minutes later you have one small helping of steamed spinach. That's what the wood chipper was like. There's maybe a few bushels of wood chips on the south lawn, but those chips will be like steamed spinach at the base of my fruit trees early this spring. However, I know very well that this will be a legacy orchard, for I might not be here by the time the first apple is picked. Stand by for photos.
Last year I decided I wanted to replace the heavy wooden gates at the south entrance to the property. Each gate was an impenetrable 8 feet by 8 feet and they weighed a ton. Because of their weight, they had started to drag on the ground, making them very hard to open when a service truck needed to drive onto the property. Also, they looked formidable, as though they should come with their own moat and drawbridge. I liked the more open, friendly look of a set of metal farm gates. Happily, steel farm gates come prepainted in green, and I'm a fan of colour, especially when I don't have to apply it. I ordered a set of farm gates and the corresponding bolts from a nearby farm supply business, and they promptly delivered them. I figured I'd install them myself....till I picked up one of the gates and found I could only move it about a foot at a time. In my nearby little village, finding a handyman would be harder than finding a hardware store and, believe me, there's no hardware store here. You want hardware? You're probably driving to Orangeville, whether you like it or not. Now, oddly enough, the Home Hardware store in Orangeville is well equipped, and it even has a notice board in the front entrance, with the services of several handymen advertised. I took some cards, and the first one to call me back was Casey. I asked if he could install farm gates. He could. He did, and very efficiently, too. Here's my farm gates. They sure look nice and level, just the way I'd hoped. Now I won't have to dig a moat and install a drawbridge. Thank you, Casey!
Winter has set in. It's not my favourite season. It doesn't even get fourth prize in the My Favourite Season contest. I flat-out dislike winter. So my strategy to avoid winter is to take up home improvements to beguile the weary days till it's warm again. It's embarrassing to remember how many years ago it was that I removed the very damaged roof on the well shed. I'm thinking it was maybe August of 2019. I removed the entire roof, which was no mean feat, putting a claw hammer through my forehead in the process, then covered the entire shed with a layer of heavy duty vapour barrier. That was a brilliant move, because it enabled sunshine to come into the shed but kept the rain out. I definitely intended to put a proper roof on it before that first winter, but it didn't happen. And as time went by, I really liked being inside the well shed. I built a new wooden cover for the well, cleaned out the interior of the shed, painted the exterior, and I was pretty happy with it. But with a property like this, you always have to look ahead to a time when someone else will own it, and it's unlikely that person will appreciate vapour barrier as a roofing material. So I went to see Trevor, who works at McKinnon's Timber Mart in the nearby village of Hillsburgh, and asked if he could recommend someone to put a metal roof on the well shed. And that's how I met Rod. Trevor gave me Rod's number, I chose my preferred style of red metal roof, and Rod brought over a buddy about ten days ago. So here I am with a lovely red metal roof, which looks exactly like I laid an open book down on top of the vapour barrier. Even better, Rod built the new roof on top of my vapour barrier, making me feel that I had been part of the process all along. Isn't it handsome?
Saturday, November 12, 2022
On my last birthday, I saw the little red flag on my rural mailbox was raised, so I headed across the street to bring in the mail. Inside the mailbox was a soft package, and my sister's handwriting was on the package. My sister, who lives in Kingston, has developed an interest in needlework in recent years. A couple of years back, she quilted a set of placemats for me depicting a row of Newfoundland jellybean houses: those brightly-coloured rowhouses that line some of the streets of St. John's. I love the placemats, use them often, and they never fail to attract admiration from guests, especially because while the colours are the same, each of them is unique. I got back to the house, opened the package, and was amazed to see a piece of textile art inside. It was a landscape, and while it had a familiar appearance, I couldn't quite place it. She had sewn pieces of brown patterned fabric in the shape of tree trunks, against a background of pearl-white satin. You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Here's the piece of textile art.
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
If you've been reading this blog for a while ('a while' being last October), you'll recall that I sold my beloved motorcycle, Clyde, to a fabulous young woman named Katarina. Her partner, Josh, was already a motorcyclist and Kat was just about to take her test. It had been a stressful time for me, worrying about giving up Clyde and therefore, my youth. I didn't want him to go to the wrong owner. I wanted him to go to another female rider, one who would care for him and love him like I did. Well, when I met Kat, I suddenly lost all my stress, because she was so right for Clyde, and Clyde seemed to feel the same about her. I was really thrilled to have a text from Kat to say she'd passed the motorcycle test and when spring came, she and Josh would be out getting used to riding the open road together...but apart, on two separate bikes. We planned that once she was comfortable, they'd ride up here for a visit, so I could see Clyde - and them - again. A couple of weeks ago, Kat and Josh made good on their promise. I was pretty thrilled!
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
There are a fair number of tall, skinny trees on the island, but the tree I'm here to tell you about today is a tall, skinny, diseased, dead maple with a distinct tilt southwest. It looks like an accident waiting to happen. When I say tall, I estimated this one at around 70 feet. It's one of the taller trees on the island, and because it's so high up there, it looks much skinnier than it is.
Sunday, April 24, 2022
There's an ancient apple tree overhanging the sloping roof of the garden shed. It's like a hen that's too old to lay eggs. I was planning to climb onto the roof of the shed with the chainsaw and take it down, one piece at a time, before a storm takes it down for me. Today it's the first really warm day of spring and I'm out doing heavy work, so I figured, why not have a go at doing it from ground level? In my mind, it was of smaller diameter than it is in real life. I nearly changed my mind when I saw how thick it was and how many knots the trunk has. Knots are really tough to saw through. I sharpened the large chainsaw, oiled it up and started cutting.
Friday, April 22, 2022
We are not alone. I'm here to report that squatters have taken up residence in the carport. Yesterday one of my neighbours dropped by. We were standing at the doorway chatting when I saw something black whooshing through the carport, doing a U turn and then making a speedy exit. My neighbour turned just in time to see it. "It might be a barn swallow", she said. Sure enough, on closer inspection, there was a newly built nest in tuhe rafters of the carport, on top of one of the long fluorescent light fixtures.
Saturday, April 16, 2022
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
These early spring days can be unpredictable: cool, cold, freezing, rainy, snowy, a hailstorm, high winds, and occasionally, warm. We're not even half way through April, but we've already had four days warm enough for me to be outside in a T shirt. These are bonus days, and I'm making the most of them. I feel as though I'd been shot out of a cannon, and that's just as well, because there's lots of outside work to do. On Day One of the warm days, I got out the weedwhacker and cut back all the overgrown greenery around Pond One. On Day Two, I took the Good Ship Louise out of drydock (in the drive shed) and pulled her down to the edge of Pond Two with the tractor. I raked up all the leaves that had amassed in the carport over the winter, collected and split enough kindling to last me till the cows come home, and then I went out rowing on Group of Seven Pond. It was pretty excellent, but I've got a lot of upper arm strength to rebuild. On Day Three of the warm days, I went out on Pond Two, and dredged out all the logs than had broken off and fallen in during the winter. This is heavy work, but once the branches are dragged onto the shore to dry out, it looks like a lot has been accomplished. Today was Day Four. It was a beautiful, warm day and I decided that since next week is going to be rainy, I'd better get started clearing the south fence line. I've been working at this project sporadically since I got here three years ago, but it's astonishing how much grows back over one season. There's an old cedar split rail fence running for several hundred feet. It separates my property from Cathy's property (she's my neighbour to the south and has become a good and trusted friend). A fence between us is a bit of a joke, honestly, because we never think twice about being on each other's property. We share tools and keep an eye out for each other. If she's in town and I need tofu or bok choy, she's on it, stat. If she needs me to run a security check on her property, same deal. But, you know, there's the old fence and I really like to look at it, all moss-covered and weatherbeaten. So I started clearing the fence line of all the tenacious tangled vines but are actually an invasive species, called grape-something. I think I cleared about 200 feet today. Here's the first section:
Friday, April 1, 2022
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Yesterday I was expecting a courier delivery. Sometimes the courier doesn't pull into my driveway because it's hard to back out again. When the online tracking system reported that it had been delivered and it wasn't at the front door, I decided to go and check my rural mailbox across the road to see if the package had been crammed in there. To my amazement, my mailbox was standing upright again. I was shocked. Someone had replanted it vertically, and they'd done a very nice job of it too. Sadly my package was not inside, but I was pretty pleased with that vertical mailbox. Who could have done it? The first suspects were Liz and Linda, excellent neighbours, good friends, and very sneaky. But Linda said no, it wasn't them, and it's a boatload of work to do that, so I narrowed the search down to Harry, the brother of my next door neighbour, Dick. Dick doesn't live there any more but Harry keeps an eye on the property and does some logging while he's there. I confess I like hearing Harry working over there, and he sometimes ploughs out the entrance to my driveway when the snow is deep, so Harry is pretty much up there in my books as a swell guy. Scotland Yard suspects Harry at this point. If not, it might be Mark, a young guy who has an organic gardening business nearby. Mark built my raised vegetable beds. The issue of my missing courier package was solved today when there was a knock at the door. It was Mike, who lives two streets over (but miles away). We have the same house number, so this isn't our first time at the mail delivery rodeo. Mike had my package. That's the good news. The bad news is....
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Sunday, February 27, 2022
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
I'm in a foul mood today. A car or truck must have hit a massive raccoon across the street from my place. It ended up deceased about a metre north of my rural mailbox. If you've never lived in the country before, here's an important piece of advice: never aggravate the mail delivery driver. One way of aggravating them is not to shovel the area around your mailbox in winter. If you do that, you're never getting mail. She'll keep it in her truck till the cows come home, and she won't tell you either. I like getting mail, so I try to be a good citizen and keep a wide swath of roadside shovelled. Sometimes it's a battle with the municipal snowplough, but since I'll never win that battle, I keep my shovel close at hand. Anyway, the raccoon. It appeared to be giftwrapped in red ribbon, which seemed unnecessarily festive. It took me a while to realize that raccoon entrails look like red ribbon. I began to notice more crows than usual circling over my property, and realizing that they could be my allies in this situation, I figured I'd give them space. But I haven't had mail for a few days, and I was pretty sure Vanessa, the Bringer of Mail, would consider a dead raccoon to be an offense against her as an individual, and against Canada Post Corporation as a whole. So I got out my snow shovel, walked several metres north of my mailbox, and dug a large flat section into a snowbank, a bit farther back from the gravel shoulder of the road. I walked back to the scene of the crime, loaded the deceased onto the snow shovel, and trudged back to the plateau I'd dug into the snowbank. Having deposited the raccoon onto its new resting place, I offered a brief but heartfelt prayer, trying not to breathe, and added a few words of thanks for crows....and for Vanessa. Because I'd really enjoy getting some mail this week.
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
If I could choose a superpower, I wouldn't waste the opportunity on acquiring a skill as mundane as flying or X-ray vision. What I'd really like to have is the gift of instant repartee. Repartee, or as the French call it, L'esprit de l'escalier, or Staircase Wit, has two components: precise timing and a witty way with words. I already have the latter (after all, you're here reading my blog, aren't you?) but some of my best comebacks only occur to me after the moment to use them to greatest effect has passed. One of the best things about being around Ivaan was the fun of outdoing each other with wit. It didn't matter if the occasion to utter a funny retort had passed, because we lived in the same house and we'd trade quips any time at all, sometimes laughing so hard his head would start to hurt and we'd have to take a break. When you live alone, and especially when you live alone in the country, you talk to yourself more often than you speak to other people, and sometimes you find yourself saying something preposterous. Because time is so fluid when you live alone in the country, you may think of a witty retort hours after, or sometimes days after it's needed. And because you're there by yourself, you say it aloud and you chuckle to yourself, but later on you polish that retort and improve on it, so you tell it to yourself again and this time you laugh harder at your dazzling wit. Lately I've been thinking of incidents where my wit and my timing were in perfect sync. They tended to happen when Ivaan was around, and they were all the better because he got to enjoy them too. So I'm going to write them down in this post and add to the post as other incidents come to mind. Once I had to make a speech at a conference in a downtown hotel. If there's a skill I have in spades, it's the ability to speak to a crowd of people without a shred of stagefright (or an iota of knowledge about the subject). You could put me on a stage, hand me a microphone, and say "Go and speak to that million people in the audience about Astrophysics - or Mortgages, or Choosing Well-Fitting Shoes" - and I'd be off to the races. This speech was about Organ and Tissue Donation. I had picked a smart-looking outfit to wear: a short charcoal grey jacket over a matching sleeveless sheath dress with a very large thick zipper that ran down the back from top to bottom. As I was getting ready to go, I asked Ivaan if he'd like to come along and hear my speech. He was already using a wheelchair but the hotel was not far from our home, so I helped him get spruced up and we headed out the door and down Yonge Street, me pushing him in the wheelchair. Half way to the hotel, a nice woman came up to us and said to me, "That's a really nice dress!" I thanked her, and she continued, "But aren't you worried someone is going to come up behind you and pull down that zipper?" Without missing a beat, I shot back, "How'd you think he ended up in the wheelchair?" gesturing toward Ivaan. He howled, the lady howled, and even I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. A couple of years earlier, Ivaan was newly home from the hospital after his third stroke, and he was pretty frail. I'd just gotten him into bed and was reading to him in our second-floor bedroom. It was past eleven o'clock. Suddenly the doorbell rang. I went downstairs to see who on earth would be ringing our bell so late at night. It was a couple of acquaintances named Bernard and Julie, and they'd clearly been out for dinner and more than a couple of drinks. Overly animated with alcohol, they said they'd just dropped by hoping to see Ivaan. I explained he was already in bed, but they persisted. I went upstairs to ask him if he was willing to have visitors. He acquiesced, so I invited them up. Now, I should mention here that Bernard and Julie were an "opposites attract" couple. He was intelligent and humorous in a quiet way. Julie was dramatic and theatrical with a musical lilt to her voice. When they walked into the bedroom, in which we'd recently had leopard print broadloom installed, they were a bit startled to find themselves in a room that had a touch of safari about it. Honestly, I was irritated and just wanted them to leave, so when Julie said, dramatically, "Oh! I could NEVER sleep in a room with a carpet like this!" I turned and fixed her with a look that would have stopped a clock, and replied, "We don't do much sleeping in here". Bernard roared, Julie looked slightly abashed, and I thought to myself, "Check...and...mate!" and ushered them out the door and on their way home. I'll add more stories as I remember them, but those are two I remember fondly.