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.
I knew which way I wanted it to land. As I could see my cut widening, I knew the thickest part would land near the edge of the sloping roof. I was worried it might go right through the roof. What to do? What to do? In the shed there are some thick foam cushions for the big deck chairs. I positioned them on the roof right under the main pressure point. Then I got a twelve-foot aluminum ladder and lay it on the roof beside the cushions. I figured it would act as a giant snowshoe. Then I got a length of rope and tied the upper trunk off, tying the other end to a pine tree. I figured if it started to crack, I'd guide it in the right direction by pulling on the rope. Let me tell you, it worked like a charm.
The tree came gently down onto the roof and balanced on the foam cushions. I didn't even need the rope. I just stood behind the tree trunk and wished I had my iPad with me to film the descent. There I was, telling myself I'd chosen a poor angle to cut and wondering if I should start over with a brand new cut (never a good idea because multiple cuts greatly increase the unpredictability of the descent) but it was like that apple tree was skydiving. Apple wood is wonderful for burning in a wood stove. It's fragrant, burns hot, and - at least in this case - it's free. And now, if you will excuse me, I'll go and retrieve the ladder from the roof.

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.
Last fall, I'd had swallows evicted from the roof cavity and I know they like to return, year after year, to the scene of the crime. So here we are again. Wait'll they find out how rarely I turn on the fluorescents: if they're hoping their nest has heated floors, it's going to be a grave disappointment. I have a soft spot for birds, and if they want to nest in the rafters, I'm prepared to be a pretty good landlord. But this morning I noticed my shiny black car, the sleek and lovely Lorraine, had a lot of bird droppings on the rear left taillight. A quick trip to the car wash took care of that, but I've had to move my car to the other side of the carport for the season. Better get those babies housebroken, Mrs. Swallow. Wouldn't want to aggravate the S.O.B. Landlord, now, would we?

Saturday, April 16, 2022


I had a sudden urge for a different front door colour. Maybe it's going to become an annual tradition because this is the third time I've repainted it in three years. When I bought the house, it was a pale orange. Prior to that it was dark fuchsia. The entranceway is a bit sepulchral, being under the carport, so the door needs a jolt of colour. I first primed it in light blue, then painted it royal blue, with matching railings. It looked good, but blue is a tricky colour. Depending on the shade, it can easily call to mind a recycling bin. I've always liked the combination of blue and green, as long as they are equivalent in saturation, so this time I chose as close to emerald green as I could find. It's taken four coats already, and could probably use another. But so far, this is the look of 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:
This part of the world is very rocky terrain. Not far from the fence line are two large rocks that always cause me misery. One is very angular and in an awkward spot. If the tractor ever hit that rock, I'd be both in hospital and in the market for a new tractor. The second is like an iceberg: 90% of it is below the surface. The top 10% is covered with moss, so the mower deck of the tractor has hit it several times over the years. I decided both rocks had to be moved. The angular one wasn't too bad. I basically grabbed it and tried to tip it over. On the tenth try, I succeeded. I may need some help relocating it but for now it's out of my way. It may not look all that big in this photo, but it is a brute.
The iceberg rock, I quickly discovered, needed to be dug out. Turns out it had two sidekick rocks, one on either side, but they were of manageable size, and I moved them with ease. It took me three tries to dig down enough to dislodge this huge rock. I needed a shovel, a crowbar, a length of wood and a manual tiller. The cavity it'll leave when it's finally out of the hole will be big enough to bury me in. I've had a good idea, though: I can bring a length of rope down there, wrap the rock in rope, tie it off securely, tie the other end of the rope to the tractor, and try to drag it out. If you never hear from me again, it's likely because this wasn't such a good idea after all. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 1, 2022


Today is a big day. Not only is it April Fools Day, it's also my wedding anniversary, (27 if you care), and the third anniversary of my owning this swell place. I'm always pretty pleased with myself on April 1st because, even though it's still cold, I know how quickly that can change to warm, and that's when my life begins anew. To celebrate, I decided to paint the brick fireplace again. This is the fourth time I've painted it. It's been blue/grey, it's been white, it's been pale green, and now it's navy blue - a really deep, saturated navy: exactly the colour of the wood floor in the living room. The woodburning insert is very dark green and the door trim is copper coloured. Anyway, it's done. Maybe it's going to need a few touch-ups when I look at it in the daylight. But for now it looks dark and moody, the kind of fireplace in front of which you can read a really good book, or think deep thoughts. Because sometimes I do that, too. Happy Anniversary to me.