Saturday, August 30, 2014

Gettin' Ducky

My friend Jane, she of the willingness to wear a costume whether elephant or duck, lives across the street from the main gate of the Cumberland County Exhibition so we are setting up our fabulous Alzheimer Duck Derby booth in her driveway in order to "adopt" out ducks in support of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia's second major fundraiser of the year: the Alzheimer Duck Derby held September 21 in downtown Halifax.
Come splash in our duck pond between 10 am and 3 pm today! Quack, quack!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rain Drops & Coffee Cups

A rainy Thursday.
The dogs settled on the couch, one cat asleep in a closet, the other cat making his own fun.
The house to myself.
A large pot of coffee.
As he always does, my dearest husband made sure there was a fresh pot brewing when I arrived back from my walk. He made ten cups as usual. But both he and my mother are keeping appointments this morning so the whole pot is mine alone to drink. I pulled out one of my big Jen Houghtaling mugs; that's what it's going to take to get through the pot.
I hope he remembered to make it with decaf.
Although by noon, I might wish it was high-test. Last week, I wrote the drafts of two 2500-word essays requested by a publisher so that is this morning's work: editing.Producing a column a week for the Oxford Journal and numerous articles and essays a year has taken the edge of that "anticipatory dread" that used to come before reading new work for the first time after writing it. Now I don't feel the need to do laundry and wash the breakfast dishes in an effort to postpone the moment of truth.
Now I just want to dive in and make it better, make it good. Good enough for the publisher to sit up in his chair and shout, "Yes!"
No pressure there.
Maybe I'll just sit at the dining room table with another cup of coffee and look out at the rain for awhile. While the washing machine does a load of darks.  No point in rushing through the morning, after all.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In Conversation With...Karma Reid

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Karma Reid’s best memories of 4-H are of the exhibitions.
“The big competitions we used to go to,” she says. “Every county at provincial shows put in a tug-of-war team and usually the semi-finals and finals are in the evening. If it’s your county team, you’re cheering so we used to come home from pro show hoarse. You’re a club team so you’re cheering for your club at a county event but when you go to a provincial show, you’re cheering for your county. That’s why you go home hoarse.”
Karma, who lives in Pugwash with her husband Wayne, their dog Kobe, and a son who returns to university in Fredericton this fall, says those competitions were all about coming together as the big 4-H family.

“You go to those shows every year so you see someone you met from the valley and so you have these friendships,” she explains. “I remember when I ended up going to agriculture college, so many of the people I met I’d been in 4-H with at one competition or another across the province. It’s a network. It takes you places across the province.”
Karma was so devoted to 4-H, she went to the Agriculture College to study Agriculture Business with the idea of being a 4-H representative, which is now called a regional coordinator. 
“Because I had all this 4-H background and absolutely loved the program, I thought it would be great. But after my first year, I was looking at job postings and it was that transitional time when you needed a degree instead of a diploma.”
Once she decided she’d had enough of school, Karma began working on dairy farms as a herdsperson, work she’d grown up doing. 
“It’s not unusual to have a female herdsperson,” she says. “Especially in the milking management part of it. Women are detailed people and have that gentle touch. Are the cow’s ears down? Is her nose wet?”
Her work took her away from home but also returned her to her birth place. Karma was born in Ontario and lived there until she was six, when her parents decided to move to Nova Scotia. (Karma’s mother, in fact, is originally from this area.)
“It was just a small farm [in Ontario], not really a great acreage, so I think they wanted to expand because they were starting a family,” Karma says. “They came here and there was land and a farm for sale.”
That farm became Holdanca Farm in Wallace Bay.  
“We started with a cream quota but the cream industry was on its way out,” Karma says, “and it seems to me you could switch over and do milk quota so that’s when they got into milk.”
When Karma headed to Ontario to work on a dairy farm north of Toronto, her first challenge was the cows themselves.
“It was a Guernsey farm and I’d never worked with Guernseys; we were always Holstein people. I had to humble myself!” she laughs. 
But her job in Ontario provided her with the one experience she’d never achieved through 4-H.
“I had never qualified as a 4-Her here to take my calf up to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair,” she says. “So I asked [my boss] who he was going to take to clip the cattle and he said, ‘You are going.’ I had clipped a cow for Exhibition and provincial show but I’d never clipped a string. I’d never taken a string of cattle, you know, one in each age category, and going to the Royal was really a neat experience. We did it and won some ribbons.”
So of course Karma has no regrets about spending several years in Ontario when she was in her twenties nor does she think she missed out on anything by returning to Nova Scotia. 
“I was ready to leave,” she explains. “My young fella says to me, ‘I can’t wait to get out of here.’ He wants to go and he’s ready to go and I was that way too. I enjoyed it but as a young person, you make it a fast-paced lifestyle especially being in and around Toronto. And my job following that one was extremely fast-paced so when I finally had a chance to come home, I realized this pace of life and the smell of the ocean... It was time,” she says of returning home. “I’d done my young thing and had that busyness and saw what I thought there was of the world out there to see. I think it’s partly in the mind; you have to leave in order to appreciate where you live. Coming back, I realized the quality of life and the pace of life was what I wanted.”
Of her son, who has returned home to work on the family farm this summer, Karma says, “This likely will be his last summer here. But it’s his time, you know? I miss him terribly but to hold him here – I see so much of myself in him. It’s time for him to go and experience everything.”
Karma herself is in a period of transition. After many years of being a 4-H general leader for the Bay Vista Conns Mills club, she is stepping down to make time for other interests.
“It’s time for a change,” she says. “Change is good, it’s good to get new ideas.”
She acknowledges that it can be difficult finding leaders for 4-H programs because of the image that 4-H takes a lot of time and is just for farm kids.
“I have a lot of kids doing self-directed projects. I give them the guidelines then check in with them throughout the year. I know there would be so much more value to having somebody lead them. I know people are really busy but every project has an outline for it,” says Karma. “It really isn’t a huge time commitment, it’s more just wrapping your head around what you have to offer.”
She says there’s never been a leader for a computer project and a lot of kids are interested in website design. 
“It would be great to have someone lead that.”
Karma keeps brainstorming and thinks of the value of members of the first aid project attending a training session for a group like search and rescue.
“So many of our adult organizations need to have young people come in and see what they do. They’ll say, ‘How do you get people into things?’ Well, you approach them when they’re young,” Karma says.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Our contributions to the Home Crafts, and Flowers competitions at the Cumberland County Exhibition did well!  It's such a relief to check out the results, knowing it doesn't really matter whether you win or not, but see a couple of ribbons on our tags.
Although Mum's two submissions to the "national" competitions (Fleischman's yeast and Robin Hood floor) didn't win, her oatcakes came in second and her brown bread third. I'm pleased she received ribbons on her first time.
Second is the blue ribbon.

My two flower arrangements and my two flowers (phlox and nasturtiums) all came in second. I can pride myself on consistency.
Hm, seems like bigger is better!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Time for the Exhibition!

Mum with her oatcakes and white bread, me with "Snow Shoe" and wildflowers.
My mother is such a good sport.
"I think you should bake some stuff for the Cumberland County Exhibition," I told her. Yes, I told her. I wanted her to participate because she's a good cook and her bread is amazing and we can't eat enough of her oatcakes and Aunt Lila's Chocolate Cake is one of those cakes that you can't just stop at one piece. She didn't have to do it alone; I was entering flowers and arrangements (anything I bake is simply what I learned from my mother).
So Mum spent all yesterday baking and I was tromping around the field and through the ditches looking for unusual wildflowers.
I did wonder at one point if I was going to wake up the next morning with some unsightly pustules and body-enveloping rash but so far so good. Just a whole bunch of new bug bites.
Why did I insist my mother spend a day baking just to submit those goodies to a competition? Because it supports this county exhibition, this end-of-summer fair, this way of life. It supports the tradition, the pride, the accomplishments, the skills of generations of people who raise the livestock and grow the food the rest of us enjoy.
We didn't grow up as farmers or even as country folk but as the saying goes, when in rural, do as the rurals do.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Golden Morning

Two winters ago, my husband was baiting coyotes way back in the woods on the frozen pond but what appeared at the bait shocked him: A pair of golden eagles. These birds are even bigger than a bald eagle and not as common.
This morning on our walk, I heard the call first then spotted a huge bird sitting on a fence post overlooking the clearcut by the church. I stood for the longest time just looking until I decided that it was indeed too big to be an immature eagle. A bald eagle was sitting in one of the few trees left behind by the clear cutters and it flew off only to be tackled by a pair of ospreys who drove it away.
The golden eagle remained sitting on the post.
On our way back, a truck was stopped in the middle of the road, taking photos of the golden now sitting on a branch left sticking out of a tall, narrow tree stump. By the time my husband and I returned in our vehicle, the golden was in flight, over the road and field before coming to sit on a fence post overlooking the river.
This confirms what I saw on Thursday: this same bird sitting the same spot calling.
Funny how was more and more people leave rural Nova Scotia, it allows more wildlife to move in and make a home. At the same time, we are cutting down more and more of our woods, depriving those same wild birds and animals of a space to live.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hatching A New Story

The first days we had hens in the new coop, July 2008.

A publisher is interested in a book I proposed but he wants to see a few more writing samples, two of the three I sent being more personal and abstract than he'd like in the kind of collection of essays I'd proposed. So I spent most of today writing a 2500-word essay about why I wanted chickens. 
It's a story that begins before I'd even met my Nova Scotia Country Boy but only days before, as if the stars were aligning to bring a long-term plan to fruition. Thankfully, I blogged extensively about my first five years here and printed up those posts before ending that blog in 2012 but I'm also blessed with a decent memory and an ear for dialogue so even if I have to fill in the blanks, the conversations sound genuine.
Write what you know and write from the heart. Whenever I stumble, I sit back in my chair and let the story come back to me in its own words.
What's interesting is that as I delve into history and memories in order to write these essays about becoming a country girl, I'm embarking on a new series of columns called "My Year In 4-H". So I'll be creating new  experiences, and writing about them, at the same time I explore what brought me here in the first place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Kind of Gardener Are You?

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

August.  The peak of summer. Sun blazing, humidity banished, enough rain to revive plants for an end-of-summer resurgence. With a speck of fall on the horizon, August is the month you push to make the most of what is left of the hot, bright days of summer.
It’s also the month when gardeners sit cross-legged on the lawn and meditate on the state of their gardens. Is it bee balm or bee bomb this year? Are the day lilies getting out of control? What the heck happened to the daisies? And hey, that plant turned out to be a weed after all. 
Sure, Christmas is in twenty weeks but the only list a gardener cares about right now is the wish list of flowers we want to plant next year. 
This August, as you sit in the grass gazing at the good, the bad and the ugly in front of you, making your list and checking it twice, you may want to consider which kind of gardener you are. 
Are you a Planner, an Intuitive or an Experimental Gardener?
The Planner sits down at the beginning of each season and maps out new beds, diagrams plant arrangements and measures out pathways. The resulting gardens are orderly and always in bloom. 
The Intuitive Gardener follows her heart. She listens to the soil and the bees and seems to know where to put certain plants, how to mix colours, how to make blooms appear just at the right moment in the right place. The gardens seem to create themselves, beauty and chaos in perfect balance. 
The Experimental Gardener plays around with colour and location. He dares to plant Love Lies Bleeding along the lane or plant a whole bed with only orange flowers. Trial and error is his modus operandi and he embraces the challenge like a cat embraces fresh catnip. His gardens are considered daring and creative, not haphazard. 
As I sit here gazing at the gardens I’ve been tending to and expanding since 2007, two things are clear: I haven’t learned much in the past eight summers, and I’m not any of those three types of gardeners. Unless Experimental has a sub-category called “Mad Scientist”.
Despite the Next Year resolution I make every August to plan ahead, I never do. In deciding where to dig a new garden, I pay no attention to moisture content of the soil or amount of sunshine and shade. If there is a plant I like, I buy it, stick it in the ground and hope for the best. If I like how it grew, I buy another one the following spring and put it somewhere else, usually in a hole where something else died. Mostly, I just plant everything far too close and my failure to ever measure anything means the stone walking paths disappear by August. 
So not a Planner and not really an Intuitive Gardener, either, despite the “Ooooh, that flower speaks to me so I must plant it in my garden” moment that happens in those early, giddy days of flower shopping.  My style is neither daring nor balanced, creative or orderly.
Random would be the nicest word.
And so it appears I garden the same way my Grade Two teacher said I did gym: With more enthusiasm than skill. 
New category: The Enthusiastic Gardener. Which sounds so much nicer than Mad Scientist.

In 2009, my cosmos grew very enthusiastically.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Worth Falling For

There are hundreds of blackberries ripening on the lot we own along the River Philip. Enough to make a berry-blend jam. The only problem is most of the bushes are growing on the steep, near-vertical bank.
It's a marvelous river bank: blackberry bushes and wild rose bushes, an apple tree and several mature poplars. A fox den just over the edge of the edge. But that drop to the shore! Leaning forward to reach some plump ripe berries, my feet almost firmly planted on the edge, I thought how unpleasant it would be to roll down the side of the bank, right through the briar patch. Just in case, I kept the lid firmly shut on my container of berries. I might lose my footing but I wasn't going to lose what was worth the death by a thousand prickles.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Art Show Opening: Lore

The Pugwash Collective of artists opened its latest show the Fraser Cultural Centre in Tatamagouche last night. This year's theme is "Lore" and each artist interpreted the concept of folklore in her own way. Here are a few of the faces and pieces that caught my eye.
The show runs until September 3 and some of the art work is for sale. 

An artist new to me - gorgeous colours! Cris Sonntag

Jen Houghtaling did a series of four different mythical creatures. This "truth and honesty".
Norene Smiley, in front of one of her paintings, with Archan Knotz and Mary Purdy.

Donna Hutchinson stands by her mermaid-lore-inspired hooked rugs with admirer Isabelle Mullaley.
Greeted outside by one of Louise Cloutier's 7-foot-tall wood sprites.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chasing Rainbows

While I was doing yoga early this morning, all stretched out in front of the picture window in the living room, the light suddenly changed colour. It went from dim grey morning light to this rich, deep yellow. It was like I was inside a glowing spaghetti squash.
When I went outside with the camera to see how the rising sun was playing with the clouds, I turned around and saw a rainbow above the trees.
A photographer gave me that advice many, many years ago: Always turn around to see what's going on behind you. Often the best shots aren't of the actual sunrise or sunset.

I followed the rainbow around back --- and doubled the joy.
An appropriately dramatic way to start a rainy Friday which just happens to be the last day of my two-week's of full-time work, a.k.a. purgatory, a.k.a. Jane's summer vacation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Conversation With...Mathew Aldred

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

The first thing Mathew Aldred does when I walk through the door of his Shinimacas house is break open the frozen chocolate cheesecake and freshly-picked raspberries. 
“We don’t normally eat dessert,” he explains so whenever anyone comes over, it’s an excuse to eat cheesecake.
We settle at the dining room table in the home Mathew, a teacher at Oxford Regional Education Centre, shares with wife Maria and their teenaged son and daughter and between bites of decadent cheesecake, he explains what brought the family from England to Nova Scotia in 2007.
“Maria was brought up on a farm in Ireland so we wanted that for our kids. The open space, the animals, the peace and quiet. There was some family land in Ireland but we couldn’t get permission to build because of strict building and planning restrictions. Beautiful country, West Cork, sort of the last stop between Ireland and Nova Scotia. We couldn’t afford to buy a home there, very expensive, so we started to look further afield,” he says.
Mathew says Maria was looking at a map and realizing that it is only a six-hour flight from England to Halifax. 
“It wasn’t like going to Australia,” he says.
His parents had emigrated to Australia in the 1950’s but returned to England because they missed family. 
“I had that at the back of my mind,” Mathew says, “but this didn’t seem too bad. We started looking at the real estate listings and we bought this place unseen.”
‘This place’ being a 1930’s home and 55 acres on the Shinimicas Road. Mathew says they were pleasantly surprised by Canada, and the property, when they arrived in June of 2007.
“We hadn’t been to Canada, didn’t really know anything about Canada, in nature documentaries it’s always that snowy wilderness,” he admits. “I remember quite well when we drove up the driveway, we said, ‘This is nice,’ and as we got out of the car, hummingbirds were coming around us. We walked to the back of house and looked at the fields and felt we’d hit the jackpot.”
Determined to make a go of the move, the family was prepared for anything. 
“We’d brought a tent with us because we thought the house might be a complete ramshackle affair and we’d have to stay in the house until we could fix it up a little bit. We’ve never opened the tent. It’s still in the shed,” he laughs.
“We were so in love with the place. Looking back, there was a lot of work to do but none of that mattered. We were so happy just with the location.”
Mathew says they wouldn’t have considered Canada if he hadn’t been able to get a teaching license; he now works full-time at OREC. 
“I guess I showed a willingness to teach whatever,” he says of landing a permanent contract after a few years of subbing and term contracts. “I was up for anything. I’ve taught over 20 different subjects in the last seven years. You wouldn’t think there were that many subjects, would you?”
He now has a stable set of subjects but what he’s most thrilled about is teaching art.
“The school did art for a year but it didn’t go down very well because the teacher wasn’t art-trained,” he says. “It’s a difficult subject. It’s not too bad if it’s an elective and you have a committed group of artists but if a Fine Arts credit is compulsory and you’re in a small school, how many Fine Art subjects can you put on? In our case, only one so that is art.” 
Since Mathew went to art school and majored in photography before doing a history degree, he thought he’d like to teach art. 
“That was the best thing I ever did. It awoke in me all that early days stuff. It’s like I’ve been reborn because I’d veered away from it,” he says. “That’s what I live for now. It would kill me if they took away Art.”
He’s been teaching Grade 10 and Grade 12 Art and this year, picks up a class in Junior High. 
“Most of my timetable is art,” he says. “It’s absolutely wonderful.”
But Mathew isn’t a ‘those who can’t do, teach’ artist. He and Maria work together to create large, unique paintings using techniques they created themselves.
“When we came here, we had this dream we were going to do this farm,” he explains. “We wanted to do some beekeeping and grow herbs  because I wasn’t sure I could get a job. When the job came, Maria took care of the farm then she was ill quite seriously and wasn’t able to do anything for three years. I suggested to her that she try a little bit of art. She’d never done it before, only as a kid. She took to it naturally and loved it.”
When they decided to collaborate on art, they didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. 
“I couldn’t get excited about that, painting in the same style, the same medium,” says Mathew. “We spent some time, I guess two years, trying to develop entirely new techniques and this is what we came up with in the end,” he says, gesturing to the huge Art Nouveau-inspired painting of a peacock on the wall that looks similar to a stained glass window. 
“We call that the Fluid Foil because initially we were using aluminum foil and we had to come up with a formulation for the paint that would be very, very fluid and transparent. That’s why it took so long.”

While the Aldreds still sell honey and products made from honey to neighbours and school colleagues, the honey-and-herb building is now the art studio they share with 15-year-old Joanna, also a gifted artist.
Out in the studio, Mathew’s passion and enthusiasm for art overflows. 
“I love the experiments,” he says of the different styles he uses. “I want to give people something new to look at. And everything I do for myself, I do with my students.”
He loves teaching art because he believes everyone is capable of doing some kind of art. 
“Picasso said we’re all born artists and I really do believe that.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Old-Fashioned Way

"I'm not growing potatoes anymore," my husband declared, stomping into the house, disgusted. "I've spent seventy dollars in powder trying to kill potato bugs and 70 bucks would buy more than enough potatoes to feed my family for the winter."
(Just want to say here, the whole 'feed my family' thing was both endearing and hilarious. Like we're pioneers and a hungry family of eight.)
But he's right: Potato bugs have overtaken his potato garden and we're not going to enjoy any of our own new potatoes this year.
Here's the thing, though: There is a cost-free way of getting rid of these voracious potato plant killers and my Nova Scotia country boy is well aware of the method -- he grew up doing it.
All you need it a bucket, a stick and a whole lot of patience.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

The ditch on the far side of the lawn. 
Although daisies are my favourite flower, you can't beat 
the golden glow of rudbeckia in August.
I know this means that autumn is coming, we feel it in the 
cooler night air, but walking through a field of rudbeckia,
it's easy to believe that summer can last forever.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Boat Run 4

Changes on the River Philip: Herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers washing down from the blueberry fields are creating ideal growing conditions for grass, which one really does not want growing in a river, and less than ideal living conditions for healthy, native fish.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Boat Run 3

Bank erosion along the River Philip. This is how stories for children are inspired.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Real Truth About Farm Shows

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

To be a farmer, by which I mean a “regular” farmer, by which I mean not a massive corporation-style “farmer”, to be a farmer means having an unlimited supply of optimism and faith. 
Not in the weather but in the world. That enough of the world remembers where food comes from, respects the hard work and long hours that go into producing food and raw materials, and understands just what is lost every time a farm closes its barn doors.
I wasn’t thinking  about all this when we showed up at the Antique Farm Show in Lorneville a couple of Saturdays ago, however; I just wanted to support some new friends. If I’d known that there is more to a farm show than tractors and tools, I would have showed up years ago. It is a bitter disappointment, and somewhat embarrassing, to learn this, the 15th year, is the last one for the Verstraten-hosted event. 
Every loss in the farming community must be examined so I wanted to know why the show was over.
“Exhibitor interest is waning,” Polly Verstraten told me, “and that’s the whole reason behind it, to bring the machinery and people together. Everything runs in cycles and this has kind of run its cycle. It’s so busy for everyone everywhere. There are too many pulls on people’s attention.”
Fifteen years of hosting a farm show is significant considering the onus of preparation and presentation was on the Verstratens who until 2009 ran a working dairy farm. It was Polly’s husband Francis, a long-time farmer originally from Collingwood and an antique tractors and tools enthusiast, who started the show as an attempt to preserve farm history. 
“It broke his heart to look around the countryside and see all the old farms that were put aside,” explained Polly. “People had stopped working them, the fields were growing up and the barns were falling down. He knew there was stuff in those barns that people used and loved.”
The Verstratens’ former old dairy barn is full of stuff they’ve collected over the years, usually from shuttered farms. 
“People would come to the show to see their stuff,” Polly said. “They came to see the old tractors that we bought.”
So what I thought was a bunch of ol’ timers leaning on old tractors and talking about the good old days is just a fraction of the truth. The stories they are sharing are part of the history of the machines and tools which are part of the history of families and communities. 
These stories are important.
“If we don’t listen now and if we don’t gather them, they’re gone,” Polly said. “Those people, when they pass, that information and all the stuff that happened is gone with them. The more of them that are gone, the further we get back from the roots of our country and our life and how we’re fed, how a community grows, how those things happen. We need to keep reminding people that they get their food from the grocery store but this is where it started, this is how your family got here – through the hard work of these people.”
People like her and Francis whose children are the sixth generation on Polly’s family’s farm along the Amherst shore. Yet their three children chose careers other than farming so perhaps the decision to move out of dairy and simply do cash crops and a woodlot was facing reality, not following their hearts. 
 “We hit a stage where we either had to throw a bunch more money in, knowing that the kids weren’t going to come back so we’d have to sell it as a going-operation,” explained Polly, adding that it is difficult to sell now that dairy farms are getting bigger, not smaller. 
Their other choice? A familiar one to farmers and their families. 
“Let the cows and quota go, get out from under our debt and still have work to do,” Polly said. “I’m 57, Francis will be 56 this year so we’re semi-retired. We’re still keeping our hand in but with cattle, you have to be around and Francis likes to travel.”
What amazes me is that kernel of hope, that firm grip on one last dangling thread of optimism, a trait that has likely kept many farmers going long after common sense, and perhaps the bank, suggested it was time to cut loose. 
“We haven’t sold any land so if farming should take a turn around and the kids want to come back, that whole infrastructure is here,” she said.  
Infrastructure. Such a vague and corporate word for the rural history that lies fallow in those fields, waiting for another generation, another bunch of ol’ timers to turn it over and share it with the world. 

Polly chats with a member of the Sunrise 4-H club.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Monday, August 04, 2014

Boat Run 1

Eagle watching over the River Philip. The massive, decades-old nest that has hatched out many a local eagle was blown down by the winds of post-tropical storm Arthur.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Bee Bomb

Back in 2012, this was my favourite part of my gardens: the bee balm growing at the back of the garden shed. But the following year, it didn't come back; I ended up pulling out the dead roots. I love bee balm, was so pleased by its profusion, and yet I don't seem to be able to make it flourish, not like it did that first year.
Every gardener has that favorite plant, that particular challenge, a certain "no matter what" with some plants and bee balm is mine. I've replanted it throughout my gardens and I'm counting on its proliferation tendencies to bring it back into profusion. Look at it! How could you not want those vibrant Muppet-like flowers in your garden?
Or are they Suess-like?
I Googled the plant. It's also called "monardo" which I must remember in case that's the name used at the nursery (or catalogue since I'm going to try to grow seedlings). The description makes a point of saying bee balm with tolerate wet soil and I have the opposite problem; our clay ground dries out hard in the middle of summer. That's why I spend two hours every night lugging water jugs around the yard -- with the added bonus of spending every evening with my flowers.
My biggest flaw as a gardener isn't a lack of watering; it's a lack of soil enrichment. I'm as "as is" kind of gardener so I just plant stuff in the ground and hope it grows. Sometimes the best soil a plant gets is the kind it arrives in with the pot.
So in typical gardener fashion, this being early August, it's time to start the resolutions for 2015: Next year, I will mix black earth and compost into all my gardens in May.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Wear It, Don't Eat It

I came home from work one day this week to find a lot of photos of this toadstool on my camera. Apparently my mother has figured out how the camera works (which is more than we can say about her Kindle). She says it looks like a brooch. My nieces and nephews likely say it's a Smurf umbrella.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Stay Calm

Good thing tomorrow is Market Day in Pugwash because I'm almost out of Joze's Yogi jam for my yogurt.