March 17, 2012

Silly Me

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Yesterday I was convinced spring had arrived. A couple of hyacinths are poking through muddy soil after a mild week, and with daily highs above 10 degrees, the snow in the yard had shrunk to a few patches in the shadier spots. I thought the Stellar's Jay in our spruce tree yesterday, first I've seen this year, confirmed it.

But no, he's here again today, shrieking, snow, snow, snow! An inch since 8:30 this morning, and it's not even the typical spring mush that melts fast. Richard presented me with a bowl of it, a ball like a cantaloupe, light as air. Sigh.

I love snow, yes, how pure and quiet the world looks, the transformation of familiar shapes into something magical. But not on St. Patrick's Day, for goodness sake! I want Spring!! The fact that it's blowing down in big flakes from a white sky so thick that we can't see across the river is really... depressing.

I'm going to take this as a sign that I need to post some of my photos of our glorious holiday on the Mayan Riviera today. I miss mango margaritas and the blue-green Caribbean! Heavy snow in mid-March. Hmph. It's all set though, we're going to Mexico again same time next year, and good riddance to spring snow.

Happy "green" St. Patrick's Day, all.

Posted by anita at 11:08 AM

April 12, 2011

Spring?

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Happy Spring, readers – the few that are left. To somewhat explain why I’ve been silent all this time, let me briefly recap our longer than usual winter. Back in mid-December, Richard was involved in a bizarre and frightening incident while doing driving training for work, and the health and financial ramifications of that are proving difficult for him to deal with. A couple of weeks later, I lost the competition to continue permanently in my admin job, getting the bad news on Christmas Eve. In a word, winter sucked, and then it dragged on and on and on.

When we look at what we accomplished and experienced last spring, summer, and fall, we had a really good year; it just went out with a whimper instead of a bang, and unusually grey days with little sun or snow and lots of mud since then have added to the tarnish on the new year.

Desperate for signs of spring, I’ve spent a few hours in the garden the past few weekends clearing away winter debris (enabling the deer to find my tender tulips and other shoots to chew to pieces), and finally pulled out the camera tonight in search of some colour. I also visited with the mini-minis, kids of the neighbour’s miniature goats. (They look sturdy in the pics below, but they aren’t much bigger than kittens.) Lots to keep us distractedly busy around here, and lots to be grateful for, all things considered. I think our spirits will revive when winter is truly behind us (daffodils by Easter, let’s hope!) and it’s wholeheartedly spring.

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Posted by anita at 7:47 PM | Comments (7)

December 21, 2010

Solstice Eclipse

Tonight I bundled up against the chill and stood alone in my courtyard, watching Earth's shadow creep across the full, icy white Solstice moon. So beautiful. As I write, the moon is reappearing after being eclipsed for over an hour, and the song I am listening to is one of several that I sung as I watched.

I always watch for a full moon, more often since moving here where skies are clear more frequently than most other cities in Canada - and I live in the countryside with hardly a light to be seen this time of night. But tonight is Winter Solstice, so I'm very grateful to my friend Beth for letting me know that the full moon marked on my calendar would turn into this. A full moon eclipse at winter solstice won't happen again for several thousand years. And as much as I love Christmas, it is as much about the pagan traditions of Solstice and New Year's Eve for me as the more recent Christian traditions that overlaid them - recognition of the change of seasons, the year's passing, winter's hold on everything, that suspension of time that comes with ice and snow, and yet the promise of day returning. And no more potent an image for me than a lunar eclipse on a starry night where the woods stand out in stark silhouette against snow.

The Earth's shadow has receded most of the way now, the snow outside my windows brightening again, and for once the moon is still high and southward enough to see here, not hidden behind the hills to the west just yet. I'll stay up just a little longer, until the eclipse is over. Here's the song again, in Latin, the way I like it best, so the beautiful melody stands out in the solemn syllables without the connotations of the hymn getting in the way. It does fit, though, for a solstice moon: grazia plena, full of grace.

Posted by anita at 1:10 AM | Comments (3)

November 24, 2010

Better Get Your Booties On

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I just got home from work, after a slow but not white-knuckled drive through the latest snowfall. This will be a big one, I suspect, although not falling so heavily yet here at home. At the University, I swiped all the snow off my car before I set out, and the back window was covered again by the time I got round to the front hood. But that's partly because it’s warming up, a much more comfortable –11 now.

This morning, by comparison, it was –18 when I went out to start the car, and overnight it must have been quite a bit lower, because I ran out of water just at the end of my shower – the pipes froze in the well house. Richard had turned on the heating tape wrapped around the pipes on Saturday, and set up a new heater with a fan to keep the whole room a bit warmer, but it didn’t quite do the trick. I didn’t get a chance to crank it up this morning when I found out it was frozen, but since it has warmed up by ten degrees or so, the taps are now running just fine. And thankfully, the deep freeze seems to be over. Above zero by Monday, maybe.

But first, more snow! Here’s how the BBQ looked Saturday morning (always our first gauge of how deep the snowfall is), very typical of a morning in mid-December. (Or of Groundhog Day, which is the movie reference in the title, if anyone is wondering.)

I’m still kind of hoping all the snow goes away so I can rake my chestnut leaves and spread them over my lavender beds for insulation, but then again, if the snow stays around, the lavender will be fine. I only lost plants last year because we had no snow. I also have tulip bulbs I don’t know what to do with now. As much as I love snow – disgustingly so, I know, I know – I have to say I'm just not ready for winter yet. But I’ll still be out of bed early tomorrow, excited as a little kid to see what kind of winter wonderland tonight brings us. And wishing it were Saturday, so I could stay inside with a cup of chai or bundle up with snowshoes and camera and enjoy it, instead of driving to work in it. Sigh.

Posted by anita at 6:13 PM | Comments (5)

November 23, 2010

Moonlight and Flames

I've had a strange start to the day this morning. Just before 5:30, an hour before I normally get up, a humming, buzzing, alarm-like noise woke me, and I knew instantly that it didn't come from within my bedroom, or even within the house. I went wandering out into the living room, trying to identify the source. Beyond the windows, the neighbourhood was clear and bright, snow smoothed by the night's wind glowing like a summer dawn in the full moon. My anger at the noise that had woken me melted away. It's so beautiful here when it snows. I can't be upset that it's a month early, either, when it looks like this.

I opened the front door to a whoosh of cold and confirmation that the high-pitched hum was coming up the street. The trains, perhaps? Then as I retreated from it to the back of my house, and looked across my moonlit garden, a different kind of light caught my eye.

Through the boughs of the firs, I could see flames. I was concerned at first - it's unusually early, and at -19 more than a bit too cold, for our neighbour on the east to be up - but I found another vantage point and confirmed, it's a bonfire. I couldn't see him, but the location confirms he's burning up the debris from the saggy old shed that Richard helped him demolish a few weeks ago. I watched the flames and the moonlight, and considered bundling into winter coat and boots for a quick walk out there myself. Snow and a neighbourly chat across the fence at 5:30am. . . . No, I think not. Brrr. But I'm up, and kind of glad for that odd neighbourhood-wide alarm that got me up to see the moonlight. Winter is here. Might as well enjoy it.

Posted by anita at 6:03 AM

October 10, 2009

Brrrr!

Seems like we've jumped straight from scorching summer to winter's chill without stopping for a few nice weeks of autumn. This morning when Richard went outside at 9, the thermometer read -6! Plants that I would normally be doing fall maintenance on over the next couple of weeks have already had a week of frost and winds have whisked away seeds I hadn't gotten round to collecting yet, even breaking branches off younger trees. Plus, the bears are getting a head start, not only taking every last one of our apples earlier in the week, but breaking branches off the crabapple last night too. The birds are going crazy - I don't think they expected this either. We were on the Coquihalla Thursday evening and there was already a dusting of white on the summits, with a few flakes falling as we drove. Time to unpack my scarves and winter sweaters!

I marked my birthday Thursday with cards and cake at both my workplaces and a few phone calls, but the real celebration will be tonight, as we are expecting the arrival shortly of Dagny and Chris. Despite the frosty mornings it's a beautiful weekend and we hope to take a walk along the salmon run at Adams River, which has become something of a birthday tradition. Richard is making his fabulous turkey for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night, and something special for my birthday dinner tonight, so we'll need a walk to work off full stomachs. Otherwise it will be a lazy weekend, as all of us are feeling drained, stressed, and in need of relaxation. We haven't seen Chris and Dagny in quite a while, after the frequent visits for wedding prep were over, so I'm very happy they were able to make it here after all.

Work has been crazy for both of us, and if I have to waste my time getting inadequately trained on one more unwieldy, poorly documented, badly designed piece of custom software I'm going to seriously consider applying to take over the damned IT department! Hmph. However, I think we've got a lot more job satisfaction overall than we had in our last positions, and our financial situation has definitely improved now that I'm earning a salary - part-time though it is for now - so I'm cautiously optimistic as I start a new year. If I can just get this house cleaned up, my garden set to rights, and my head back into novel-writing mode, I'll be ready for the real winter weather to begin.

On that note, must take my last birthday cake (almond flour pound cake in case you were wondering) out of the oven and get this place cleaned up for our guests! Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you have a lot to be thankful for.

Posted by anita at 2:09 PM

February 22, 2009

It's Not Spring Yet

Icicles3.jpgOne of the things I miss most about living on the coast is the long, green arrival of spring. During my last visit in mid-January, my sister and nieces and I went for a walk and could see the tips of crocus, snowdrop, daffodil and even iris poking up out of soft dark earth.

Here, winter is lingering as usual in February. Overnight lows of –10 are preserving the ice and snow, and while in the city there are only patches in shady corners and the packed, concrete-like piles around curbs, here the two feet of snow that arrived early in December has barely begun to recede. Friends in Kamloops tell me green is returning to their flowerbeds at lower elevations, but most of my garden is still crusted over with snow. The narrow bare patch in the courtyard under the eaves is vaguely green, bleached weeds left over from late fall, but it will be four weeks at least until the lilies beneath poke fresh green tips out of that hard soil.

For a second I considered pruning. The shoots on the fruit trees got ahead of us last spring, and my apricot buds open in mid-March. But it was –12 last night, there are flurries in the forecast all week, and let’s face it, at –6 right now, my hands are going to be useless with the heavy loppers. Next Sunday is March 1st, (the start of planting season on the coast – we start May 1st) so if it’s a little warmer, maybe I’ll work on the apricot.

Or maybe, given the odd weather patterns we’ve had this season, I’ll be photographing a fresh foot of snow or more hoarfrost needling the trees. One day soon we’ll enter that short but ugly brown mucky phase where weak sunshine finally reaches raw earth, and then I can finally walk through my garden in sneakers instead of snowshoes, looking for that first hint of spring.

Here are a few more wintery photos from the past few weeks.

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Posted by anita at 9:28 AM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2008

Snow Daze

Dec12-Snowman.jpgFinally, winter has arrived with a vengeance. We have a whopping two feet of snow on the deck out back from this weekend, and it’s three or four feet deep in the drifts. And brrrrr, it’s chilly. I have yet to go snowshoeing – either too snowy or blindingly bright or painfully windy. And Richard has had some trouble keeping our water pipes in the shed from freezing. But we’re thrilled to have snow to play in, and I’m optimistic for a white Christmas all around. In a bit of a daze with holiday prep and travels in the midst of this weather. Hopefully I’ll pin Richard down long enough to get a photo in front of our gorgeous Christmas tree for the annual e-card. Look for a post Sunday night—but if our holiday well wishes don’t appear, we’re probably caught in a snowstorm somewhere. I’d say wish us luck, but the 300 is all wheel drive with ice radials so I’m not that worried. Those of you on the coast, drive safe! (How’s the new car faring, C & D?) We’re on the road by 6am tomorrow. I’ll be listening to half a dozen versions of “Let It Snow” and enjoying the scenery. No sleigh bells, but you can’t beat heated seats. Cheers!

Posted by anita at 12:16 AM

November 26, 2008

Just a Dusting

Nov26-SnowApples.jpgWe had our first snow! Doesn't look like much, but given that the temperature has plunged and will stay below freezing until the weekend, this light frosting is sticking around, and we may get more on Friday. Winter is on it's way.

By the way, those of you who might be planning to visit us in the next few weeks, if you have access to a berry-loaded holly tree and time to take a bag full of cuttings for me, I'd be thrilled to trade for a bunch of our gorgeous ponderosa pine cones. I'm enjoying making a wreath and garlands out of cones, and I should be able to find enough fir and cedar and cypress boughs to green things up a bit, but a few holly springs would be a wonderful gift if you're stopping by.

I still remember our first Christmas here, when Maria dropped in with two giant bags full of holly Chad gathered from their yard. And then we had our first big snowfall on Christmas Eve. It was magical despite the construction dust, the mice, the plywood floor and Charlie Brown tree. This year it's snug and cosy and if there is any construction dust happening, I'll be thrilled. All it really takes is snow, though. Cheers!

Posted by anita at 11:06 AM | Comments (6)

October 26, 2008

Autumn Serenity

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Posted by anita at 1:49 PM

April 19, 2008

Anyone for a Barbecue?

Apr19-LateSnow3.jpgLook at what we woke up to this morning! My sister and nieces left yesterday morning after a great visit that we spent mostly outdoors in the sunshine. Most days it was 18 degrees in the shade in the afternoon. But on Friday morning, snowflakes were falling, just a little, and Elisa's drive home via the Fraser Canyon was harrowing, with snow falling the entire trip (until she got to the coastal side's torrential downpours, which were worse, apparently). Here it remained chilly and windy all day, and then around 6 as I headed to the post office, the flakes turned as large as quarters and by the time I got home it was accumulating. By bedtime it was two inches thick. We never thought we'd wake up to find it still snowing! I got up at 6:30, shocked, and tried to post a photo, but of course in the heavy snowfall my satellite internet was down. It's thinning out now, but there's a good 4 inches on the ground (except on the road and the gravel driveway) and no yard work in our futures this afternoon, I expect. Last I checked, the forecast was for "flurries" and a high of 8 degrees, but we're in a snowier pocket that's sometimes 2 degrees cooler than the airport 75k away, so who knows. Mother Nature is giving us the day off, I guess. Might as well rest - both of us are feeling like the flu is coming on - not surprising since both nieces seemed to have a touch of it. But I was really hoping to spend the day in my garden, it was so lovely to be outside so much this week. I hope this is the last of the cold weather. I've already got daffodils, forsythia, bergenia and dwarf irises in bloom and pruned my black currants and roses, ready for spring!

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Posted by anita at 10:55 AM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2008

Hawthorn Magic

My mom, avid blogger that she is, sent me a link last night to one of her favourite reads, Dave Bonta, because she thought I would enjoy his piece about hawthorns. I loved Dave's piece about his secret hawthorn place, which brought back powerful memories for me of all the hidden places I knew so well in the many wild, wooded areas near my childhood home. (Most of those trees, brooks and gullies are lost to housing developments now.) I immediately replied to my mom, who insisted I post this as a response to Dave and for the rest of you to enjoy. Dave, thank you, I hope my readers find as much magic in your post and the adolescent dreaming it revives as I did.

I was immediately hooked by Dave's stunning first photo, stark yet ethereal, and his use of the word "thicket". My favourite patch of hawthorns is in a thicket down on Stoney Flats about a half hour walk from here, which no other word could better describe, but it's a fairy-tale kind of word, not used much any more by our urban society. Perhaps only a writer (and reader of fairytales) could understand the pleasure I got from just being able to use the word thicket, the first time I saw one after moving here. I really envy his childhood exploration of such wild and secret places, more rare every day it seems. Makes me want to get out the snowshoes and hike down to the thicket, find a way through the fence and into the midst of its two-inch-long thorns and ancient interlocking boughs. Only it's melting here, not snow-shoeing weather at all, slushy/icy with two feet of snow with nothing to absorb it, overcast and damp, neither winter nor spring. And to get in there, you'd have to be a bird - no charcoal makers here. But Dave's piece has inspired memory, which is often more mysterious than the real thing.

These days I'm seeking my muse, hoping to get back into "writing mode", as I call it, starting with dusting off my antennae. First opening the eyes and ears, to things like hawthorn thickets and rumours of spring, and then giving my thoughts voice, rusty and awkward or not. I find it harder and harder, especially when this stressed. Treating myself to books and a new camera (and planning for gardening season) should help.

Letting my mind wander after reading Dave's post, I had an urge to read the Grimm's version of Sleeping Beauty (and listen to Tchaikovsky). When she and the castle fall asleep, the thicket that grows around the castle is a briar hedge of roses and thorns, which attack any who try to cut their way through it, until her prince arrives. And then there's Rapunzel, the variant I know had a thicket too, where the newly rescued Rapunzel then gets trapped until her hair regrows down to the ground like a cloak, while her blinded lover wanders a wasteland searching for her. They knew the mysteries of thickets, mystic clearings, dense forest places in the old tales I grew up reading. It was easy to translate that feeling into the hemlock, vine maple, cedar and salmonberry woods I grew up with, and even easier here on the border between arid grasslands and wooded hills, where almost everything wild has thorns, and at the same time fragrant flowers. Kind of plain in summer, but beautiful and powerful in winter when simplified to their essence by snow.

My desktop photo right now is the small thicket of hawthorn, wild rose and poplar, fenced in with logs and barbed wire, that starts at the upper end of my street. I posted it here on Boxing Day. Do read Dave's post if you get a chance, and if you love trees, check out the monthly Festival of Trees he refers to, which compile more links that you'd think possible of beautiful images and words about all kinds of trees, from the scientific to the mystic. Enjoy.

Posted by anita at 12:31 PM | Comments (8)

January 6, 2008

New Years Eve 2007

Dec31-Wildlights7.jpgHappy New Year! We had a fantastic four-day celebration with Ben, Adrienne, Chris and Dagny: the perfect amount of snow to play in, bright sunshine, a delectable prime rib dinner (we ate too well, surprise, surprise), and of course, reminiscences about the past year and resolutions for the future.

The image at left is a tree at the Wildlights light display at the Wildlife centre. We bundled up for the train tour around the park, then warmed up with some hot chocolate while admiring the wolf cubs, but didn’t stay long because minus 11 was too cold even with a bonfire. No, we didn’t end up doing one of our own, opting to stay warm and cozy in front of the tree and a good movie. We only managed to stay up 15 minutes past midnight this year, but we had a great night. I haven’t seen Richard this happy since the Un-Wedding. As you can see from the photos – thanks to Adrie for the great one of Richard and I – we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect holiday with our friends.

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Posted by anita at 5:31 PM

December 27, 2007

Holiday Delights

Snowman-Dec24.jpgI heard Vancouver had snow on Christmas Day! We’ve certainly had a beautiful white Christmas here… I made this snowman on Christmas Eve, but our gorgeous powder is so icily dry, that I had to carve this fellow out of the snowbank Richard has been building up with the bobcat every time he plows the driveway. Yesterday, when I got back from a hike through the woods and dusted the falling snow off him, I discovered some creature had bitten off his carrot nose! Among the photos that follow you’ll see a couple featuring animal tracks – but no sightings other than llamas so far.

I’ve enjoyed the snow even more the past couple of days, because of Richard’s gift to me this year: snowshoes! Our soft powder isn’t much support, so in heavy drifts I still sink almost as deep as if I were in my boots, but these babies have crampons that help me keep my balance as I clamber blindly with my eye to the camera in search of the perfect photo, and in the shallower snow beneath the trees, I was able to hike along almost effortlessly. My last snowshoeing experience was during a mountain survival course in grade seven, and our shoes were the traditional giant teardrop-shaped cane things. No comparison to my new Elektras. They’re really easy to put on, even over my –20 boots, and they have a suspension that allows your foot to bend as it normally does when you walk. So no more wading knee deep through the snow for me!

XmasDinner.jpgOn Christmas Day Richard cooked us a gorgeous turkey (which he de-boned in advance to make stock as usual) and all the trimmings, and there’s still half a bird in the fridge. We also found time to visit Wildlights, rearrange some more furniture, watch several holiday movies, and plan my other present, my bedroom closet, which will soon have IKEA shelves, rods, pant hangers, sock bins and maybe even shoe racks…. You’ve no idea how exciting that is—that closet has been a cavernous catch-all fit only for spiders for two years. Next time we head to the coast, we’ll go shopping.

Now we’re preparing for guests arriving Saturday. We’re especially happy because last year’s guests were the Olson twins and Adrienne, giving Dagny a lift; this year it’s Ben and Adrienne Olson, celebrating their first New Years as a married couple, and Chris & Dagny celebrating the one-year anniversary of falling in love at last year’s party. Brings a big smile to our faces. (What will also bring smiles is seeing the monogrammed sweaters Marlene, the twins’ mom, made for our four dear friends: they read A, B, C and D. Did my blog give you the idea, Marlene?) And Richard will be feeding us as decadently as last year. I will really enjoy the prime rib after a week of eating turkey. Now I have to go clean up all the sawdust and tools from the electrical work Richard finished in the basement, so we can spend New Years Eve playing pool. We might do a bonfire, but if the weather is anything like last night, up the hill at a co-worker’s outdoor open house, we won’t last long, particularly our Vancouverite friends in their wimpy winter gear. I’ll have to fix us a vat of hot chocolate and mulled apple (and a little Irish cream or rum for extra warmth). Hopefully we’re all over our colds by then, so we can spend some time playing in the snow!

However you ring in the New Year, I hope you have a great night. We’ll be thinking of you.

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Posted by anita at 6:42 PM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2007

Who Needs Reindeer...

...when you have llamas! It felt like an early Christmas present yesterday afternoon, as I was standing at my kitchen window doing a few dishes. I saw a reddish-brown creature grazing at my fenceline and couldn't believe my eyes. Got on the phone to the neighbour, and sure enough, they've just arrived - not one but two, tame and friendly, long-lashed, foul-breathed beautiful llamas. And if you follow my blog or visit us in person, you know that llamavision goes both ways. Just now I spotted the all-brown one at the fence as I stood at my back door, and it instantly spotted me, too. And perked up its ears. I went out alone to meet them yesterday, not sure the reception I would get, but once I got close and tossed a carrot, it was mere seconds before the alpha female was eating out of my hand. (And not letting the other one have a single carrot, though it was happy with alfalfa.) I'm so thrilled, I had to share. Llamavision returns! And just in time for our guests arriving on the 29th for New Years. Yay!

Posted by anita at 11:19 AM

December 13, 2007

Tannenbaum

Dec07-Tannenbaum.jpgWinter is whiter this year. I'm in mourning for our lodgepole pines, half of which have been felled, and of those still standing most are a sickly shade of rust. This beautiful young one in our yard is already infected. It looks just like the faithful pine in the song, green against the white. But in the spring it will fall with the rest. Inside, waiting for spring, I have seedlings of white pine, a memorial to my great uncle Toby. Hopefully they can thrive where the lodgepole has not. For now, we're taking the time to appreciate the beauty of these trees, and the last of their cones are a part of all my holiday decorations this year. I would welcome 30 days at -30, if it would save the rest of these trees. But as usual, it's warming up again after a week of cold, and this snow will be replaced by grey skies and brown muck for a bit before we get another cold snap. I'm wishing for a white Christmas - white and green.

Posted by anita at 9:43 AM | Comments (5)

December 1, 2006

December

I'm having technical problems with my blog... A post of almost equal length that I wrote after a trip to the post office on the 29th disappeared as if it never existed when I got up yesterday morning. And of course after successfully posting that morning without the usual glitches, I was over-confident and did not copy it to my text file. When I read the post as it came up on my home page yesterday, I noticed an error that I'd fixed immediately the day before. So I hit refresh, and the post was gone. I wonder if anyone else even saw it? I described driving home on the highway with snow floating across the surface of the road, like driving on a plateau of cloud. So frustrating when this happens. It's hard enough to get entries to save without them disappearing afterwards!

Anyway, I just wanted to say that except for a glorious sunny break in the afternoon yesterday, it's been snowing lightly on and off the past couple of days, and it's coming down quite thickly now. No return of the hoarfrost, but Wednesday night's snowfall left all the trees covered as well as the rooftops, so it's whiter than ever out there. A neighbour kindly used his little bobcat to plow my driveway and it was much less nerve-wracking getting my post office run done last night. We'll have to get him and his girlfriend a bottle of something.

In other news, Jonathan came over to borrow our compression fitting crimper, which meant a foray into our shell of a master bathroom full of beautiful fixtures in their boxes, tile samples, under-floor heating pad heating nothing, gorgeous 5' wide plastic-sheathed shower... sigh. It's hard to believe this time last year I thought I'd have a completed ensuite by Christmas. Given the chilly weather, though, our next project really must be insulating the basement!

Oh, and the best news of all: Warren and Melissa are the proud parents of a baby boy. Richard got to meet young Gavin last night. He's healthy and apparently very cute. Congratulations!! We look forward to the advent of your blog with baby photos!

Wow, the snow is really coming down. I checked the forecast earlier and they mentioned flurries but this is intense. And they changed the longterm, from cloudy and warmer to cooler and snowier. You know me, I love snow, but I want this to come at Christmas - I'm afraid our share of snow for the season has already fallen, and then some. It would be such a shame for it to be green and wet again on Christmas day this year. Especially when we're looking forward to having Richard's family join us this year. And of course, our New Years party will be dull without a winter wonderland to play in! We certainly could have built a hockey rink in our back yard last week, but the chances of that kind of cold for New Years Eve are looking pretty slim now. Contrary to what you might thing, this is NOT normal weather for this area in the first months of winter. But I'm not complaining, I love it. Down on the coast it's warming up and rainy, slushy, damp and gloomy... I don't envy that at all. Here it's bright and crisp and at -7 this morning, hardly feels cold at all because it's so dry. It's a good start to December.

Posted by anita at 8:08 AM | Comments (3)

November 29, 2006

Cold Snap

Ah, it hurts not to have a camera! Richard is still on the road with the Mog (showing a Lower Mainland municipality what the Mog can do in snow, actually) and I've been waiting for him and the camera to get home so I can capture this amazing weather.

Words will have to do for now - this morning is too spectacular not to capture somehow.

It is currently -23, but the wind has calmed finally, so that -34 windchill in today's forecast isn't affecting us yet. The silence is absolute. The sky is that palest pink you see in tiny clamshells on the beach, as the sun comes up slowly behind the eastern hills. When I woke up the first thing I saw was more white, and thought maybe the next round of flurries had begun overnight. No, it's frost. I've seen this once before, one morning in January when a cold snap like this is more common. The spruce and firs seem immune, but something about the lodgepole pines attracts the ice. Every pine is white, each needle limned in crystalline frost so even far away trees stand out like crystal. Our chestnut, too, has frost shining over every bare silver branch. And when the first rays of sun reach past the hilltops to hit the trees, the silence will break with great cracking noises as the frost drops from the pines in that bit of warmth. If we get sun. The pink is weakening to a dull, depthless gray and it seems less, rather than more, light out now. From where I sit, ice and snow are visible on the still river, and the mist is hardly moving. After weeks of burning pine from the removal of beetle-infested trees all down the block, there's barely a wisp of smoke to be seen. I love the silence and the sense of waiting, breath held.

There. The snowy top of one hill across the river is rose. We may get a show after all. I'd go outside, but my short walk around our acre yesterday in the midst of the sunny afternoon made me realize why they have to warn us about frostbite when the temperature drops like this. It's so dry, and the cold is so instant the minute you walk out the door, that the tip of your nose goes numb before you think about it and you don't even feel that all your exposed skin is freezing. I came in after less than half an hour and my face was red as a tomato between scarf and toque. Mind you, the wind was blowing. I wanted to see what the wind had done. November is a month of frequent windstorms here, but usually not accompanied by 20 inches of snow. The drifts are above my knees in places you wouldn't expect. The barn, for instance, faces south into the wind. I expected to find snow piled up to its edges, but instead the drift settled two feet in front of the south wall, with a swirling pattern and sharp ridge, and between the peak of the drift and the wall, the tips of the grass are showing.

Behind the well shed (where the heat is on to keep our pipes to the house from freezing) the north side is another strange drift, with a similar furrow a foot wide showing grass. But the best image of the wind in the snow was among the tall weedstalks behind the barn. I so desperately wanted a photo of this I could have cried. (I probably looked like I was crying, the cold by then making my eyes water endlessly.)

One of the weeds was broken about three inches above the ground, so its twiggy top bent down to just touch the surface of the snow. Somehow the wind had spun it like a compass, creating a beautiful series of rings in the snow around the stalk. And then yesterday's calmer, chillier weather set it crisp and clear until I came upon it like a miniature crop circle.

It's 8am and the sky is edging toward blue, but still flat and pale compared to the cobalt blue skys after a January snowstorm. If it weren't for the snow and frost it would be gloomy. With another storm on the way, I guess the sun has no strength for cracking ice. Instead the highway traffic has picked up, and now the smoke is rising from my neighbour's yard. Time to get the work day started, I guess. If I can take my eyes off the pines, and the snow clinging to my blue spruce, and the way the deer prints careen all over the yard. The next snowfall is expected this afternoon, though, so I have a lot of work to finish and rush to the post office with before the roads get messy again. And then I can sit back and enjoy the falling snow.

I hope you all drive safe and stay warm in this cold snap, and enjoy the natural beauty of this time of year. I, for one, am looking forward to the holidays, with hopefully less cold, and as much snow.

Posted by anita at 8:39 AM | Comments (3)

November 2, 2006

Hah!

The Universe has spoken. My swift depression on finding out El Nino could prevent a white Christmas this year has lifted: against all forecasts to the contrary, it is SNOWING. And yes, Richard, that IS measurable accummulation on the ground. Just a little early for Christmas, of course, but this is fairly normal weather for our area, as opposed to the seemingly endless drought we've had until today (not to mention the chilling -7 overnight temperatures we had earlier this week). So I'm now more hopeful that we might, maybe, get just a little snow to brighten up the holidays. Please?

Posted by anita at 3:05 PM | Comments (5)

October 27, 2006

Autumn Sunset

Oct27-Sunset3.jpgI snapped this earlier this evening, something to get me out of my chair after working non-stop since getting home from an appointment in town all morning. I just finished work and am about to go watch the Great Pumpkin to try to remind myself it's Hallowe'en. This month has flown by unbelievably fast.

Following is another photo of the local landscape, taken last weekend. I'm just not doing a great job of keeping up with the blog posts. Still haven't seen the new goats either, although I've been hearing them out back all day. They sound so much like children wailing, especially when they lose sight of their mothers. Maaaaaaaaah!!! I'm so glad it's the weekend, I've got lots of plans to get things done around here. Happy Hallowe'en, everyone.

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Posted by anita at 8:30 PM | Comments (3)

October 21, 2006

Cycles

Oct8-Spawning2.jpgHere are a few more photos of the sockeye salmon run, which is ending this weekend. It's a festival year, the fourth year of the cycle which is usually bigger than the rest, but as festival years go it's only average, not the massive number of fish that Richard remembers from years ago. The turnout was huge - in one of the photos below you might be able to make out the crowd of visitors lining one of the many viewing stations along the river. The festival itself seems well organized and the trails are well kept and wide enough for the hundreds of people that come to see these fish.

The red and green sockeye are stunning as they pair up and begin spawning. The females make bowl-shaped redds (nests for groups of eggs) by flicking their tales through the stoney creek bottoms. The males are the ones with the humps on their backs. As other males come looking for a mate, it drives them away. The females will fight too, over the best nesting spots.

Richard climbed up on a huge tree trunk that had fallen across a spawning creek, and hung over it on his stomach to take a series of photos of one pair spawning in mid-creek in the shadow of the trunk. The water moves quickly so it's very clear despite the number of dying fish settling on the edges. I'm amazed how well our photos captured the salmon's colours, the stones, and the light on the water. I wish I could post them full-size instead of reducing them to these tiny blurred images. I think we took over 50 photos during our 3-hour walk and most turned out well.

Oct8-Spawning3.jpgThe one out-of-place silvery fish below is a chinook, not sockeye. A few of them were larger flickers of black shadow in amongst the red in the main part of the river. The one benefit to viewers of a less than massive run is the smell: it was only a wafting hint of rot, rather than an overpowering stench, despite the piles of fish in varying stages of decay. Richard wanted me to post one shot of a toothy-jawed, near-skeletal chinook carcass lying on the dry rocks far from the edge of the river. Something made a meal of it, probably a bear. But I couldn't inflict it on you - not everyone shares our scientific fascination with this stuff.

The salmon run as a whole is an amazing process. A festival volunteer told us that of 4000 eggs a female might lay (not all get a chance to), only two will survive to make the journey from creek to river to lake and all the way to the ocean and back again. Most feed other fish or birds or become fertilizer for plant life along with their parents. So you take that one female away, and you're affecting a lot more than just taking away two returning spawning fish. It makes the sight of heaps of rotting sockeye less tragic, when you consider the value to nature of every last egg. It's a moving experience.

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Autumn on Poplar Road has brought some other cycles full circle. The gigantically fat and greedy ladies at Goat Haven have among them birthed 9 kids. Jonathan is very proud of his new, warm barn with a private stall for each mama goat and her babes. Now that mornings are foggy and/or frosty, the goats stay in there until mid-morning. Neru, the Minotaur-like stud ram, has been sold, and they have a young red to take his place and add some new blood to the family. The two llamas are still around, though Buddy is wearing out his welcome. I suspect he'll be traded soon for a tamer, less aggressive mate for Coco.

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Meanwhile, the prolific pine beetle has been multiplying in our woods and has now infested all of Grace and Don's 50 to 100-year-old lodgepole pines. A total of 12 trees are being removed from their yard before the blue disease the beetles carry weakens the trees enough to topple them. Grace is heartbroken, as are we. Jonathan will have to cut down all the pines in his yard, too, including two mammoth hundred-year-olds with branches widespread enough to shelter an entire flock of goats. Out back, so many trees are red that once they are removed, we'll have a meadow behind us instead of a wood. In our own yard we're lucky to have mostly fir and spruce. The one young pine, not a lodgepole, is so far un-infested and healthy with sap despite the drought. And yesterday we had a bit of rain. When autumn rains start for real that will make some difference to the trees' ability to fight off the bugs, although not enough. The whole mountainside is turning red and there's nothing anyone can do other than cut them down. And in the woods, the firs are dying from some other disease so we can only hope this winter gets cold.

In the photo above left you can see the stumps and sections of trunk that are left from the 6 trees taken out next door so far. Compare with the scene from July at right, or from last winter and you'll see the tragedy here. I just can't believe the change when I look out our dining room window – it was all pine boughs before, and now it's a view of the dusty hills across the river, soon to be even wider when Jonathan takes down his. So sad. Winter will be bleaker with so fewer evergreens. At least we'll see more of the river.

Oct15-GeraniumUrn.jpgToday I must finally get out in my garden to dig up bulbs and plants that should come indoors for the winter. The wheelbarrow my parents have given me for my birthday will help with the digging and mulching. The forecast is still fairly mild, but we will likely see the first dusting of snow on top of the hills across the river next week. I gathered chestnuts and lilac seeds for a table arrangement the other day and yesterday one souvenir pine cone that fell in our yard as the trees came down; but it feels too early for wintery decorating. The leaves have only just turned. I'm looking forward to snow, but not just yet. It's only been a few weeks since everything turned back from burnt summer browns to green.

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Oct19-Office.jpgWork - keeping up with work - has been the priority for both of us this fall. Between overtime and visitors and necessary rest, we've had no energy for renovations, in case you're wondering if we've accomplished anything new on that front. I'm really hoping we get back to it in the spring. Then I'll have more to blog about (and more closet space). Here, though, is one shot of my office, with two new bookshelves Richard bought me for my birthday. I have another set of doors to put on, so I can hide all my work supplies. This is my favourite room in the house. Which is good, because I spent most of my waking hours in here. It's taken me two and a half hours just to post this entry - I tried to use too large a photo size. But now I'm going to go get my hands in the dirt. It's a beautiful sunny morning in my favourite season of the year.

Posted by anita at 9:11 AM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2006

Anniversaries

Oct8-Surf-n-Turf1.jpgLast weekend our friend Chris came up for Thanksgiving and helped us celebrate a few milestones. First, on the 6th, was our 2nd annivesary of buying this house. And it was fitting to have Chris here, because if you go back to Thanksgiving 2004, it was Chris and his twin brother Ben who bravely tackled the first and one of our worst reno jobs by helping us rip out the living room carpeting the day we moved in. Here is Chris enjoying a more relaxing weekend, digging into beef tenderloin and a couple of massive Alaskan king crab legs – my birthday dinner courtesy of chef Richard.

Oct8-Surf-n-Turf2.jpgYes, this is me a whole year older. We celebrated with surf-n-turf on Saturday night, went to the salmon run festival at Adams River on Sunday, and after turkey dinner we ended the day with a bonfire in the back yard. It was a spectacular day. I'd never seen a sockeye run before. These photos are just a few of the great images Richard captured during our three hour walk around the park on Sunday.

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Lots more to tell you about but I'm going to split this entry in half and share the rest when I'm more... awake. Yawn.

Posted by anita at 2:10 AM | Comments (3)

June 30, 2006

Garden Gallery Revisited

Jun29-Lillies1.jpgTwo weeks have gone by as I've been working full time, this last with an incredible amount of heat. I got heatstroke on Sunday in the 38 degree scorcher, while pruning lilacs and other shrubs that have finished blooming. While I was wilting away, the summer flowers were soaking up the light. The bucket of miscellaneous lily bulbs I got from the neighbour last fall have grown very well and today was the real show. I can't resist showing them off. No scented stargazers, sadly, but what colours!

Happy Summer, everyone!

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Posted by anita at 2:52 AM

June 2, 2006

Garden Gallery

May27-Columbine1.jpgTwo days of gorgeous sunshine and we're back to showers again. I've been documenting all the new growth in the garden for the past week (made the mistake of not doing this last year) so I'll have a better idea of what are welcome shoots versus nasty weeds come next spring. I also figured out a feature of the digital camera to get better focusing for close-ups. That plus a wonderful amount of blooming things that either didn't do well last year or never came up at all, and I've got a huge number of flower pics. Some of these I may even print. These low-res web versions hardly do them justice but I'm so thrilled with my garden I just have to share.

May21-Poppy3.jpgThe Oriental poppies bloomed well this year but those seeds get everywhere.

May21-Chestnut2.jpgEdible chestnut or horse chestnut? No idea, but the blossoms are gorgeous.

May27-PurpleIris1.jpgMy earliest flowering bearded iris.

May30-Lupins3.jpgMy seeds hardly grew, but these original lupins are huge.

May27-LupinLeaves.jpgLupin leaves after the rain.

May27-Daylilies3.jpgRain on daylilies, which are just showing flower buds today.

May27-Hosta.jpgSharon identified these hostas. A frog nestled in one yesterday.

May27-MysteryVine2.jpgI've spent hours searching but can't identify this vine.

May30-Apples.jpgAll three apple trees will be groaning with fruit this fall.

May30-Cherries.jpgMmm, three weeks to cherry season. The apricots will be next.

May30-Iris-Black3.jpgThese didn't bloom last year and now rodents are eating them.

May30-Iris-Mini.jpgI mistook its skinny leaves for daylilies but it's another iris.

May30-Iris-WnP2.jpgThe irises drowning in weeds by the apple tree all bloomed this year.

May30-Iris-Dwarf.jpgI dug these dwarf ones out to replant at the front by the roses.

May27-YellowIris1.jpgHere is yet another iris, just one stalk of this colouring next to the big clump of 2-colour purples. Two more iris varieties are coming up, one ruffled marigold yellow and the other a yellow and blood red combination that was choked out by the orange poppies last year. If the rodents eat them I'll be really, really ticked. Also coming in are the daylilies, and today the first blossom opened on one of the mock oranges. Love that scent. So far there are three tiny California poppies open in the "field" – if you remember from last year – one pink, one coral, one red. It looks like there are fewer there this year, but I sowed seeds of them in three new spots so we'll see how those do. In the midst of the poppy field (which is coming up daisies or "Mayweed Chamomile") there is a cane or two of raspberry. Birds, I guess. The actual raspberry patch has recovered from a llama attack on the long weekend and is covered in blossoms. The extra-prickly indestructible wild roses are in bloom with shots of magenta everywhere, and the more elegant tea roses and climbing rose will flower soon. Oh, and the dozens of lilies and gladiolas I planted this spring are growing very well (minus one rodent casualty). Can't wait to see if the lilies are stargazers (they were donated in a bucket by the neighbours so I've no idea what they look like).

All this rain has meant few watering days this month, but the fruit trees especially could use some sun. And the weeds are harbouring bugs in massive numbers. In the few hours I spent digging up and cleaning off the dwarf iris rhizomes for replanting, I was eaten alive by bugs attracted by my sunscreen, tiny bugs with big vicious fangs. I have little tracks of three or four bites, all itchier than mosquitoes. Am scratching right now. I'm looking forward to the hotter, drier weather so I can be outside without bug repellant. Anyway, June is shaping up to be a great month, and not just in the garden.

Posted by anita at 6:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 9, 2006

Spring Smorgasbord

April8-Smorgasbord6.jpgMany women I know are in that stage of their lives when they suddenly realize they are becoming just like their mothers. For some it might be a phrase coming out of their mouths that they vowed they'd never use on their own daughters; for others, familiar lines or bulges that suddenly appear in the mirror. I had one of those moments of recognition yesterday, but what I saw in the mirror wasn't a physical resemblance to my mother. No, it was the dull brown clump of lilac seed husks stuck in my hair. This time of year, when I visit my mother I'm likely to pull at least one leaf or twig out of her hair after a few hours of gardening. I've never found the whole idea of leaf mold or bugs dropping on my head and the dark lines of dirt in the calluses and under the fingernails all that appealing. But even though I've straightened up from a planting bed or bout of pruning to say to myself, "There, I've finished with the yard work", within a week the sun will be shining gorgeously again and I'll find something else that needs doing. Like pruning the ancient lichen-covered lilac that last week I said would wait until next year. It's almost as if I like back-breaking labour.

Now why couldn't Richard have inherited the gardening gene from his green-thumbed mother? It's not that he doesn't appreciate plants, landscaping, even flowers – he does – but he lacks empathy for growing things. After weeks tied up with work he was ready, yesterday, to do the fruit tree pruning that should have been done before the buds came out and the sap started running. Despite all my efforts to rein him in with cautions about pruning this late, cutting down more than half the tree, and just generally fearing the affect on fruit production of another violent pruning, he did it again. More than half the cherry and the crabapple gone in a few quick swipes of the chain saw. I stood back cringing on behalf of each tree. Any time I tried to argue, Richard pointed to his earplugs and carried on. Below is a shot on the left of the crabapples a month ago, and on the right, part way through Richard's pruning job.

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April8-Pruning5.jpg It's probably a good thing that the columbine seeds I sowed beneath the crabapple didn't germinate, because I would have been more sad to see it come up only to wilt away in the heat now that there won't be any shade along that wall. I agreed that it was necessary to take out almost as much of the crabapple as we did – and the diseased one next to it had to be cut down – but this late in the spring, the neighbour confirmed that the sap will attract bugs and disease, the cuts may not callus over, and I'm worried that with the tree having been so long and leggy, there isn't enough leaf cover left to sustain the tree. The cherry, though more branches were removed, might be better off because it's still quite densely covered in buds. If it doesn't have a fit at the pruning, the remaining branches should be happy with the increased light down the centre, anyway. And if we can keep it this height, we'll actually be able to reach the cherries! (If there are any this year.)

In addition to the dying crabapple, we removed the mountain ash that was interfering with our chestnut and pine in the back, and two stumps of firs left in the front yard when we bought the place. One of the growing firs had a really long branch sticking out over the drive, which became a smorgasbord for the goats at the back fence. The rest went on the burn pile along with my lilac trimmings and a few cropped bits from the apple trees. The ashes from the bonfire were still smoking this morning despite rainfall last night, but there isn't a needle left on that six foot branch of fir. (The billy goat, Neru, is getting so big I keep thinking of the Minotaur – he looks like a bull and if I got too close he'd eat my camera.) This week we'll add all the scrap wood and twiggy weed stalks from last fall from around the barn to the pile.

April8-Burning2.jpgOur plan for Easter is another large bonfire and three more days of hard labour with Bev, Colleen and Jorge, as well as Peter, the Mulag sales rep visiting from Germany (who found himself roped into hauling wood for hours yesterday). We're going to tear down all the remaining pens from around the barn and hopefully clear out the interior as well. Here are views from the front facing the house and from the back by the rear gate. Bev helped us do all the pens on the east side last spring so she'll be an expert at chicken wire removal this time around!

I hope spending the day in the chicken coop doesn't ruin our appetites for the free-range turkey Colleen and Jorge are bringing for Easter dinner.

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April8-Flora2.jpgMmm, that reminds me. What tastes great with greens? Ten-year-old fleece and new denim, of course. I was able to get a bit closer to Flora with the camera this weekend, because she wouldn't leave me alone until she'd satisfied her curiosity about the flavour of my sweatshirt, my jeans and my boot laces. Once I let her get the fabric between her teeth (after fending her off to the point where it was either be knocked over backward, just let her taste, or scare her away forever), she didn't do the quick tug technique she uses to rip lilac buds off my bushes. She just rubbed it between her bottom teeth and upper plate, not gumming it up at all, and then let go. Whew. Although it was pretty funny crouching on the lawn with my arms around her neck, laughing as I tried to keep her from taking a bite out of me. It's too bad people with cameras distract her, or that would have made an even better photo. Next weekend should be interesting, when Colleen and Jorge's dogs are here. I wonder if they'll chase Flora, or will it be Flora gleefully chasing them? She runs like a gazelle but with twisty little kicks sometimes as if her back half doesn't know where her front half is going. So much fun to watch.

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Posted by anita at 5:08 PM | Comments (3)

March 26, 2006

Flirty Flora

Mar26-FlirtyFlora.jpgMy back and my feet hurt, but it's worth having got so much done today. I planted the last dozen or so of my gladiola bulbs in the west side garden, hauling soil from the back yard a bucketful at a time; I set fire to the gigantic pile of scrap lumber, tree trimmings and brush that was five feet high in the back of the yard, and kept it going until it was a foot high pile of charcoal; I planted the dozen impatiens I bought a few weeks ago, now that it's not supposed to freeze overnight (oddly, the containers said primulas), again hauling soil; and I watered, checked all the beds for things coming up that might need help against the weeds and grass, and carried the last of the trimmings to my bonfire. I also couldn't resist Cama's expectant look as she waited by the back gate. I let her and Flora in, and then dragged Richard away from his 4x4 repairs long enough to try to get pictures.

Mar26-AGoodScratch.jpgFlora is extremely curious about new things, including people. Every time we visit she comes up to me to touch nose to nose. I wanted Richard to get a shot of that, only she hadn't seen him in a while and found him – and the camera – much more interesting, so we were only able to get her to approach him then, not me. My efforts to hold out the camera far enough and at the right angle to get a picture of us myself, after Richard left, resulted in some hilarious close-ups of fuzzy nostrils and eyelashes as she went for the camera every time. I did manage to get a few of Cama as I fed her alfalfa. That's the only time she'll let me pet her. Richard has come in from working on the truck, blackened like a chimney sweep, so I'll sign off for the night. Lots of work to do on the computer now that the sun's gone down. It was a gorgeous day.

Posted by anita at 7:23 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2006

Just When They're Getting Friendly

Mar19-Cam-n-Flora5.jpgI can't let them in anymore. The llamas, shown here happily cropping the grass, are our favourite animal guests. We don't let the goats in the yard, because the last time Neru (the billy goat) came over, the greedy beast climbed my tiny cherry tree to reach the remaining leaves at the top, and broke a large branch off under his massive weight. But until now Cama and her baby, who after only a month is just now using her teeth, were not very destructive. Cama couldn't do much damage over the winter, when there wasn't much growing that she liked other than grass and pine needles.

When spring finally arrived, I knew the day was coming when the buds on the fruit trees and lilac bushes would catch their attention, but Flora can't quite chew such tough things yet, and Cama's habitual circuit of the yard had put them in the weedy back half much more of the time than the treed, landscaped front part. That may also have been because I've been doing yard work this week as they were wandering around, pruning things they might otherwise be sampling.

Not today, however.

Mar19-Cam-n-Flora1.jpgSometime during my lunch break, when I left them unsupervised in the yard for a while, Cama found the fresh new leaves of my beds of irises. Since they'd been unscathed the past two weeks since sending up the first bit of green, I thought they were okay. I was more worried about my chomped up lamb's ear and columbine. But when I went back to collecting yard trimmings after lunch, I happened past the irises and noticed a fat pale green root, sheared off cleanly, parallel to the ground. Hmm. Hard to believe my rake had done that this morning. So I checked all the other beds, and every last one was missing its new leaves. She ate everything. When did she go from disinterest to insatiable craving?!

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So, when I grabbed a bucket of alfalfa cubes and led the ladies out the gate this afternoon (earlier than usual), I tried to explain to them that today was their last visit. I feel so guilty – we really enjoy having them around, and with almost daily visits, Cama will now let me give her a scratch down the neck, and Flora lets me rub her under the chin. But, that's it. At least until we get some posts in the ground and several lengths of sturdy string to create a llama-proof barrier across the back corner between the fences and the barn. Supposedly, unless provoked to jump a llama won't pass through rope hung at chest and knee level, as long as it's a bright enough colour and substantial enough for her to notice it before she goes right through it. (The goats, on the other hand, will try anything to push down, squeeze under or climb over a fence.) We can still enjoy the llamas by heading out the back gate with a bucket of alfalfa for them, and on this side of the fence my flowers will hopefully recover and grow in peace from now until autumn.

Mar19-Gardening.jpgHope you enjoy these photos featuring one-month-old Flora. The yard itself doesn't look very spring-like in the photos yet, especially compared to those of you in balmy Victoria and Vancouver, but you'd only have had to watch Flora investigating things this afternoon to notice the buds and shoots growing everywhere. I can't wait to see what will come up next. (No gardening tomorrow, though – doing my taxes instead. Oh joy.)

Posted by anita at 7:07 PM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2006

Won't You Be My Neighbour

I was just looking at my blog posts from spring of 2005 to see how this spring compares to last. I found a photo about halfway down in the March 17th entry of the east side of the house where the apricot tree is, and noticed the shot encompasses the neighbouring property. That reminded me there's a new feature on their yard this week: a big yellow For Sale By Owner sign.

Renters have been living there since Jonathan (the goat&llama man) bought the place from our old neighbours John and Dorothy. They're ready to move on and I think Jonathan hopes to sell the property – one acre with a large "kwanza" style shop and a three-bedroom trailer – for as close to $200,000 as he can get, although I think since it's not a house on a foundation he won't get that much for it.

If anyone is actually interested in being our neighbours, let us know and we can take photos and get more info for you. Jonathan hopes to sell it to "a young family from the coast" who he imagines will like the shop and can afford the price tag. But it's not a house… and maybe trailers are normal around here (we certainly found that to be the case when "house"-hunting), but they sure aren't on the coast. I just hope whomever moves in fits into this friendly and supportive little community. The current residents keep to themselves and one of their two dogs terrorizes the llamas and I every time we come anywhere near the fence. People our age sure would be nice.

Posted by anita at 9:33 AM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2006

Ahhh, Warmth

After several days of chilly weather, including a couple mornings with fresh snow, the sun has gained some strength, most of my yard has de-frosted, and all the birds are back to sing of spring. On the north side of the house the yard is still frozen hard as rock and the snow hasn't had enough sunlight to melt away yet, but the south and west exposed beds are showing signs of growth. I walk around every day (when I let the llamas in for a visit) and look impatiently for shoots.

Tulips, about two inches out of the ground in places, a few daffodils (not many in this garden though I hope to fix that next year), irises, lamb's ear, columbine, poppy, and of course the indestructible and prickly wild rose are all starting to come in. But, more often than not, they aren't growing where I want them to, or they're being overtaken by long grasses, mint (a weed, here, though it smells too nice to get rid of), and something I think is called nettle marsh. With the sun so warm this weekend, I thought I'd get a head start on my flower beds and clean up, even though it's too frosty still to plant anything.

I'll need a spade and more patience to get rid of the grass, but I did make a dent in the mass of last year's weeds and leaves (a lovely bonfire pile for next weekend, actually) and some of the beds are clear enough that I could sow my poppy, columbine and lupin seeds, as soon as the ground stops freezing solid.

I did a silly thing, though. When Richard and I gathered most of the seeds from the gorgeous field of poppies on the south side of the house, I added to the bags some seeds from my lupins and columbine. The wild columbine, unfortunately, loves shade... so I have to identify them in the midst of a mass of tiny black poppy grains, and put them aside for the dappled shade under the crabapple tree on the north side of the house.

I hope everything grows - my plan is to transfer most of these flowers to proper beds, of which we have so many, and till last year's "field" of poppies and nasty weeds into a decent lawn with just the maple tree and daffodils round its base to break it up. Also in that part of the yard are a million shoots from the black currant bushes. They're growing up amongst my irises. Not good. The solution, I think, is to dig up all the irises I can salvage, remove the tumbledown rock wall, and carve away that entire section to get rid of the black currant altogether.

My other plan, thanks to several different gardening programs which all say the same thing, is to reduce both moisture loss and weed infestation by spreading a truckload of bark mulch over all the beds that I manage to revive this spring. No point baring all that soil just to have half of it covered in that nasty prickly yellow weed, and the other half dry up and blow away. I'm just lucky the only thing I have to buy is the mulch; all the flowers I could possibly want right now are growing in the garden already, they just need some order and a chance against the weeds.

I'm really muddling through, and having an acre property that was ignored by the previous owners for ten years means I have a heck of a lot of catching up to do. But if I get fruit on the trees this year, some flowers on the forsythia and wisteria, and flower beds that look tidy and colourful even if they're not very aesthetically arranged, I'll be thrilled.

Tuesday is my next free day to spend in the garden again. More raking, more pruning, and maybe even a little digging. It's supposed to get warmer so we'll see. I might sow those poppies after all, considering the giant variety orange ones are well on their way already. I've had enough white - bring on the colour!

Posted by anita at 6:08 PM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2006

Rumours of Spring?

Feb16-CamasBaby3.jpgAlthough the gorgeous sunshine had some of us convinced Spring was around the corner this week, the temperature is dropping to –15 overnight and I hope I haven't doomed my just-pruned rose bushes to an untimely death. The bucket of lily bulbs I took out so optimistically is back in the garage again until there are no ice crystals showing in the soil. Brrrr. But babies have their own sense of timing, and on Poplar Road we have had new arrivals for several weeks now.

A half-dozen kids are gamboling around the woods already, and Jonathan received two orphaned minature lambs – dove grey with charcoal spots – which after 10 days of bottle feeding are gaily racing each other around the yard and getting underfoot. The thick laces on my Sorel boots are a favourite chew toy for the lambs and kids. The kid I am holding in one of the following photos (Sparkles, I think it is) managed to twist herself around and get a mouthful of Allyson's hair when it was her turn for a cuddle.

But what drew us out in the icy wind on the 15th was the news that Cama Llama finally had her baby. This little girl has her mother's colouring and her father Supper's friendly nature. Thanks to Jonathan's careful handling during the birth and Cama's familiarity with all of us, this little one is happy to get close enough for a pat and investigate whomever she pleases while her proud mama looks on. Jonathan will keep this baby for a pet because she's the last offspring of Supper who died last summer, so he's encouraging human attachments in a way he doesn't normally. I think he's feeling more sentimental because 10-month-old Buckaroo (a.k.a. Billy the Kid), the only truly friendly – rather than greedy – goat in the herd, favourite of his grandchildren, died two weeks ago due to collapsed lungs in an accident in the hay feeder. The hobby farm is income for Jonathan, a business to hear him talk, but he loves all his animals and he's lost a few favourites to unfortunate events this year. I guess that's life on a farm. Having Cama's new baby arrive now makes all the difference. I'm going to visit a lot next week so the little one gets used to me. Jonathan even said I could name her. Naming is tough, though – suggestions, anyone? The photos inside the barn are when she's only an hour old, and the sunny ones are the next afternoon. She's fuzzier, but baby llamas don't put on the weight quickly the way kids and lambs do, so she'll be a gangly thing for quite a while. I'm sure she'll be the star of many a blog post this spring. Thanks to Allyson for the photos.

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Posted by anita at 1:00 AM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2006

Hawthorn Sunset

Jan22-Hawthorn1.jpgLast Sunday afternoon I went for a walk in the fields south of here just before dusk. I love the silhouettes of the hawthorn thickets, it reminds me of a German painter called Friedrich whom I love, and playing with the photos this week I thought of Mondrian as well.

I meant to post these that night, but when I got home the whole street was in darkness. A semi-trailer somehow managed to knock out our power, and it didn't come on again until 1am. So, better late than never I suppose. I'm rushing to get into town this morning and drop off a resume so the photos will have to speak for themselves this time. Enjoy!

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Posted by anita at 9:58 AM | Comments (2)

January 21, 2006

Snow Day

Jan20-Boughs.jpgWe woke to another eight inches or so of snow on Friday morning. With what was left from Monday it's over a foot deep in places. I had to postpone my naturopathy appointment because it was snowing like crazy and Richard barely made it out of the driveway. Poplar Road didn't get ploughed until mid-afternoon, when our neighbour Jeff had already used his backhoe to clear the road and everybody's driveways. I went for a walk before breakfast, determined to find Cama Llama and get the pictures of her that friends have been requesting. When I went round the side of the house to the gate, I saw what the snow had done to my lilac. Gorgeous. Now it's Sunday morning, and we've had another inch of fine powder to top it off. I might wander over to the fields south of here with the camera. Never made it over there last year.

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Jan20Snowflakes2.jpgThe view from the new French doors in our master bedroom is gorgeous. There are icicles up to 18" long hanging from the eaves all around the house. I took pictures yesterday but haven't downloaded them yet. Our blue spruce tree looks the best of all the trees in the yard, but somehow I've yet to take a photo of it that looks as good as the real thing. Whereas the shot of the fir in the back, taken Friday morning while the snow was still falling, looks amazing with the snowflakes in the foreground. Because most of the image is white, I was able to reduce the file size a lot and still post a larger format picture. I would have liked to display the first image of the lilac boughs the full width of the screen, but all the detail would be lost.

More than that, though, I would love to take my niece, Lael, under that snowy arch in person on just such a day, make a snow fort, and trudge out the back gate to the woods to see Cam. I'm really looking forward to that.

The next photos I take of Cama Llama will likely be with her new baby. I hope I'm there to see it this time, but I'll be heading down to Vancouver at the end of the week for the Bellydance Superstars show. I'm glad we got our snow this weekend and not when I'm about to drive the Coq. IF Richard even lets me, as he's not thrilled about the idea. I have no snow-driving experience other than once in December. But the forecast is for plus seven degrees again by Tuesday so we'll see. I'm enjoying this snowfall as long as it lasts!

Posted by anita at 10:48 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2006

Snow Fix

Jan17-Snowman.jpgYesterday, after almost six weeks of unusually warm weather, we finally got the snowfall we were hoping for. (Well, we wish there was more, and that it hadn't started warming up again right away, but some is better than none.) I was thrilled to find it's the sticky, perfect-for-snowmen kind of snow, which is more rare up here. We had three feet of snow in our yard by last February, and not an inch of it would stick together enough for even a snowball. So before dinner last night I bundled up and made this cheerful fellow.

As my optimistic younger sister in North Van reminded me, there's a good chance of a great snowfall in February, so I'm not giving up on having a good foot or two of snow in my yard still this winter. What I'd like to know is, does anyone plan to come up and enjoy winter with us? I'm just guessing, because the weather so far has been even more unpredictable than normal, but I'd say we've got about 6 weeks of winter left, at least as far as enjoying cross-country skiing, tobogganing or horse-drawn sleigh rides goes. Watch the forecast and let us know if you'd like to come up – we're taking reservations for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of February. Following are some more photos for inspiration!

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Jan17-Vines2.jpgAbove we have our driveway, which the goat&llama man has since plowed using his quad, and two shots of the barn which looks so great in the snow. To the left of the barn, backing onto the forest behind us, is a wide, potentially flat area that could be used to make a mini hockey rink, weather permitting. That's something we might consider for our New Years 2006 party if enough people are into it. (Let's hope the weather is colder!)

The barn, remember, is going to be Richard's shop. Getting the interior cleared out and re-organized to allow the 4x4 to fit through is the next demolition project, starting this spring. Richard's mom has dibs on the gorgeous barn door (below) for a table, although we're tempted to keep it ourselves. We could make a table big enough to seat 20 people out of all the wood we'll salvage. (We'll be putting siding up over the existing exterior as part of insulating the whole thing.) I'm not sure if Richard will tear down the last chicken run, which is covered in beautiful Virginia Creeper vines, or use it as storage for all those ugly truck parts etc – which would keep them out of my sight!

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Jan17-WinterUrn.jpgPlaying in the snow aside, I am still searching for a job and doing small reno tasks like finishing the white trim and doors in our master bedroom. Richard finally got a replacement demonstration Unimog last week, a white one this time, and he and his cousin Greg worked on both their Mogs last weekend. In a few weeks, Richard heads to Alaska for a week to deliver his old orange one to a client there (his first sale back in October), and I'm heading down for a quick weekend in Vancouver to see an international belly dance troupe perform in Richmond with some of my classmates. Aside from Greg's visit last week it's been very quiet around here, but we look forward to visitors soon. In addition to the snow factor, for those animal-lovers out there, the goats just had a bunch of kids over Christmas, and Cama, Jonathan's last remaining llama, is due in February. (Best wishes, by the way, to the Adies and Schmolls who are expecting babies in the next few weeks.)

Snow is the most exciting thing happening right now, but I'm close to finishing the master bedroom paint job and will post a couple of "final" pictures soon. The ensuite bathroom reno is unfortunately still a long way away – Richard much prefers tinkering on our new car (a 1987 Toyota Cressida which we bought on our way home after Christmas), and his new Unimog (which of course justified new tools). If I knew how to do electrical, plumbing, and framing, I'd be drywalling in there by now, but I know once we get started it's only one week's work to do such a small room. Eventually we can rest with a trip to the spa – in our own home. In the meantime, it's white white white inside and out as I crack open the can of trim paint and look out my bedroom French doors at the snow.

Posted by anita at 2:33 PM | Comments (2)

December 23, 2005

Love and Joy Come to You, and to You Your Wassail Too

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A Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all our friends and relations. And to you your wassail too... which meant "hale", as in healthy, and more recently meant the ale with which people drink to your health. So may this holiday find you healthy with an abundance of good food and drink in hand as you enjoy family traditions and great friendships. We're thinking of you this holiday.

Our visit to the lower mainland will be short and sweet this year, but we welcome guests if anyone would like to visit Poplar Road this winter. (Unfortunately, it's not so wintery here at the moment, being unusually warm and sadly wet. But I'm sure we'll have great cross-country skiiing or snow-shoeing weather in the New Year.) Thanks for all the cards and e-mails. Our circle of friends is sure growing: thanks for all the baby photos everyone! And a special wish for health and abundance to all you expectant moms.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2006! Love, Anita and Richard.

Posted by anita at 10:26 AM | Comments (3)

December 8, 2005

Counting

Well, winter is here, Christmas is coming, and we are falling behind on our to do list, but I'm still hopeful that by Christmas Eve, Richard and I will be healthy, happy, and able to relax and enjoy both our snowy property and our renovated house. We haven't yet finished our bedroom, and the list of almost-but-not-quite-finished projects elsewhere is starting to look daunting to poor exhausted Richard, but with a little rest we might get our motivation back in time for the holidays. Nothing to photograph so far this month (unless I were to go crazy with snow photos again), but here are a few things my detail-oriented mind is tallying up:

number of days left before putting up Christmas lights becomes pointless: 15

amount of snow still covering the lawn: 2 inches

number of times our water pipes in the well house have frozen so far this winter: twice

total casualties of Christmas decorations ruined by mice: 7

quantity of laminate boards still to install to finish flooring the upstairs: 3

number of door moldings to be nailed up in the new bedroom: 12

number of new or infrequent items on our grocery/household shopping list: 21

number of guests we're expecting between now and Christmas: 1

number of friends we hope to see for the annual post-Christmas sushi gathering: at least 20

minutes spent formalizing our plans for Christmas holidays: 3

number of gift shopping trips: 0

amount of snow I want for Christmas Day this year: 2 feet

amount of time we'll spend just relaxing this Christmas: twice as much as last year would be nice.

If we can get ourselves moving, I hope to post pictures of our new bedroom, the guest bathroom, and maybe one of our livingroom complete with tree next week. We'll see. Richard is sick from lack of sleep and we may spend yet another weekend doing nothing much of anything, but I have a marathon shopping trip planned for tomorrow afternoon to at least get some supplies. Last Christmas, the big rush was getting the cabinets in our kitchen finished and moving furniture into our livingroom. This year I'm hoping the bedroom gets done early so we're not painting or moving furniture for at least a week before Christmas! I hope you're all able to get your preparations done early and relax too, before the holidays are upon us. Cheers.

Posted by anita at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

Oct8-Birthday1.jpgSince I'm terribly behind on my blog, these next two posts will be mostly photo-galleries. This post highlights the beautiful walks we took over the long weekend as part of celebrating my birthday with my parents, giving those of you who haven't seen it a glimpse of our rural surroundings. The grasslands are a five minute walk away west of our place, where the poplars of Poplar Road are changing colour gloriously, along with maple and hawthorn. The maple, mock crabapple and Virginia creeper in our yard are especially gorgeous. Mom took photos everywhere. Dad got some great shots of us being approached by the llamas with their usual delicacy. On Sunday, while my parents visited a friend in Vernon for the afternoon, Richard took me to Adams River, where the salmon were just beginning the spawning run. We only saw a half-dozen of them, in the shoals across the river, but the sunshine and beautiful woods made it worth the trek. Autumn rains have since begun with a vengeance but more infrequently than in Vancouver, and the leaves have only just begun to fall, so I'm hoping that unlike Vancouver, we'll get a long display of colour rather than a quick turn to brown mush. And we could quite possibly get snow in four weeks or so. I can't quite believe that we're halfway through October already.

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Posted by anita at 1:34 PM | Comments (3)

June 2, 2005

Creature Comforts

May28-FrontWall.jpgRichard says I'm in denial. I have not fully accepted reality. Apparently, I'm a country girl now. But aside from the sound of Daisy's baritone leading the alto goat chorus out back, most days it feels like suburbia here, with a little extra dose of the good life: truly clean air (no stink of manure, thank you very much!); friendly, helpful and generous neighbours (with some oddballs thrown in for laughs); prolific fruit trees and flowering plants to make my garden a source of joy; and now, my very own post office box number instead of "general delivery".

Got the notice from the post office today, and will spend some part of the day tomorrow sending our new mailing address out to everybody. Oh, and finally, my connection to the outside world: my dial-up is back to normal. I even downloaded a long overdue 56 mb OSX update in the middle of the day today while Allyson and I made a grocery run. Last week I was amazed if the connection stayed up for 20 minutes. Today, it was on, downloading away for several hours. I got all my updates downloaded, almost 100 mb worth, and Allyson checked and sent e-mail as that was going on, without a single howl of despair. (There have been a few in the last two weeks, let me tell you.) Last night I even helped a neighbour order a couple of books on Amazon, and it actually worked! Hurrah! (Why order it here? They don't own a computer. Okay, maybe we are in the country. But you could as easily call it a retirement community. With pocket gophers instead of golfers.)

Relief aside, in a month if all goes as scheduled, I will move on to high speed two-way satellite, a new internet service being offered in July. For what I'm paying now for a dial-up phone line and unlimited access, I can get upload and download 75 times faster. Now that will bring me back into the 21st century. It does get a little sleepy in our neck of the woods.

Anyway, many of you could care less about what plants are turning up in my garden (although I'm guessing you'll take a sudden interest when all the apples, apricots and cherries ripen, hmm?) and you may have seen quite enough of our four-legged neighbours, but I'm not such a country girl yet that I haven't stopped being charmed by the flora and fauna. So for Lael and Mom and others who can appreciate the baby horns on my new friend Billy the Kid, or how a columbine looks like a Chinese dragon, this post is for you.

May28-BackYardW.jpgHere is what the grassy half of our back yard looks like these days. Last week the temperature hit 35 several days in a row and things dried up fast, but we've now had cooler weather and two days of rain, so the grass desperately needs mowing again. At the left of this picture is the giant patch of weeds which never got mown over and grew into yellow flowering stalks three feet tall. They're all over our garden. Once you start pulling them up, they reveal quite the network underneath, one pocket gopher hole after another.

We haven't yet seen a pocket gopher (just a bunch of Stoney Flats marmots), but you won't believe what we saw last week. Richard was building an extension to our deck, to house the new barbecue. I was watching a hummingbird dive through the air over and over, checking out the tall posts we'd put in on either side of the new bit of deck. Just as I was pointing out the bird to Richard, a movement over in the patch of weeds caught his eye. Shhh, he says, look at that. One of the three foot high stalks was wiggling. He and I got closer and called Allyson over. This was no wind, it was just the one stalk. It shook as it slowly disappeared into the ground. A yank or two, more wiggling and the sound of determined chewing, and it went in another foot. We watched that thing quivver and shake straight into the ground with only a couple of inches of flower heads showing in less than five minutes. So the next time you're watching cartoons, believe it, those rascally rodents really DO pull things under just like that!

May28-PoppyField.jpgI've now managed to pull up two thirds of the yellow weeds in that plot, and anywhere I found them in the side garden. Here is a shot of the side garden if you were to turn around from the gate where the above photo was taken, and look in the opposite direction (south and a bit west). We didn't have time to roto-till this patch this spring, and I'm glad, because in addition to the berry bushes, irises and daffodils along the wall at the back, we've discovered the whole plot is full of poppies. Red, scarlet, orange, pale pink and almost white. (Allyson says I could start a new career.) And in amongst them, something like daisies, though we're not sure as they haven't opened up.

May28-LowerWest.jpgThis view looks northeast towards the back yard (note the white of the garden shed beyond the apple tree) from the lower edge of the same side garden, across the tops of the irises with one of the gooseberry bushes at right. Turns out only the smallest of the three bushes is currant, the others have fat green berries with faint stripes and a pointed tip, just like my grandmother's gooseberries at the cabin in Pointe du Bois. Now if I could just remember what Mummi did with them. There's a website called HistoricFood that has many old English recipes like "gooseberry fool", but most of the recipes listed there are too finnicky for me. Suggestions, anyone? These small photos show the gooseberries (left) and the currants, which have just started to turn red since the hot weather.

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May28-Lupins.jpgAgainst the house itself the lupins are blooming, with those gorgeous palm-like leaves, quite striking with the purple chives, bearded iris, the last few lilacs and deep pink wild rose. And there's something growing in next to the label "purple alum", which started out with purple stalks, but now it's a gigantic pale green thing with 1" thick spiny stalks and leaves the size of rhubarb. It's looking almost jungly, and last year's dried husks were over six feet high so I'm beginning to worry it's going to choke everything else out. We'll see if that has to come out. The rule so far is, if it looks unusual or it's getting flower buds, let's let it grow and see if we like it.

One thing I didn't recognize soon enough was a nasty choking vine suspiciously like morning glory. I think it's wrapped itself around the grape vine out front, but there's so much other tall bushy stuff around the base – not to mention more of that ultra-prickly rose – that I can't get at it without ripping the grape vine to shreds in the process. It's literally what you see is what you get for now. The obvious weeds are coming out - like the one that develops small, very effective burrs - but otherwise it's just keeping up with the grass and the watering. With the new, properly sized pump in our well working the way it should (without filling the pipes with sand and silt), we can leave the sprinklers on overnight without tripping the breaker, or run the hose and the washing machine at the same time. (And with the filter Richard added for the house, our water tastes even better. It was a bit of a trial at first, though, clogging the filter and then the pipes with sand every 48 hours. New plumbing is luckily on the list when we redo the bathrooms.)

May28-Columbine.jpgNow here is something I did attempt to get rid of, noticing there was a lot of it and assuming it was a weed. Wild, yes. Weed, not really: it's Canadian columbine, and it's stunning. As mentioned above, the flowers look a bit like the heads of dragons with those spurs coming out the backs. They start out red and fade to purple, but they've lasted a long time and despite the number I ripped out in March, there's quite a patch of them in the border beneath the deck. They move in the slightest breeze, though, so I haven't been able to get a good closeup - same goes for the poppies. Both these plants have seeded themselves, but I still expect it will be a challenge to save them to move elsewhere when we do get around to digging up these beds. So I'm enjoying them now as much as possible.

May28-Snake2.jpgAnother plant, growing haphazardly in the front courtyard and beneath the fir at the far end of our deck, has turned out to be a fragrant flowering shrub that I am guessing might be "mock orange" although that's a name that gets used incorrectly a lot. Whatever it is, it smells heavenly. So I was leaning around some cuttings and junk to try to get a whiff of the flowers on the bush near the deck. I looked down to see if I could balance in a clear spot on the rock wall, when I noticed it wasn't so clear... this stripy little fella was sunning himself and I nearly stepped on him. Garter snake, Allyson decided, although the ones I remember playing with as a kid weren't nearly this gorgeous in colouring. Deep chocolate brown like the earth in the shade, golden yellow like the dry grass, and stripes of bright scarlet like the cones and weed stalks. He both blends in, and stands out. At least I'll notice him the next time I'm wandering around in sandals in the long grass. I'm not opposed to snakes, but bright colours in nature generally mean trouble of the poisonous variety, so until I get confirmation that he's harmless, I'm watching my step.

May28-BillytheKid.jpgAnd now, onto the mugshots we can't get enough of on Poplar Road, starting with my new buddy, Billy the Kid. He was the first of the ten kids to join the flock of goats, and a loner where the rest are twins. He's the largest, the friendliest (all those cuddles with Bev!) and has little horns coming in that he likes to test against our legs and get scratched. The other little ones run away, but he heads straight for us. Cheeky little thing. Hopefully he'll be a little less aggressive than his dad, Neru, whose horns have caused more than a few bruises. (And less stinky.) For now, the Kid is cute.

May28-DaisyLamb.jpgHere's another cutie who likes a good scratch round the ears. Daisy's two lambs are very skittish, but she was a 4H sheep and can be very friendly when she's had a few carrots. When she starts calling her twins with that low baaa, it gets all the goats started until they're all running down the hill like a pack of streakers, making a racket.

baaaaaaaa...

meeeeeehh...

maamaaaaa!

May28-Barbies.jpgAnd as of a couple of days ago, Jonathan let his new herd join Daisy and the goats - the Barbies. These short brown Barbados sheep get curly horns on them like mountain goats, and can jump just about any fence if they put their collective minds to it, but they won't get much bigger than this. Allyson caught them mowing Jonathan's front lawn. Note the chicken wire protecting his fruit trees, otherwise the goats would strip the bark off them and eat all the leaves they could reach. Sheep aren't as fussy eaters as goats, being satisfied with grass or straw when the goats would rather eat the tender stuff, but they will eat grass right down to the roots, so Jonathan rotates all his animals to keep the grass cropped but healthy. When he saw the lawn tractor come home in our truck, he called up to tease us about unfair competition for his sheep. I still can't get over them eating our tree after Christmas. Blech.

May28-GotCarrot.jpgGot carrots? Couldn't resist posting this shot of Scorpio with a carrot dangling from his mouth, looking like he's got it stuck up his nose. His teeth (of which they only have a bottom row, it's just a plate on top) aren't very big yet so this quarter-section was too much for him. Cam, his mom, was only too happy to eat it for him. She responds well to the nickname "greedy guts", and can spot a carrot from a mile away. Unlike Scorpio, she can crunch an entire carrot down in seconds, sucking them back much like that pocket gopher in the weed patch. She'll get very close in pursuit of carrot sticks, but still won't let anyone pat her or scratch her under the chin. Scorpio allows it if he's distracted - or maybe his fur is so thick he doesn't notice.

We haven't been down to visit the llamas yet this week - they're holed up in their favourite summer spot now, beneath a spreading fir at the bottom of the hill. They've got the right idea: shade. Allyson and I both got a bit sunburnt last week, and Richard was wilting in the heat putting the extension on the deck. It hit 35 in the shade outside, and 30 inside. I'm going to take a look at the trees out back and see where I might be able to hang up Richard's Guatemalan hammock. We've got clouds and rain in the forecast for this weekend still, but by the time his sister gets here next weekend it should be perfect weather to swing in the shade with a good book. And lots of bugspray - these mosquito bites are driving me crazy. The rest of those weeds have got to go, it's an insect breeding ground. Perhaps I need to ask Jonathan if his Barbies can come over and play. Hah. Richard gets back Saturday, and promises to teach me how to run the lawn tractor. We saw Dorothy, our seventy-something neighbour on the east side of us, riding around her entire yard today, so it can't be all that difficult. With the grass cut, it starts to look positively suburban out there (if you ignore the barn). Anyway, time to hit the hay. Or count sheep? (Sorry.) Good night.

Posted by anita at 10:51 PM | Comments (3)

May 24, 2005

Owls

May17-YoungOwls.jpgAllyson and I have had one of those drowsy weekends where catching up on sleep (and fighting off cold bugs) are at the top of the to do list. She woke this morning with a raspy cough, and I can't seem to keep my eyes open by one in the afternoon… The time flew by the past few days as we luxuriated in mystery novels, warm spring sunshine, and Allyson's incredible baking. And the gift of great horned owls just learning to fly, perched on one tree or another within view of our windows for most of this week. Here are a couple of pictures of these amazing, stunning creatures.

May19-YoungOwl2.jpgThat's it for the long weekend. Richard arrived home this evening, a day and a half earlier than expected, so the ball gets rolling tomorrow for the next phase of renos. First up, the electrical upgrade, which means some upheaval in my office where the drywall probably has to come down. And I'm calling telus tomorrow re the phone lines needing repair, because with both Allyson and I online frequently, it's even more frustrating not to have a reliable connection. It's going to be a busy week. The owls, sitting on a branch with only the swivel movement of their heads to give themselves away, could school us in patience. Hoo-Hooo.

Posted by anita at 12:48 AM | Comments (1)

April 17, 2005

Sakura

Apr16-Sakura1.jpgSpring at last! In spite of freezing overnight temperatures this past week, my garden is responding to the slightest sunshine at a feverish pace. The daffodils have begun blooming, the tulips are not far behind, and every lilac bush is covered in buds. Purple, I think. The mountain ash is the leafiest tree, but the newly-identified chestnut isn't far behind.

My biggest thrill this week was looking up from a bed of irises into the bare branches of our apricot tree, to see white petals where I didn't expect anything but twigs. I didn't know apricots blossom just like Japanese sakura, with blossoms first, leaves second. The contrast of white and red blossoms against the bare boughs is heavenly. It reminded me of Koranke, a park near the town I lived in while studying in Japan. The plum trees in the mountains there bloomed earlier than most trees in the city, so I got to see sakura, very briefly, before I left Japan at the beginning of spring.

Only a few apricot blossoms have come out, and it's been grey and rainy most of the week… but in the sun this afternoon even the cherry tree was showing a few white petals amongst the leaves. If the weather goes back to last week's pattern, rain at night and sun all day, then it will be spectacular by the end of next week. I hope it lasts. My next post will be full of outdoor photos again, I'm sure… some of our garden, and some desert scenery, and some 4x4s. But that's all for now!

Posted by anita at 1:15 AM

April 9, 2005

The Great Outdoors

Apr3-FrontYard.jpgAnother update delayed… I've had connectivity problems for over two weeks now, and my current upload speed is a whopping 0.5 k per second. If that sounds ok to you, read that again. That's "k" as in kilobytes. Dial-up really rots my socks! But the end may soon be in sight – I finally heard confirmation that two-way broadband satellite may be available here as early as July. Keep your fingers crossed for me. In the meantime, given my current struggle just to perform my job, I've stopped trying to get online in my spare hours. Instead, I've spent more time outside in the past three weeks than I have in the 7 months since the last four-wheeling trip. (The next trip is coming up soon, by the way.)

While Bev was visiting last weekend we spent two and a half days working in the garden and feeding the neighbour's animals. It began Saturday morning with a present from Bev: pansies to brighten up the front entrance. She also showed me (with only 3 casualties) how to transplant tulips to fill out the centre of these old planters we hadn't gotten around to throwing out yet.

Apr3-Lambs-n-Llamas.jpgI've got 15 photos I want to post (out of over 60 taken during the weekend between Bev, Richard and I), so I'm going to let these creatures speak for themselves. I'm kicking myself that I didn't bring the camera outside with me yesterday, as I let all the llamas and Daisy and her lambs into our yard, to crop the grass. (Had anyone caught me on camera trying to get them back OUT of the yard again, that would have made for a funny photo.) The following animal images are taken around Jonathan's property, not ours. (Make sure you read on to see what we got done here at home!)

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Apr3-BevWired.jpgIt may look like we spent the weekend at a petting zoo, but we actually got a tremendous amount of yard work done in between visits to the new goats and introducing Bev to the llamas. Sunday morning everyone was up early, and after a full day Saturday the idea was to quit by noon and take a relaxing drive into town. But first, Richard wanted to get the septic tank covered. That's the gigantic hole in the ground right on the path to the back yard. The ideal covering material seemed to be railroad ties... which we happened to have a large supply of, holding up the old bird pens that surround our barn.

Thus began an entire day's work to take the wire off the posts and haul them down. I was very grateful when Rob showed up to help because I was much happier just hitting the switch on the winch in Mechano's warm cab after several hours of back-breaking labour with wire cutters and a rake. I think you can get the gist of it from these pictures, but feel free to post a comment with questions and I'll elaborate later. (Amazingly, my photos are uploading at a more "normal" speed tonight, thank goodness.)

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Apr3-SepticCover.jpgWhat a difference removing those pens has made to that back corner. In addition to the ties Rob and Richard cut up to cover the septic, Jonathan laid claim to most of the rest of them this week, and took down some more of the chicken wire. The rolls of it we set aside were spirited away by another neighbour this morning. And this afternoon I raked another patch of four foot tall brush into a good bonfire starter. The small chicken coop is still standing, however, despite being pulled right off its footings. I'm looking forward to seeing it fall, but that's a job for another weekend.

Last Sunday ended with a covered (but not yet buried) septic, and Bev and I filled a third of the pickup with pine cones raked from the front drive. Rob showed us a few pictures of his trip to Moab for Easter Jeep Safari, and then hit the road early to avoid another snowstorm in the Coq. We cleaned up and Richard fired up the new barbecue again, this time for prime rib on the rotisserie. A very nice end to the day. Bev and I had a more restful day on Monday, exploring the neighbourhood, holding baby goats, getting eggs for her to take home, and generally taking it easy until I dropped her off with Richard for the drive back to Vancouver. I was so tired I crawled into bed for a nap as soon as I got home, but I've been out just about every evening since then. One more week, and all the pruning and weeding will all pay off - the first daffodil bloomed this morning.

Posted by anita at 11:38 PM | Comments (3)

April 1, 2005

Let It Grow, Let It Grow, Let It Grow

Mar25-KamloopsLake.jpgWe are a few weeks behind the coast here in spring weather, with light flurries still surprising us some mornings, scattered hailstorms ahead of chill winds, and no sign of blossoms on the fruit trees just yet. But things are definitely growing. I've been out in the garden repairing a year's worth of neglect almost every day for the past couple of weeks, joyfully discovering things as I go. It's nothing like the coast, but when we compare our area to the landscape of Kamloops, a desert (at right, thanks to Allyson for the photo), I am grateful for how much more fertile it is here, and try to be patient. I felt a little guilty this morning as the snow was falling, having just hacked several year's growth of grapevine and other mysterious twining things to near oblivion yesterday, removing a thick insulating blanket of leaves in the process. But the snow didn't stick and warm rain soon followed. We need it.

Mar28-YardWS.jpgThe trees and shrubs have the kind of hazy green seen best out of the corner of one's eye, but as I've made headway against the three foot tall dried grass of last summer, I've found all kinds of small green things carpeting the old vegetable plots, flower borders, and beneath some of the trees. In this shot of the west side of the back yard, there's the lower vegetable plot in the foreground, completely covered in strawberry-like weeds, and a line of young trees two of which we think might be cherry, with a couple of tiny lilacs and some ground cover that looks promising. Unfortunately, having only seen the yard briefly in September, and too distracted to pay much attention when we moved in a month later, we really don't know what we've got. So our decision this spring is to allow anything unique, possibly flowering, or potentially edible to grow where it has sprung. We'll label what we want to preserve or move when we figure out what we've got and where to put it.

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That's where you green thumbs out there come in… I've got pictures of some vaguely familiar shoots, some that seem intentional plantings complete with stakes, and some we could swear were weeds but perhaps a second opinion would be a good idea. If you recognize any of the above from these tiny low-res photos please let me know!

Below are the courtyard by the front door, cleared of both weeds and scrap reno materials, and the east side of the front yard with the apricot tree in the foreground. I'd like to show off more of our hard work in getting trees pruned back, excess growth cleared away, and some order restored. Only, I doubt you're able to tell the difference. It still looks a mess! Richard has grand plans for levelling out the back yard below the deck and replacing all the tumbledown walls with larger stones, and I'm envisioning rock gardens and terraces and comfortable seats; but realistically, if we can get as far as cleaning up the tangles and the weeds by the end of the summer, we'll be doing well. An acre didn't seem very large when we moved in, but three hours to tame one flowerbed has changed my point of view!

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I must say, I'm looking forward to sitting on a deckchair on the lawn on a hot summer afternoon, soaking up sun and the scent of lilacs, regardless of whether my "lawn" is still covered in dandelion and fibreglass, or neatly terraced new turf. Someday it's going to be a gorgeous yard, and for now, it surprises me how much I enjoy getting out there with shears and a rake and the vague memories of favourite gardens in the back of my mind.

Posted by anita at 1:42 AM | Comments (3)

February 27, 2005

A Walk

I went for a walk along Stoney Flats this afternoon. Without a camera, though it couldn't have done the landscape justice anyway; but I'll capture it as best I can in words. The sun was setting through a haze, part mist, part woodsmoke, that leant moisture and a tang to the brisk air, more like autumn than spring. The river shone blue instead of its usual dun brown, and the plateau that shadows it was rimmed with light below the smoky blue hills.

Bordering the road the wire fencing in the hay fields glimmered as if beaded with water. There is still ice on the puddles and snow beneath the trees. In the afternoon light I noticed something I hadn't before, about the thickets that line the fence and fill a gully between farms. They are truly the thickets of fairytale, a gnarled impenetrable mass of arching boughs and twiggy shrubs, and mostly of an unfamiliar variety of tree: rough grey bark, reddish new growth, and thorns almost as long as sewing needles and surely as sharp. It must bear beautiful flowers to need the protection of those thorns, so I will keep my eye on the thickets as spring approaches, in hopes of a show.

The land climbs more gently on this side of the river, the wooded hills unfenced above the road, open to the meanderings of deer, coyote, and bear. A chill in the air reminded me how quickly night falls this time of year. Spooked just a little, I turned around for home. As I passed the black nets of the ginseng farm the sun hit the rim of the hills behind me, and suddenly everything turned red and gold. There is a shrub in the pine woods that has bark such a bright scarlet you might think it man-made; I am hopeful it is a variety of huckleberry, known for its red bark, though I don't know if it grows this far north.

Almost home, a row of trees at the brow of the hill were lit golden, with the fading blue of the mountains behind. In another thicket jumbled in rock something shuffled through the undergrowth, and three-tiered nests weighed down the branches. A magpie flitted away across the fields as I approached. Although I didn't find the familiar over-zealous signs of spring I'm used to on the coast, the morning cacophony of birdsong, clumps of earth left by busy moles, and tiny buds on all the trees all shout Spring to me. And spring or not, there are other gifts: as I write, an owl glides to a tall pine outside my window. I'll listen for him later, calling for his mate, and hope that cherry blossoms aren't far away.

Posted by anita at 6:48 PM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2005

Is It Over?

In three days it has warmed up here by 30 degrees. We had freezing rain here this afternoon, water dripping from the eaves, but icicles forming on railings and even the trees. I have been under the weather (pardon the pun) or I would have layered up to venture out once the rain stopped. With the snow more saturated with water, I bet it's finally sticky enough to make a snowman... or snow sheep. I wonder if a snow dog out on the front drive would keep the local mutts away from my front door at night - something's nocturnal explorations woke me up the past two nights.

Anyway, as Richard is away with the camera, and I'm not making dramatic progress on the renos given I'm barely upright at the moment, there's nothing new to post on the reno front, and I've no doubt Allyson isn't the only one sick of snow pictures. Am I, though?

Warming up means rain, which despite growing up in Vancouver I've never much liked. But in Vancouver this time of year, it's quite possible for the Japanese cherry trees to start blossoming, crocuses poke through the bare earth, and certainly my sister isn't the only one with tulips on her coffee table. Here, I still have holly around for colour, and the only flowers coming up are last year's forced bulbs in a little pot in the dining room. (Amazed I got them to come up again!)

As I said in my first Poplars & Pines posting, I love the change of seasons best, but with two feet of snow on the ground, it's a bit premature to be itching for Spring. This has been the best "snow fix" ever, and I look forward to more, as it's in the forecast to cool off again on Saturday. But I must admit those tulips at my sister's got me thinking. There's a cherry tree out front which I can see from my current office space, and I found myself wondering what it will look like next month... or will it not bloom until April? I have no idea when the winter ends here; earlier than east of the mountains, but not as early as the coast. One thing's for sure: Spring won't be as wet. And every bud and leaf in the yard is my own. It's an exciting prospect. So yes, it's only mid-January, but I'm looking forward Spring.

Posted by anita at 4:42 PM | Comments (5)

December 26, 2004

White

We woke up to a winter wonderland Christmas morning. Snow, just as our neighbours promised despite all weather reports to the contrary. Richard says I must be on the "nice" list to be so lucky. It's beautiful here. I can't resist taking photos....

We went for a walk out to the back acreage to bring the llamas apples after our first breakfast (both of us were up well before dawn). There was about 3" of snow on the ground – the sqeaky, fluffy but not crystalline kind of snow that is perfect for making snowmen. When I was a kid and we got this kind of snow I built forts, and I would stay out for hours, as long as I could see and still move my fingers. This morning the snow has fallen from the trees and it must be warmer out there – everything is dripping. But I'm looking forward to another good trudge out to visit Smoky and Supper. Smoky, who is "wild" and doesn't know what they are, ignored the apples yesterday, but the genial and curious Supper came over and devoured them, one after another, rolling them on the snow to get a good grip with his teeth, and then rolling them in his mouth until he could crush them.

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We had a relaxing day, an excellent dinner, and Richard got to take out the Mog and test the snow blower on our driveway. No call from the client at the ski resort, though, so I think we're staying home today. Which is fine, I'm enjoying lounging around for a bit. I tried composing this entry last night after Richard went to bed, but the combination of turkey, butter tarts, falling snow and the glow from the Christmas tree made me so sleepy, I gave up halfway through and went to bed. This morning I'm up early, ready to go out and play.... Life is good.

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Posted by anita at 8:38 AM | Comments (3)

December 13, 2004

A Yuletide Garden

We haven't had a lot of snow here yet, just enough regular dustings to keep it bright outside. After only three weeks here, I'd gotten used to an early dawn in the brightness of the snow; in Vancouver last week dawn crept in under the clouds about an hour later than it does here. There is more snow in the forecast for tonight, but it's supposed to "warm up" again to a balmy four degrees by the end of the week. After a beautiful (although slippery) drive home in the snow on the Coquihalla late Thursday night, I was up early on Friday to take these photos from my front and back doors.

The first view is looking east towards the hills, outside the dining room French doors. The trees both in our yard and behind in the 10 acre wood are stunning in fresh snow, and the hills are just high enough to get snow when it's raining down here. The second shot is looking north from the same doors. The neighbour has lights up on the A-frame cabin in his back yard, and at dusk it looks like Hansel and Gretel could come skipping home through the trees. Wish I had time to do my gingerbread house this year.

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The two photos above are from my front entrance, looking southeast across the street. We're near the end of the block and it doesn't take long going north or east to get into wooded hills and farmland. I'm thinking cross-country skiing; Richard is dreaming of snow-mobiles. Snow-shoeing would also be great around here.

This last photo is of the unusual crab-apple tree, which has attracted several varieties of brightly coloured birds, not to mention squirrels, as the fruit is still firm, bright red and glossy. If they remain frozen a little longer, I am going to pick the last of them for my Christmas centrepiece next week. If it gets really cold, and if I have the time, I may be able to decorate one of the trees outside with berry & leaf decorations molded of ice. That would make up for not getting lights up this year.

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No Christmas cards this year, either, and I still cannot say when we'll be back in Vancouver to see everyone, though it's looking more likely that we will come closer to New Years. Sushi on the 30th, perhaps? So I'd like to say Merry Christmas, a joyful, peaceful holiday, and a happy and prosperous New Year to all our friends and family from Richard and I. Cheers!

Posted by anita at 11:16 PM | Comments (1)

October 12, 2004

Autumn Is My Favourite Season...

ApplesOct10.jpg...Unless you ask me in spring. The change in seasons is what excites me, the storms rattling my living room blinds, the torrential rains, the surprises. Autumn is an excellent time for life changes, ingrained from all those years of “back-to-school” expectations – more so, I think, than the sometimes defeating resolutions of New Year's.

This autumn, unlike most others in my life, is a change of opportunity taken, rather than that inevitable shove forcing me to jump into something new. Having grabbed at this chance to take a new direction, I find myself with more avenues in front of me than I would have thought possible. One of the opportunities that thrills me the most is one of those things that required a huge shove not so long ago: GARDENING.

My mother's garden had very little interest for me growing up, beyond things one could eat from it; I paid little attention to how it all came together (how does her compost work, I have no idea?) and my last memory of actually working in it was trying to hack a thistle out of the ground. The first plants I learned to recognize say it all: dandelion, thistle, johnny-jump-up, horsetail. Weeding seemed to be an excellent reason to leave the gardening to someone else. And even though the book The Secret Garden remains one of my favourite stories, I have never had the slightest urge to grow roses – the idea of learning Cockney was far more interesting.

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But where I did pay attention was indoors, with houseplants. And then I discovered as a writer what an asset it is to know the names of these plants, and even more so, outdoor plants. My "garden tours" with writing friends in college days were slow walks through Victoria's residential neighbourhoods to a litany of "hydrangea, azalea, forsythia, camellia..." while my friends made mental notes for later projects. Which required that I go back to my mother and grandmother for more information on this plant and that, time that I'm grateful to have spent with them. Thanks to Mom and Oma, I eventually developed a miraculous thing: a green thumb.

However, proud as I am of my growing collection of houseplants, I can't really claim any gardening ability up to this point. Yes, my orchid survived the awkward "stick" phase and is putting out new roots like a mad thing despite Richard's frequent insults, and I can boast having taken a forced gift shop variety gerbera and made it a regular show on my spring windowsill for four years running. And I have resurrected my 9-year-old ivy, gift of a former roommate who was living with leukemia, from attacks of scale four times. (I had to give up on my roommate, but I will NOT give up on this ivy. It cleanses my rooms of the very toxins that can give one cancer, so it’s fitting that I keep it around.) But let’s be honest, ivy is nearly indestructible unless you forget to water it. And my orchid is listed as “easy” by those in the know. The gerbera may be beginner’s luck. Whether it survives the move to Pritchard or not will probably be dependent on another Sunday morning question period with Mom. In any case, houseplants are one thing, but a plot of land in an unfamiliar climate is quite another.

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So that’s the state of my gardening knowledge as I look forward to next spring, when everything in my half-acre or so of garden-friendly yard is going to come under scrutiny. Richard will take care of the fruit trees – if it can fill a pie, he pretty much knows how to care for it – but I’m claiming the rest (whatever doesn’t fall into the “shop” zone), and hoping for some more luck, and a lot of help. The image at right, for example, shows the Granny Smith apple tree, and a weedy rectangle that was formerly a vegetable garden. The only "vegetable" remaining seems to be a large, alien-looking fennel plant in the centre of it. Next year I hope it might boast climbing spinach and zucchini vines, and maybe a row of sunflowers.

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It was wonderful to dream as I wandered around our property this Thanksgiving weekend, and photographed the wild and lovely corners of fall colour, fruit and seed, some of which I’ve included here. I hope my houseplants forgive me for having forgotten them for a while. But it’s a long way until spring and I’m not in any hurry.

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Posted by anita at 6:15 PM