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Friday, September 30, 2011

Autumn Outdoors

Each day I notice more signs of autumn.

The temperature changes are dramatic.  Being outdoors means constant movement; to stay warm requires staying in the sunlight.  I continuously move the position of my chair.  If I'm outside writing or gardening, I follow the sun.

Fall changes are stunning. The deep wine shade of the fruit cones on the staghorn sumac indicates that they are nearly ripe.

As their leaves turn yellow, the hard green grapes have become powdery purple on the grapevines.

Soon enough, a grey squirrel or starling or pheasant will feast on nature's bounty.

Fuzzy flowerbuds are forming on the Saucer Magnolia, in preparation for next spring's blooms.

Because it is a tender tree in the Maritimes, we will wrap it to protect the stems and buds from the worst of winter.

It is the time of year to transplant ferns and lilies and hostas.  Lots of digging and hands in the soil.

Once that is finished, perhaps my fingernails will grow longer and lose their stains.  My fingertips are rough and ragged.  My skin is scratched and ripped from working with roses and barberry bushes.  Gardening is so hard on my hands.

Can you see the squirrel
on the fence?

I do love this season of changes.  There is nothing to compare with sitting on the porch on a cloudless autumn afternoon, sharing a glass of wine and conversation with a dear friend
and simply enjoying the yard.

All photos are mine.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Signs of Autumn

Signs of Autumn

September ends.  This month flew by, full of warm fall days and cooler nights.  Leaves are changing colour as the gardens succumb to rest.  The hummingbird feeders are inside until next spring and the birdbath is seldom used anymore.

Wisteria leaves are starting to turn golden, then drop.  The red begonias are nearly done; another chilly night or two and they'll be gone.

Rose petals fall, making mulch-weeding a sweetly fragrant, almost pleasant chore.

After the wet summer we had, I am busier than usual outdoors catching up on gardening, readying for fall, thinking ahead to next spring and enjoying the balmy days, the ripened seeds and fruits, the perfect dream blue skies and refreshing promise of autumn in the air.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Divergent Philosophies

A line of ancient maples separates two properties.  On one side, a stately home built in the mid 1800's is transformed into an Historic Inn, a Bed and Breakfast.  On the other stands a house of similar vintage, now under renovation, undergoing changes and modernization.

On one side, the maples have reached a height of five stories; on the other, two have been cut down, reduced to three-foot stumps.  That hasn't satisfied the owner's need for change, for tidiness.  Someone hacked at the stumps, burnt them, sought to eradicate them completely.  Yet the two stumps still stand, glisten in the rain, releasing a smell of charred wet wood.

Prickly rose hips, barberry bushes and snowberry shrubs surround the scarred remains.  These bushes hug and shelter the stumps, as the great maples once sheltered them.

On the Inn side of the maples, there are curving beds of fading Black-eyed Susans and Coneflowers with deer roaming the yard and the orchards searching for autumn's rosy windfall apples.  On the renovation side, I see an electric fence, a tidy vegetable garden, manicured lawns and construction rubble.

As I walk, the rain thumps on my scalp and slides down my face.  I hear the buzzing happiness of hornets in the rotting apples, watch the deep-eyed deer, who in turn are watching me.  They are wary, yet continue to nibble at the apples or to rest.  Are they wondering from which side of the fence I have come, meandering into their orchard and yard?  Am I a chopper of maples, burner of stumps, caretaker of electric fences and tidy gardens?

I hope my answer is clear in my stillness, my respect, my awe at their quiet brown skin and delicate steps, apparent in my heartache over the destruction of old trees, my love of wet rose hips and bright red barberries.

A line of ancient maples separates two properties.  On one side is reverence for life in its wildness; on the other, there is a need to keep things out, to keep things in and to cut things down.  And in the middle, an electric fence with a sign "Do Not Touch-Warning High Voltage-Injury May Occur."  It seems to me, injury has already occurred...

Such divergent philosophies on each side of a shared property line of maples.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We Are Maritimers

A view over the water to the Nova Scotia shores in the distance

Saturday, I attended a "Nature of Words" workshop for writers, facilitated by Deborah Carr.  We worked all day on skill-centered focusing exercises.  One required us to sketch a nature scene, including as much detail as possible from memory; we couldn't go outside at that moment...it was bucketing down rain.  Using the sketch as inspiration and as a memory aid, we wrote about the scene, encapsulating as much detail as we could about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and emotions evoked.

The storm surges last winter tore out the roads and beachheads along Route 960

At the completion of the exercise, group members shared. It helps to gain feedback from other writers.  After several people had read, Deborah asked how many of us had sketched and written about water scenes.  All but one of the ten raised hands.  A burst of knowing laughter!

Beaches with road rebuilding at Bayside through to Upper Cape

We are Maritimers after all.  Water is part of our natural world, part of our daily scenery, part of our sense of ourselves, part of what we hold dear.

 Bayfield looking out at the Confederation Bridge

Whenever my husband and I want to relax and enjoy a delightful autumn day, we drive the coastlines of New Brunswick.  On Sunday, we took the motorcycle and journeyed Routes 960 and 955 along the southeastern coast from Bayside, Upper Cape, Cape Spear, Cape Tormentine through Murray Corner to Shemogue and back along to Shediac, through Scoudouc to Moncton.

Bayfield with Confederation Bridge in background

The air was redolent with scents of sea salt, sun-warmed beach sand, fields of clover and hay.  The breeze still held the summer warmth, but there were hints of the crisper fall temperatures.  The wind-stroked fields rippled as we passed, mimicking the waves on the waters.  Whenever we stopped to rest or to take photos, we heard the water slipping over the beaches and retreating, gulls screaming, crows squawking and the dying grasses rustling farewell to summer.   Sunday made our hearts glad; summer lingering and leaves just beginning their bright colours.

Shemogue Marshes

As we rode, and as we stopped to enjoy the seascapes, the browning marshes, the fragrances, the sounds, the taste of salt on our skin, I thought again of our laughter at the workshop.  Yes, we are Maritimers and we are most at home near the sea, the bays, lakes, marshes, rivers and straits.

We are a water people.

For more information about Deborah Carr's workshops go to:  http://www.natureofwords.com/

For more information about Deborah Carr go to:

For more information about these locations in New Brunswick, click here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weeding the Mulch

Yesterday, I complained about weeding the mulch.

Moaned about how long it takes and how many weeds there were.  Today, it's rainy and the weeding is finished (on that part of the yard.)  I'm looking out at 120 feet of rain washed and weeded mulch and damp, gorgeous weedless Russian Cypress.  Everything looks great!  For a little while...

Even though I whined about weeding, the three, long sunny afternoons were interesting.  Neighbours stopped by while walking their dogs or each other, and chatted.  We caught up on news.

I heard about who was ill and who is better, who is undergoing tests, who is glad they have their weeding all done, who is getting tutoring, whose dog cost $4000. to diagnose and cure, who is annoyed with another neighbour, who knows a man for hire who does yard work and who is just out enjoying the refreshing fall days.

And did I mention, I have 120 feet weed-free across the back of our yard?  I'm happy .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gardening Mistakes

Have you made mistakes with your gardening decisions?  Our house is built on a steeply sloping 120 foot by 150 foot lot, creating a large lawn to mow with a hand mower.  The slopes make it impossible to use anything else.
We expanded flower beds and added flower beds to reduce lawn mowing.  Next, we had the brilliant idea of mulching the whole 120 feet across the back of our property, where it meets the street.  We planted Russian Cypress because it flourishes on slopes and therefore reduces mowing.

For a few years, all went well.  This year there was too much rain in the spring and summer, rain that washed the mulch down the slopes, making it easier for weeds to grow through in the thinner places and allowing ants (despite our diligent efforts) to begin chomping away at the cypress roots.
Now, we have mulch, Russian Cypress and weeds.  The weeds have gotten the upper hand.  Look at this.  There is a cypress struggling to escape the tangle of thistles, clover, dandelions, greenery that my Mum calls “cow cabbage and horse tails”, plus some other unidentified green weedy thing with three-foot roots snaking along under the mulch.

I‘m embarrassed that I’m behind with my mulch weeding, way behind, half-way to my knees behind.  Three hours yesterday and three more today made a slight dent in the weeding, even though I pulled out four very large bags of nasty stuff.  It will take that much time again to wrestle out the rest of the lurking unwanted.
What am I getting at here?  Just this: In our efforts to reduce lawn mowing and save work we have managed to increase the hours of yard maintenance instead of decreasing them.

The lesson is to think more carefully about changes to the yard, ensuring that a brilliant idea doesn’t end up as a major gardening mistake.  Maybe next year we’ll replant the grass…or buy more mulch...

One surprise and delight was finding a tiny bright toadflax or butter-and-eggs herb in all this messiness! Yes, I removed it too, I know it's a noxious weed.

As usual, any words in red will take you to another website with additional information,
 if you click on them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sweet Peas

Sweet peas climb by tendrils that search for a support to cling to, almost anything will do.  When I was a child, my grandparents grew sweet peas to cover an aged greying fence that had once been part of a sun-bathed chicken run.  My childhood job was to pick the seed pods and faded blooms from the sweet peas and to regularly cut the flowers in order to encourage them to bloom.

And bloom they did, to a height of six to eight feet covering the fence with profuse colours, filling the yard with their sweet perfume.  Sweet peas bloom for long periods from late spring to early autumn, as long as they get watered heavily and frequently so their roots stay moist and cool.  The sweet peas in these photos are from my sister’s and brother-in-law’s gardens, still blooming near September’s end.

I always believed that one had to soak sweet pea seeds or nick them to open the hard seed coating, before planting.  In Lois Hole’s Bedding Plant Favourites published by Lone Pine Publishing in Edmonton Alberta, 1994, Lois says, “Instead of soaking seed, I simply plant into warm, moist soil and use an inoculant.”  She also fertilizes regularly to increase the size and number of flowers.

Sweet peas are an old fashioned annual climber bearing clouds of frilled flowers in varieties of red, purple, white, pink and blue.  Though they are a bit of work to plant and maintain, they are worth every speck of energy and care expended.  Just look at these flowers, vibrant, delicate, opulent!
If you click on the words in red, you will go to another website with additional information.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

London-Wul Fibre Arts

The days are shorter and the nights are cooler; time to begin knitting again.  To get started, I visited London-Wul Fibre Arts, on the outskirts of  Dieppe on the Melanson Road.  London-Wul is a fibre farm in New Brunswick Canada where animals are neither destroyed nor sold - without exception.   It is also a national award winning Fibre Arts Gallery, supply and equipment shop and home to the studio of Heidi Wulfraat.”
Heidi was tidying her dye shop, and customers were few at that moment, so she spent time with me discussing the patterns and needles I needed, as well as giving me a tour of her delightful array of yarns.
Being at London-Wul is a visual and tactile pleasure.  I love wandering and exploring the piles and bins of vibrantly coloured yarns, many created by Heidi herself, darks, brights, pastels, variegated.  I touch each one and revel in the textures, coarse, fine, lumpy, thick, thin, fuzzy… my fingertips caress. Blissfully, I imagine finished projects!

The shop’s walls are covered with Heidi’s fabric art, unbelievably finely detailed, a gallery of her talents.  I am contented, just to stand and stare and dream, to appreciate the textures, colours and designs.
Heidi is nothing if not enthusiastic about her work, her sheep, her wool and her own artistic growing edges.  She is supportive and keen to encourage anyone who is struggling along at basic levels of knitting, like me.  She patiently points out the best possible choices for making my mitts and hat, finds me patterns and discusses the merits of various weights of wool.
When I am there, I want to buy everything.  Of course, I cannot!  I appreciate that Heidi creates yarn from her own sheep, dying and spinning her own wool; wool that is of soft texture and delicate, variegated shades such that knitting with it is a total pleasure, an experience of creation and a visual and tactile thrill.  I love the way the colours slowly meld from dark to light and back again, and delight in the surprise of knitting as the patterns, colours and designs develop in the knitting.

            I love London-Wul!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Darnley, PEI

            My sister and brother-in-law recently vacationed in
                            Darnley, Prince Edward Island.

When they returned, they shared their photos.

Picture perfect days,

miles of uncrowded beach walks,

soul-soothing scenery,

days of wind and water and rest,

sun-painted skies,

rich hues of coral and blue,

and nights so clear, you can almost touch the moon.

We live in the Maritimes,
one of the most picturesque places in the world!