Monday, March 26, 2012

The Day of Reckoning

Or at least of finding out whether any of the other 250 or so residents of this building are avid (or even aspiring) gardeners. I put up posters on the doors and in the elevators several days ago announcing that we were setting up a community garden for residents and inviting anyone who is interested in participating to attend a meeting at 7:30 tonight.

So tonight we find out. Is there enough interest to start a community garden or not?

If not I will happily confine my gardening efforts to the landscaping which surrounds the entrances to the building. The main approach to the building has a 100' long x 20' wide stretch of sidewalk. It is flanked on both sides by potentillas, saskatoons, a single lilac, a single rose, three wolf willows, and a mugo pine. All were planted when the building was new and have not been touched since, except as noted before, one of the wolf willows has been run over and flattened by a vehicle. You can see by this photo, taken last June, that the saskatoons were trying to take over the walkway, even at the beginning of the season.

I've now managed to prune four of the large and five or six of the smaller shrubs. There's a lot of room in these beds for more plants, and several dead conifers need to be dug out and replaced by more suitable plants. I think some early spring colour would do this place a world of good.

Anyway, we will see what happens. Either way I'm good.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Like life-giving water...

It's never been my object to go back to the year dot with my genealogy. Some of my lines seem to come to an abrupt dead end in the late 1700s, but while adding documentation to a 7th great-grandmother I discovered her maternal line has been documented, not just by genealogists but by historians, all the way back to 450 AD. Fifteen hundred sixty-two years. That's a heck of a pedigree.

Everyone on earth has a pedigree like that. They may not know their ancestors' names and the places they lived. The struggles they endured may not have been documented, but they are back there all the same. So I found the words from this beautiful video especially poignant;

"We all go back so far. And In this present moment on this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world flows together and meets you here like life-giving water if you only open your heart and drink."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Room With Two Dozen Views

Since our living room/den doesn't have a window it's a bit ... well... cave-like at times. I can't say the view off the balcony is the best we've ever had either, RV and truck storage for the adjoining mobile home park. What we need is a window with a view.

Years ago, when I was in high school I had this fantasy about underground houses with windows rather like big TVs, with a view which might change from day-to-day but would be like looking out any window you might choose anywhere in the world. Finally, with flat screen TVs and DVD players fantasy has caught up with reality. Now you can choose your view.

We've been talking about (gasp, please excuse my coarse language but I don't know any other way to say this) - buying a new TV. No, there's not a thing in the world wrong with the one we have, except that it's 19" and neither of us can see it well enough anymore. Poor old Tony has to pull the Windsor captain's chair right up to the screen, and from my vantage point eight feet away I can't read the news crawler or see any fine details. Time to move up in size.

But then we can buy this DVD. Twenty-four views on five minute loops. There are some on here I might live with for months. Put it on full-screen and see if you don't agree. Just what I need, a room with 24 views.

Wait Your Turn

It's a crisp 4 degrees C (39 F) outside with a sharpish wind right from the north but the sun is brilliant and the snow is all melted, except for a patch here and there like a sodden mound of discarded newspapers.

I am seized by that irresistible longing of all gardeners in early spring. To be doing something, anything in the garden. I throw on a windbreaker and toque and go out to walk the fence line of the triangular plot of ground the condo board has said I could use as a community garden this spring. It's large enough for 20 gardeners to have good-sized plots. There are small trees at irregular intervals but they are not large enough to block the sun. Our summer days are long and with planning we can throw the shade primarily in the aisles between the rows.

Water may be a bigger problem. The area is watered by an automatic sprinkler system. Two sprinkler heads cover this entire hundred-foot-long section. You guessed it, they are like two fire hoses. I'm hoping we can talk the condo board into putting faucet heads on those sprinkler nozzles. Otherwise everyone is going to have to put some kind of water force diffuser between their crop and those nozzles. Ah, but what's gardening without a challenge? If you have sun you have no water. If you have water, you have no sun. If you have both the soil is rocky or alkaline enough to make soap with.

So I came back in, pleased with the site and the sun. I was still restless. I got my secateurs and gloves, grabbed the trolley and a big blue plastic tub and headed back out again. The landscaping here was done by a "What's colourful immediately?" approach. Not to say it isn't nice, but no one has laid a finger on it since it was planted in 2007 and the shrubs are pretty sad looking. There's lots of dead wood on them, the bottom halves are bare, they have overgrown the walkway and grab at people's eyes as they pass.

I began with the worst offender, a serviceberry bush near the entrance. It was about seven feet tall by end of summer. I trimmed it back in September, when it was absolutely over-run by aphids, and looked (and I'm sure felt) sick. Today I lopped off all the dead wood, took it back to about 18" tall, and rounded up the form. It should come out nice and compact in April. Serviceberrys usually bloom in May here, these were so spindly and sapped by aphids that they didn't start to bloom until September.

A tree has either volunteered or was planted right beside the serviceberry, so the shrub surrounds it. Branches were hanging over the walk, so I trimmed those as well, and cut a sucker which had come up out of the bottom.

I noticed on the other side of the walk there are about six or eight green spears of whatever we planted there last fall. My fellow condo board member Trevor and I planted 200 spring bulbs, a mix of tulips, hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, narcissus and others I am forgetting. We put about 150 along the main walkway and around the base of the trees out front, the others went at the other entrances. I'm thrilled to see something coming up, probably crocus - they are close to the building in that spot, and probably stayed warmest all winter.

I went out to the end of the walk and pruned the wolf willow. This little tree is at the very end of the walkway and at some point it must have been run over by a vehicle. The trunk lies perpendicular to the ground. I trimmed back branches that had overgrown the sidewalk and get walked on, or tripped over.

I emptied the heaped high trimmings into the dumpster, and having satisfied my garden lust I came in to be greeted by my dirty kitchen. It has to learn to take its turn.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Lessons

Today marks the first anniversary of the day we took possession of our wee condo and began unpacking our goods and chattels. We look at each other and agree we can hardly believe it's so. Three months maybe?

The place is cozy and comfortable. We wouldn't want it any bigger, except for the occasional time when it would have been nice to have had room for overnight guests. I keep thinking I'd like to paint at least one or two walls a colour other than paper bag brown, but the pale aqua paint I had mixed up is still in the container under the sink.

We miss our friends in Summerland. After a year here we haven't really made friends. It's hard to do when you have unpredictable health. In Summerland friends were close by, next door, a few steps away. Here, not so much. So we must enjoy our own company.

Sadly, our big bouncy red boy has gone on to whatever hereafter cats congregate in. I hope he's happy there. We surely miss him, even though we have adopted a new kitty who is beautiful and sweet tempered.

Life is rather like a kaleidoscope. A small turn can produce dramatic changes, a picture that was full of light can go dark, but the next rotation may bring brilliant colours up again. It's a lesson you learn over and over again. And when you think you have learned the lesson, life falls into a different pattern, a new shape emerges and there are more lessons to be learned and relearned.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Inevitability of Cats

It was too quiet in here, and our hearts and arms were too empty. I know we said Salvador would be our last kitty, for a list of reasons, but those reasons didn't stand up to the torrents of loneliness he left in his wake. My Buddhist detachment has not yet detached itself from my beloved four-leggers (or much of anything else I fear).

There's no way we could ever replace Salvador. Aside from being the biggest cat any of the vets we took him to had ever seen, he was a force of nature, as evidenced here. Note that the cupboard doors had to be closed with bungee cords because a naughty red boy would pull open the doors and empty the cupboards.

One of the most fascinating aspects about cats is that each has a distinct and individual personality. Cats are no more like each other than are children, as in one of these things is only superficially like the other. All standard-issue cats have the four legs, and I was going to say the pointy ears, but Scotch Folds' ears fall over. The "long-tail" qualifier fails when you're faced with a Manx, who has no tail. Furry? Several breeds have no hair whatsoever and one "hairless" cat is what has the be the cat owner's nightmare - it grows hair which it immediately sheds, leaving it bald.

So I can't even describe what a cat is and yet you know exactly what I mean when I say 'cat', and assuming you are a 'cat person', you'll understand why we had to have another one, asap.

We lost Sal on Friday. By Saturday evening I knew I couldn't live without a cat in the house. I'd spent the day cleaning red hair out of the corners, from under the furniture and out of the upholstery, packing up toys, emptying the house of Sal's presence. But it was with a growing sense of grief, not just that Sal was gone, but that there would never be another cat to fill that void.

Ian came over in the evening, and while he was here I finally said it.

"I have to have a cat. I don't think I can live without a cat." One of the reasons we'd decided not to get another cat was because Ian has to help us get food and litter, and had to carry Sal to the vet when Tony wasn't well enough, because he was too heavy for me to carry.

"Well, get one then," he said, "I don't mind helping."

Long story short, Sunday we added this beautiful long-haired silver tortie, a three year old male, to our family. His name is Smokey, he's very sweet, gentle, affectionate and playful. He's adjusted very well, and seems extremely content. He came from a home with two dogs and two small kids who were hauling him around a little too roughly for his own good. So while he's not filling Sal's big boots with his tiny feet, and we are still wrestling with the loss of our big boy, the house and our hearts are not so empty.