Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

Suddenly all the sky is hid
As with the shutting of a lid,
One by one great drops are falling
Doubtful and slow,
Down the pane they are crookedly crawling,
And the wind breathes low;
Slowly the circles widen on the river,
Widen and mingle, one and all;
Here and there the slenderer flowers shiver,
Struck by an icy rain-drop’s fall.

~James Russell Lowell, "Summer Storm," 1839

My, oh my.  Rain, rain and more rain.  Another rainy day in the neighbourhood.  So far we are about half way through June and my area saw 53 mm of rain not including today, whereas throughout the May we've managed only 14 mm until the very last day.  And the forecast calls for another four days of rain this week.

Oh well, so far the garden seems to like all this fabulous moisture. Vegetables are growing like crazy, I swear I can stand and watch them grow.  Strawberries, juneberries and raspberries not so much, these little darlings would appreciate a little more sun and heat.

Hopefully July will bring more balanced weather.  The really perfect combination would be the rain by night and heat and sun by the day.  The life is rarely perfect though and that's ok.  Whatever Mother Nature has in store for us we'll buy.  We don't really have another choice.

Have a wonderful start to the week my friends!


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: Qianjiazhai Old Growth 2012 Sheng

Up in a tree 
Fairies sit to have their tea. 

With china cups and china plates 
They eat their dainty fairy cakes. 

The table cloth is cobweb lace, 
A name card sits at every place. 

A warm moss upon the floor 
Just inside the small oak door. 

Wouldn't you just love to be 
Invited to a fairy's tea?

- Author Unknown (to me at least)

I think it would be amazing to have a tea and cakes with fairies, don't you?

It's sheng for me again my friends and this one has been in my tea cupboard since 2013. It's  Qianjiazhai Old Growth 2012 Sheng from Verdant Tea and I have only a little bit of it left. Maybe another two cups worth, that's it.

I remember the day that I first got it.  It was my very first young sheng and I had no clue what I'm in for.  I took generous amount of leaves, dumped it into the teapot and steeped them for 1 minute.  The result was a little more bitter than I care to admit.  I diluted the concoction and took to the internet to figure out what I did wrong.

Well, as I found out, young sheng can take only very short steeps before it turns bitter.  Instead of steeping it for 1 minute, I should have steeped it for about 5-10 seconds.  Quite a difference! Once I did that, the tea was simply amazing and I fell in love with what sheng had to offer.

Now it's been two years since I've tried this particular sheng and I was curious to see if anything has changed about it.

The dry leaves had a pleasant sweet vegetal aroma.  None of the smokiness I usually associate with young sheng but I figured maybe it will come out during steeping time.

Like I said, last time I was steeping this tea for only 5 seconds. Since couple of years have passed I figured I could allow for a bit more.  I steeped this time for 15 seconds.

Just about right.  The taste was smooth, complex and not a tiny bit bitter.  The smokiness I usually associate with young sheng was there, but not as much as I experienced with other shengs.  Now that I remember, this tea was never very smoky to start with.  The smokiness ,which I happen to be crazy for, I first discovered with my second sheng purchase: Master Han's 2013 Sheng Puer also from Verdant Tea.

That's it for my pleasant afternoon with an old friend.  Now back to building a compost bin out of old pallets.  I'll tell you all about it on Monday. :)


Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Kitty Corner: Does your cat scratch around the food bowl?

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” 
- Leonardo da Vinci

Hello my dear friends and happy Friday! Yet another weekend is upon us and I couldn't be happier. Just less than two weeks left until the end of this school year and just over a week until summer solstice.  Yay!  Exciting times. :)

So what about them cats?  Why do they scratch around their food bowl?

 Not every cat does that but Hercules surely does.  After he finishes his food he'll scratch all around his food bowl as if he was trying to bury the leftovers.  Sometimes he'll give just few scratches and other times he'll stay there for couple of minutes scratching from each and every side several times over.  Now there is something worth noting.  He doesn't do this every time and he does this only to his wet food bowl.  I've been trying to figure out whether this activity is connected to a particular wet food or maybe how he feels about the particular food but there appears to be no common denominator.  To a mere mortal such as myself, this appears to be completely random.

I think this activity is instinctual.  In the wild cats try to hide/bury the leftover food to protect it from scavengers. Today's domestic cats, even though they don't need to do this, may have retained this innate behaviour from their ancestors and some demonstrate it to our amusement.

Now, I did say some cats do not do this.  Oliver never, ever scratches around his food bowl.  


Wednesday, June 10, 2015


“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?” 
- Sam Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

Hello my dear friends and happy Hump Day!  Oh the quote above stirred up some amazing memories of long nights spent with Frodo and Sam travelling through Middle Earth.  Every summer I pull out the DVDs and re-watch this amazing trilogy.  Looks like I'll be doing it again soon... I've got an itch to scratch.

Today it's a rainy one in the hood again but this time we got the works together with thunder and lightning. Actually we've got it all.  The sun, the thunder, the lightning and the rain.  One moment is sunny, one moment it thunders and then it pours before the sun comes out again.  Mother Nature cannot make up her mind but whatever comes our way next, the garden is sure to love it.

Speaking of the garden, the long awaited time has arrived and the strawberries are beginning to ripen. Every morning I come out and there are presents for me in the strawberry patch and every day there is more and more.  And these presents are sweet, oh so sweet. Thanks to the weather we've been having, the warmth and the sun, the strawberries are extra sweet this year.

This is a third year I'm growing strawberries and it's a first year that they've been really sweet.  The past couple of years the spring has been less than ideal and I guess the lack of sun and warmth manifested itself in lack of sweetness in the fruit.  I'm glad we finally caught a break.

And what comes after the strawberries?  Juneberries! 


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Nibble in the big tree

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” 
- Ralph Ellison

Hello my dear friends and happy Tuesday to all.  It's a rainy one for us here in Southern Ontario and that is simply great.  After a very dry May, the rain is great.  All the plant life around me loves it.

The kitties and Nibble maybe not so much.

Ah little Nibble. For the last three days Nibble has been spending most of his days up in the big locust tree.

It's been a little nerve wrecking at first to let him do that but he was becoming seriously dissatisfied with spending most of his days in the cage. Watching him trying to chew his way out of the cage every waking moment of the day was a little more than I could handle and so I decided to give him that freedom he so desperately wanted. Who am I to decide what a squirrel needs?

Over the last couple of weeks he's been progressing quite well. He learned how to crack nuts, got himself addicted to peanuts for few days, discovered sunflower seeds, got himself addicted to those and finally discovered strawberries and juneberries. And he grew, oh he grew and with his physical size grew the appetite for the great outdoors.

That is why this past Saturday we allowed him to explore up in the big locust tree in our yard.  Oh my goodness, if I ever had any doubts that he can navigate the branches of the big tree these doubts were gone right there and then.  I've never seen Nibble move this fast.   He was born to live in the trees.

All fun aside, don't worry, he is not ready to leave us just yet.  Every time I let him out to play in the big tree, I leave his cage somewhere close to the trunk.  I prop the cage's door so that he can go in and out but anything bigger than him cannot.  Nibble goes up into the tree, stays there for several hours and when he's had enough he comes down and goes inside his cage.  By himself.  No kidding.

I know the day will come when he'll be ready to move on and he will not come back.  That will be a sad but victorious day.  Squirrels are meant to be free.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.” 
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hello my dear friends and happy Sunday to all.  I'm having a late start to the day and loving it.

It surely is a gorgeous morning in my neck of the woods. That's very refreshing because this past whole week the nights and mornings left much to be desired.  It's been quite chilly and my peppers have not been loving it, not one little bit.  I lost two cayenne peppers so far and one sweet bell pepper looks like it's going to quit on me too. 7°C nights are simply not acceptable.

The upcoming week looks very promising though. Nightly temperatures of 15°C or over, daily highs mostly in upper twenties with some rain and sunshine.  Tuesday night we are expecting only 11°C but I think we can live with that if it's only one night.

Today Angel and I have an exciting day in store.  We will build a small, two step ladder to climb the first big branch of our Crimson King maple tree.  I have everything ready and I think that will be a fun little project.  I love working with tools.

Now I'm going to finish my late morning tea and watch Nibble perform acrobatics up in the big tree for a little bit.  Oh yes, his exercises have progressed to a new level and he is doing great so far.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: 2011 Wild Mountain Green Puer

Steam rises from a cup of tea
and we are wrapped in history,
inhaling ancient times and lands,
comfort of ages in our hands.
~Faith Greenbowl

Oh glorious Saturday, how much I love you so.  Sleeping in is great, simply great, no question about it.

Lately I've been on the sheng kick again.  This whole week I've been indulging in my stash of raw puer, which is sitting patiently and aging in my bedroom cabinet upstairs.  Many more kicks like that and I won't have much to age.

That's why when Saturday morning came along and the question of what will I be sampling today slipped into my mind, the answer was clear: sheng!  More sheng please!

Sadly the stash of raw puer never tried samples that I've accumulated over time has been brought down to just one.  I had one last sample of sheng puer left to try and this one was from Mandala Tea sent to me back in 2013: 2011 Wild Mountain Green Puer.  I can see that the sample was broken off of a larger brick in a careful manner which makes me happy because that means that most of the leaves I received were left intact.

The dry leaves had a pleasant, smooth aroma of vegetables and forest.  That is one great combination.

Most of the time when I steep raw puer it's pretty simple.  If it's a very young sheng, the steeping time has to be very short or it will turn bitter.  1-2 year old sheng first steep is usually only 10 seconds long tops.  Older shengs, for example 10 year old sheng, can be steeped for much longer, anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes.  My dillema today was how long do I steep 4 year old sheng?

I went with 30 seconds and I think I hit the jackpot.  The resulting soup was light golden brown and the aroma was simply lovely.  Forest, wood, flowers and grapes were just some of the notes I picked up.  Yummy!

Taste wise it did not disappoint either.  The tea was smooth and pleasant tasting and just at the border of bitterness.  It didn't taste bitter but I did get the slight astringency in the after taste, telling me that my steeping time was just about right.  I love when this happens.

My second steep was just about a minute long and yielded darker golden brown colour with the same exquisite taste.  This time, in addition to yummy notes of vegetables, wood and grapes, I also picked up some apricot.  I wonder what another steep will bring.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Kitty Corner: Meet Little Alaska

“A kitten is, in the animal world, what a rosebud is in the garden.” 
- Robert Sowthey

Hello my dear friends!  It's Friday, weekend is here and I hope it's finding you all in great spirit and health.

We have a new addition to the family and last weekend I finally got to meet her.  Her name is Alaska and she is 12 weeks old.

One of my twin daughters, Mina, decided to get a companion for Leo, a handsome 3 year old male cat who was feeling a little lonely.  You see, Leo was raised together with Oliver but when my son moved out and moved in with us, Leo lost Oliver, his only companion.

Alaska is such a sweetheart.  She is very friendly, purrs a lot and if you're lucky to catch her, she practically melts in your arms.  I'm in love.

I was trying hard to get some good pictures of her during the weekend but it wasn't easy.  When she was awake she was always on the move and hard to catch on camera.  I finally found her fast asleep on the kitchen chair, no doubt exhausted from all the fun and games.  She couldn't resist a snooze and allowed me to take as many pictures as I wanted.  Except for couple of times when she woke up, there was really only one pose. :D

I'm very happy that Mina took the plunge and got little Alaska.  First of all, who wouldn't be happy to have such a little darling around.  I hope Mina brings her back for visits frequently.  Second of all, Alaska's visit was a great test to see how Hercules would react to a girl kitten.  My son Derek could be moving away in the fall and if that happens he'll be taking Oliver with him.  That means Hercules will lose his best friend and only companion.  I've been watching Hercules and Oliver play outside this spring and they've been having so much fun.  They love to wrestle and chase each other around the yard.  If Oliver goes, Hercules is sure to feel lonely.


In the event that Oliver does move away, I've been thinking of getting Hercules a new companion and this time I want this companion to be a girl cat.  Before Alaska, we had only male cats in our family and maybe it's time to get another girl.  I was a little worried about how Hercules would react to a female kitten but I didn't see anything this past weekend to cause me any more worry.  Hercules was very welcoming and gentle with little Alaska.  It looks to me like the coast is clear and we shouldn't have any real problems.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thursday thoughts

“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head.” 

- Paul Auster

Reading is beautiful but reading outside is pure bliss.  Now that the gorgeous weather is back with us I can resume one of my favourite late spring/summer activities: lying on the blanket in my yard and reading a book.  It's maybe funny that I'm dedicating a whole post to this topic but this is so special to my heart that it deserves a special mention.

There is something so delightful about being outside, totally immersed in the exciting adventure amongst the pages of the book while birds are singing above my head and bees are buzzing in nearby flowers. It's also no surprise to me that I'm making stronger, more profound connections with my books and their characters while engaging in reading outdoors.

Currently I am reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  It's a sad and very thought provoking book. It makes me reflect on life and fills me with gratitude for what I already have and what I'm able to give to my children.  It's important to never forget that our carefully crafted lives, the world we've built around us is not as permanent as we think and can be gone, wiped out of existence in a blink of an eye.

How about you?  Do you like to read?  Do you like to read outside?  In your yard?  In the park?  On the beach?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Photo Wedesday: Frogs and toads

“Photography is a love affair with life.”
- Burk Uzzle

Good afternoon my dear friends and happy Wednesday.  We have got ourselves a middle of the week already and I hope this week is treating you all good.

One of the things that I love so much about the country life is all the wildlife that we get exposed to. Sometimes in the summer it seems like there is not a dull day in the neighbourhood.  Every day there is a possibility of something exciting happening, a new critter to be seen and a new friend to be made.

Just few days ago I was relaxing in the yard when I saw Hercules tracking something near the honeysuckle berry bush.  I took an interest and went to see what it was.  To my surprise and a delight it was a small toad!

Our property is not located near the water so we don't see frogs or toads that often in our yard. That's too bad because I love these creatures.  Our neighbours on the other side of the street however, are backing into the swamp and they get it all: the frogs, the toads and the summer concerts.

Oh, how much I love these delightful concerts.  One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to take the night walk and listen to the frogs croaking.  Music to my ears.

Of course everything has a down side and the downside for my neighbours is that they also get more mosquitoes than we do. 

Of all the thousands of photographs that I have, only few of them are of frogs or toads.  As a matter of fact I have pictures of only two separate individuals: a toad and a frog.  When I go hiking I always look out for the frogs (or toads) but they don't like to have pictures taken.  By the time I notice one, it's either already gone into the brush or it's hiding in the water.  Couple of years ago I happened to catch a sight of one that was sitting still on the side of the trail.  That was my lucky day.

The frog was kind enough to give me few moments and several frames of frozen expression before it promptly jumped into a nearby stream.

Whether frogs or toads, I don't have enough pictures of these intriguing creatures.  Next time I'll go hiking I'll keep an eye out.  Maybe I'll get lucky again.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Full Strawberry Moon

Was that right, or
Maybe a rose moon
Shared that night in June
Hovering behind
A curtain of mist
Humid air
On my lenses

Stare at our satellite
See the face in orange
And dusty rose
Full moon, new blood
Across the miles
Seeing it together
Though apart

- Raymond A. Foss

Today we are welcoming sixth full moon of the year, can you imagine that?  Sixth already, oh my!

Full Strawberry Moon, after midnight June 2, 2015
Already last night the moon was 99% full and lured me outside after midnight to indulge in its beauty for just a little while.  The night was cool but not cold, the air was still and the world around was illuminated brightly.  It was purely magical.  Of course I grabbed a camera and promptly snapped an image.  I'll tell you though, no picture can ever match the beauty of the real thing.

June's full moon is called a Full Strawberry Moon which to us is very much self explanatory these days.  June after all, is the month when the strawberries fruit around world.  What is interesting is that it wasn't always that way.  Today's well known garden variety of strawberry is native to American continents and resulted as an accidental cross of Virginia wild strawberry with Chilean wild strawberry only few centuries ago. In Europe, for example, wild strawberries were not very much known and not even cultivated until 1300s. It is not surprising then, that in Europe June's full moon was called a Full Rose Moon to signal the blooming of roses.

I don't know how about you but strawberries are one of my favourite fruits and I'm waiting anxiously until the ones in my garden reach their right size and turn red. They are still quite young, only 2-3 years old but already last year we had a nice harvest. I'm hoping for the same or more this year.


Monday, June 1, 2015

June already!

"What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfilment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade."
- Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

Welcome to the new week and a month of June my friends!  I can't even believe I'm saying that. Somehow half of the year has almost passed us by already, but when?  Was I having too much fun to notice?  Probably. :D

As much as I love May with all its beautiful flowers and sunshine, June makes me squeal with excitement just as much.  It's the time of the early summer harvest!

Let's see what I can expect in the month of June in my garden: strawberries, raspberries, juneberries, honeysuckle berries, green beans and cucumbers.   That is fantastic.

Strawberries, raspberries, and juneberry tree have all flowered in May and have been growing the fruit for  couple of weeks now.  Honeysuckle berries are already turning blue and green bean plants are already growing tiny little beans.  It's the cucumbers that surprised me last night when I went to check the state of the garden after this weekend's explosive wet weather.

The cucumbers are sporting beautiful yellow flowers, with the promise of delicious crunchy and juicy cucumbers so near in the future. Oh yes, once these flowers bloom and get fertilized, the cucumbers grow really fast.

Now, if we could only get the temperatures back to where they used to be.  Yesterday we never got above 7°C (44.5F) and today we are holding at about 11°C (51F).  That is not good for anything that's not lettuce, kale or brussel sprout. Things are hopefully looking up though, according to Environment Canada, tomorrow we are going back to 20°C (68F).  That's still below seasonal but I'll take it.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.” 
- Robert Frost


Yes, we finally got it yesterday and it was a topic of conversation everywhere I went.  Complete strangers talking to each other at the grocery store, exclaiming their satisfaction with much needed water coming from the sky.

Angelina and I were running some errands when the worst of  the storm came and got completely soaked running through the parking lot.  Oh, but it was heavenly!  It was still hot and the asphalt was steaming beneath our feet.  A good soak on a hot day.  Felt wonderful.

Today is quite a different story.  It's still raining but the temperature dropped to unreal 7°C. Apparently we will not get above 8 today and for the night we can only expect 5-6°C.  What's up with that?  How can we go from 30° yesterday to only 7-8° today?  Unbelievable.  The plants will love the rain but they won't like this cold.  Quite a nasty end to otherwise beautiful month of May, would you say?  I am not impressed.

Impressed or not, it looks like Mother Nature ordered a day for staying indoors and enjoying whatever home has to offer: read a good book, watch a good show and maybe even play a video game.  I can't say that I suffer from lack of interests so I'll have no problem finding something to do indoors.  And then there is that laundry that has to be done.  Yeah.

Now I'm going to finish my morning tea.  Golden Monkey still has a lot to offer and gave me another flavourful cup.  Have a wonderful Sunday my friends.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: Golden Monkey from Teavivre

The soil.
The elevation.
The climate.
The sunshine.
The rain.
The tea.

- The Minister of Leaves

Happy Saturday my dear friends, I hope you're having yourself a great start to the weekend.

It's hot and humid in my neck of the woods today but nevertheless, the morning tea was in order. Just like a cup of morning coffee for a coffee drinker, a cup of morning tea makes the world spinning in the right direction.  It's refreshing, calming and very much a way of life.

Today I've reached for one of my samples from Teavivre again: Golden Monkey Black Tea.  The leaves are absolutely beautiful.   It's a mixture of mature leaves and buds, and buds are the lighter ones in colour.  Both buds and leaves are delicate and have claw like appearance.

The leaves look great and smell great too.  The moment I opened the sample pack I had a "wow" moment.  Most delicious scent of caramel and honey with wood and smoke hit my senses and gave me a good indication of what my taste buds are about to experience.  

I steeped about 4 grams of this tea (1.5 teaspoons) in a cup of boiling water for about a minute.  Oh, what an aroma!  Honey, fruit, maple, earth and so much more.  This tea smells amazing but what about the taste?

No surprises there.  It's delicious.

From beginning to end this is some great tea.  It's everything I would want my black tea to be.   It's earthy and sweet with notes of caramel, honey, fruit and molasses.  I usually add just a touch of honey to my black teas but this one doesn't need it.  It needs nothing.  Just to be drank.  It's perfect.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Happy Birthday Derek!

At 19, everything is possible and tomorrow looks friendly. 
– By Jim Bishop

Five kids, four birthdays and today is the last one of them for this year. My only son Derek is turning 19.  Important age for a young person.

Derek's coming to this world was far from what one would normally expect and troubles started months earlier when at only 3 months of pregnancy I rushed to my doctors office with cramps and bleeding. I was diagnosed with premature separation of the placenta and prescribed a lot of rest. That was easier said than done.   When you have three other pumpkins at home already, the rest is hard to come by. Just as expected, the pregnancy proved to be a difficult one to carry and despite everyone's best efforts, Derek came into this world at only 30 weeks gestation or about 7 months.

I have never seen a baby so little, helpless and hooked up to so many tubes.  It was heartbreaking but at the same time I was happy and grateful that his prognosis was excellent and it was only a matter of time before he would be allowed to come home.  The day following his birthday, he was already breathing on his own and allowed to leave neonatal intensive care unit.  He remained in the hospital for the whole month of June and I visited every morning and evening to try and do as much for him as I possibly could.  The weirdest thing I remember about that time is the intense fog that blanketed the city for the longest time.  It almost seems like the entire time Derek was in neonatal care, the city was covered in fog.

The day he finally reached the desired weight and was allowed to go home was a celebration.  I will never forget it as long as I live.  Having a weigh in with the nurse, watching that scale and feeling the happiness, the relief and all sorts of other emotions, that was unforgettable.

Today Derek has grown up into a handsome young man.  He has a heart of gold and remains very close to us all.  I am convinced that I have the best son in the world.  I'm so proud of the wonderful, kind human being that he has become.  Couldn't ask for more.

Happy Birthday Derek!  I love you!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rain... Where is the rain?

“It's so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.” 
- Charles Martin

Good afternoon my dear friends, I hope this day finds you in great health and spirit.

My day has found me in excellent spirit as I freed up some extra time on my schedule and I'm able to put it to a good use in the garden today. I'm especially happy because some extra gardening attention is needed. The weather has been beautiful around here and if I didn't know it was May I would think we were already in the middle of July.  It's hot and sunny every day which fills me with hope that this is what we can expect for the upcoming season.  After the crappy summer we had last year, heat and sun is very much welcome.

The only thing missing so far is the rain.  As much snow as we had in the winter and as much rain as we had in April, May has been relatively dry.  I actually don't remember when it was the last time that it rained here, I think it was somewhere around the 10th or 11th.  Especially in the tiny little area surrounding our property.  I kid you not, there was a great big pour down 5-10 minutes from us on Monday, but completely missed our little village.  It rained at my friend's house, it rained at Angelina's school but it remained bone dry here.  Life is not fair sometimes.  By this time last year we've received 89 mm of rain (during May) and April 2015 yielded almost 50 mm.  So far this May we've managed only 14mm.  Rain, pretty please.

So as you can see garden needs some extra attention because without all that watering I'm doing, everything in sight would die especially plants in containers and the new transplants in the ground.  I'm hoping Mother Nature will turn a loving eye on us sometime soon and sends us a great big thunderstorm with some good deep soaking.  Just to be clear though, I want the heat and the sun to continue... That's been great so far.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Messenger by Lois Lowry

“Now he knew that there were communities everywhere, sprinkled across the vast landscape of the known world, in which people suffered. Not always from beatings and hunger, the way he had. But from ignorance. From not knowing. From being kept from knowledge.” 
- Lois Lowry, Messenger

Another book read, so many more to go.  Yesterday I finished Messenger by Lois Lowry, the third book in The Giver quartet.  Once again I wasn't disappointed.  The book was interesting, easy to read and closely related to the previous books in the quartet.  The story in Messenger happens eight years after the events in The Giver and six years after the events in Gathering Blue.  The characters from The Giver and Gathering Blue reappear in Messenger, linking the novels more closely. I was especially happy to find the character named Leader who first appeared in The Giver and I've wondered ever since what happened to him.

Summary from the back cover:

"For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man known for his special sight.  Village was once a place that welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders.  Matty has been invaluable as a messenger.  Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous Forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself."

Messenger was short, only 169 pages but I didn't mind that because I'm so busy these days, I only have time to read before bed.  Still, some days I had to pace myself to not finish it too fast.  A good book is like a great adventure and I want it to last for a while.  This adventure lasted only several nights but I'll remember it for some time.

If you haven't read any books from the quartet yet and you love thought provoking, inspirational writing, I strongly suggest you give The Giver a try.  It will take you on the journey and make you question yourself, society around you and the world in general.  Much recommended.

Now that Messenger is done, there is one last book in the quartet to read: The Son.  I don't have this book at home so I'll have to get my hands on one sometime soon.  In the mean time I'll be reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy which I've wanted to read for quite some time now.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Garden Update

I'll plant and water, sow and weed, 
Till not an inch of earth shows brown, 
And take a vow of each small seed 
To grow to greenness and renown: 
And then some day you'll pass my way, 
See gold and crimson, bell and star, 
And catch my garden's soul, and say: 
"How sweet these cottage gardens are!"
- Edith Nesbit, the poem Seed-Time and Harvest 
from the Pomander of Verse, 1895

Now that I got my Murhpy's law rant out of the way, I'm ready to talk about all the wonderful work I did over the weekend.  I'm feeling much better now, almost back to my old self although my back is going to take a little longer to recover.  No worries though, it will recover, it feels better with each passing day.

The bulk of the work during the weekend was transplanting all the tomato seedlings.  I have about 30 of them, 13 went into the ground and the rest was planted into the big containers on the deck. We have a huge deck which receives a ton of sunlight and it would be a shame for all that space to go to waste.  That's why last year I started planting into the containers and filling up all that deck space. 

Tomatoes, sweet yellow pepper and cayenne pepper in containers
I'm not done all of the container work yet.  There are still few to be filled.  I have few leftover brussels sprouts plants, cucumbers and kale to be planted.  I've never grown brussels sprouts in the container but since I have few left over seedlings for which I don't have space in the ground, why not try a container, right?  Gardening is all about experimenting sometimes.

Tomato plants in the containers
I plant a lot of tomatoes, much more than what we will eat during summer but then all the extra I freeze for the winter.  I thought about canning and maybe in the future I'll give canning a try but for now I just freeze them.  They are just as delicious in soups, pasta sauces and sauces in general.  As a matter of fact, since we've been using our own frozen tomatoes, the pasta sauces we make are so much more delicious.  Go figure.

The picture below is of a veggie patch on the side of my house.  It's sectioned in four.  At the very top are tomatoes (10 of them), on the very right broccoli (still very small, hardly visible from distance), on the bottom you can see the red lettuce and on the left which is not quite visible is my herb garden.  Parsley, oregano, rosemary, echinacea, chives, sage and cilantro live here.

Tomatoes, red lettuce and broccoli
Cucumber plants are extremely productive and I plant about 20 of them.  Once again, more than we can eat during summer but then I dill pickle whatever we don't eat.  Last year I managed more than 20 pickle jars.  We are just finishing our last ones.

10 of the cucumber plants are present in the picture below.  There is another bed on the side of the house where I planted another 8 and then several in the containers on the deck.

I did nothing to romaine lettuce this weekend except for some weeding and it's growing so well. Very soon there will be enough for a salad. :D

Romaine Lettuce
Green beans also got transplanted this weekend.  What you see in the picture below is 36 green bean plants.  The more the better.  We all love them here and eat a lot, raw and cooked.  My goal this year is to be able to save a lot for winter.  Last year I saved some but not enough.  This year I'm hoping for more.

Once I plant a green bean, I always put a border around the plant (small planting container with a bottom cut out) to discourage pests such as earwigs.  If earwig problem is particularly bad, as it was couple of years ago, I smear some petroleum jelly around the container edge.  Earwigs hate going through that.  You would be surprised to know how much damage earwigs do.  It's quite astounding. Two years ago they got rid of two rows of carrots I planted.

Green bean plants
There are few more green bean plants I have in the containers and I'm also preparing some space on the side of the house for some yellow beans.  Like I said... the more the better. :D

The picture below shows one of the prime spots in my garden.  Centre top are the green beans, top left are the strawberries, right below them are the brussels sprouts (still small but growing) and right in the centre are my onion soldiers.  The very bottom is where calendulas (they are still tiny), day lilies and some hostas grow as well as couple of blueberry bushes which can hardly be seen because the bunny chew them almost to the ground during winter.  Uh, oh.  They will recover though.  Oh yes, and on the very right, right beside the gazebo I'll plant couple of sunflowers.  They love it there.

I absolutely love this stage of gardening.  It seems like my work never ends these days, there is always something to plant, weed, water etc, but I can hardly call it work because I enjoy it so much. I guess who ever said "do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life" was very right.  I think it was Confucius.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Murphy's Law

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
- Charles R. Swindoll

Hello my dear friends, I hope this new week is treating you good.

Do you know what Murphy's Law is?

I do and I know it rather well because sometimes it seems like Murphy is alive, living in my house and sticking his law in my face every chance he gets.

"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

Case in point this weekend.  Those of you that follow my blog know how much I've been looking forward to this weekend.  It was the weekend when I was supposed to transplant all my seedlings into the garden as well and prepare numerous containers for the seedlings on my deck.  Planting the seedlings into the garden beds is not that difficult, although some extra weeding and mulching can be a tad time consuming, but preparing numerous big containers with soil for the deck is a lot of hard work and requires one to be in some sort of good working shape.

Come Saturday morning, I had my tea and I was all ready to go.  Our friend just delivered over a yard of soil to our backyard and it was all waiting for me to grab the shovel and get to work.  Friday night was bitter cold with a risk of frost so I covered all my newly emerging potatoes with some blankets to prevent possible damage.  I was just picking up one of the blankets off of the potatoes when I felt an electricity go through my back and all of a sudden I could hardly stand up.  "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."  Oh, yes Murphy... I remember, go back to sleep now.

Somehow I got my back to relax a little and worked hard all Saturday.  I was a little sore but surprisingly, it was not that bad.  I promised myself to get some nice rest in the evening and get some extra sleep at night which I did.

On Sunday my back felt a lot better.  I made it, or so I thought.  I was more than excited to get back into the yard and continue my work.  That's when I started feeling tummy cramps. Interestingly enough, Angelina was out of school on Friday with a tummy ache and now it looked like this could have been a stomach virus of sorts.  Once again I told myself to look beyond it and got to work as if nothing was wrong.  It was not as easy as it was on Saturday though.  Sore back I can handle but stomach ache has its ways of bringing me down.  I had to take frequent breaks.

Thanks to my inborn stubbornness I got everything done that I set out to do this weekend.  Or rather, almost everything.  I'm sure I could have done more if I felt better but I'm not complaining.  As to Murphy though, all I can do is shake my head.

I don't even remember the last time I had a stomach ache, and the last time I had a similar back spasm was back in 2007.  Why in the world would this happen to me on one of the most important weekends in the season, and two different things on two separate days to boot?  It's not like I believe in Murphy's Law and consciously worry about it happening.  I don't even think about it until it strikes, but when it does it's seriously annoying.

I looked up Murphy's Law on the internet today and found several different versions of it.  Here they are for your entertainment.  I know I had a chuckle when I read some of them.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong
  • If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, which you are unprepared for, will promptly develop
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw
  • Whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first
And last but not least my favourite one for it has happened to me so many times in one way or another:
  • When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-way bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions and (2) they will always meet at the bridge
No kidding.  Whenever there is a blockage on the road allowing for only one car to pass and I see another car coming from the opposite direction, no matter how much I try to adjust my speed to ensure a smooth passage, the other car will arrive at the blockage at the same time as me.  This particularly loves to happen when there is a bicyclist that needs to be passed.  Seriously, I'm not making this up.

So there you have it, here is my rant for this lovely Monday afternoon.  I'm feeling better today by the way, not 100% yet but the worse has passed.  Of course, it's not weekend anymore and Murphy is back asleep.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings

It is always exciting to open the door and go out 
into the garden for the first time on any day.
- Marion Cran

Good morning my dear friends! Second day of the weekend is here and it's just as gorgeous as the first. According to the forecast we can expect summer like temperatures this whole upcoming week with night lows not dipping below 14°C. That is really a music to my ears as I'm transplanting all my seedlings into their permanent locations and wouldn't want night temperatures like what we had this past week. Friday low was only 1°C. Oh, horror.

The best thing about warm late spring nights is that in the morning the temperature is comfortable enough to go outside to the back porch, bask in the early morning sun before it gets too hot, and listen to the birds sing. And oh, do they ever sing.  Especially one of them.  I don't know what bird it is, I can't clearly see it through the tree foliage but it's been singing its little heart out all morning.  It's quite beautiful.

So far I'm on the mark to achieve what I set out to achieve this weekend.  Half of my tomatoes and cucumbers as well as all of the green beans have been transplanted and mulched.  Many big containers with soil are already lined up on the deck ready for the seedlings to be planted which will be done today.  Today the rest of the tomatoes and cucumbers will go in as well as the broccoli, swiss chard and sunflowers.

And now of course, before I start anything I'll make my morning tea and take it to the back porch to drink.  The concert is still going on outside and I don't want to miss much of it.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: What is your favourite hot beverage?

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea
T.S. Eliot

Good morning my lovely friends and happy Saturday.  What a glorious Saturday morning it is. Today I'll be transplanting my seedlings into the ground and some into the outdoor containers.  I can hardly wait to start.

Before I grab a shovel and get to work however, I have to have my morning tea.  Today instead of trying something new, I chose to indulge in my all time favourite green brew: the Dragonwell.

The funny thing about Dragonwell green tea is that I didn't like it the very first time I tried it.  I have just given up the tea bags and was making a switch to the loose tea.  I wanted some good loose green tea and a lot of people out there raved about Dragonwell which is one of the most popular green teas in China.  I figured it with such a popularity, there must be something good about it.

I ordered my first batch from David's Tea and anxiously waited for the shipment to arrive.  I was thrilled when it finally got here.  I opened the package, threw some leaves into the teapot, heated up the water and steeped it all for several minutes.  Then I lifted the cup to my nose and took a whiff.

What in a world is that?

I wasn't impressed.  My green tea smelled like spinach, sautéed vegetables or something of that sort. At that time I wasn't sure if my green should be smelling like that.  None of the tea bags ever did.  I didn't know what to think about it and I didn't like it.

Utter disappointment.

Couple of days later I found myself thinking about Dragonwell again.  Despite the initial disappointment I wanted to give it another try.  For some reason I was strangely drawn to this tea so I steeped another cup. This time, the aroma didn't outrage me.  It soothed me.

The rest is a history.  Within days Dragonwell got deep under my skin and I couldn't imagine starting
my day without it.  I went from hating the smell to craving it every morning.  How absolutely weird is that?

Today Dragonwell is a staple in my tea cabinet.  It's a tea I start most of my days with and can't imagine running out.  Speaking of running out, my stash is currently at dangerously low level and just few days ago I placed an order with Teavivre for a new shipment.  It should get here in about 3 weeks but I think I have enough left to sustain me until then.  This coming shipment will be very special because it will contain this spring's harvest of Dragonwell, harvest which took place April 12, 2015. Now that's some fresh green tea!

How about you my friends?  What is your favourite hot beverage?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Kitty Corner

Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want. 
- Joseph Wood Krutch

Good afternoon my dear friends, it's Friday!  I am ridiculously excited at the prospect of this upcoming weekend.  Besides the regular sleeping in, it's also the weekend when I'll be transplanting all my seedlings into the garden.  I can hardly wait.

It's been a while since I talked about our kitty cats.  Ever since Nibble took residence in our home, their lives have been turned upside down with a little squirrel running about the house and them not being allowed to touch it.  And that said squirrel has been stealing all the love and attention that they have been enjoying exclusively until now. I can imagine, that must be very hard for a cat.  I do what I can to ensure them that all the love and attention is still there for them but I have a sneaking suspicion that emotions are running high sometimes.  Especially with Oliver.

Hercules is of a mellow nature and handles added temptations and adversities pretty well. I often find him sprawled in front of Nibble's cage, observing him closely and thinking his secret cat thoughts. Once Nibble is out of the cage however, Hercules gets out of the way and observes him from a distance.  I don't really have to worry about Hercules attacking little Nibble although I never take that chance.

Oliver is quite a different story.  I always thought that Hercules was the THE hunter around here but it turns out that Oliver has him beat. Or maybe it's that Hercules is getting older and doesn't want to bother the way that he used to. Either way, I'm quite sure that Oliver's heart desire these days is to catch Nibble and teach him a profound life lesson that a cat is only capable of.  When we take Nibble out of his cage we always have to make sure that we know where Oliver is and if he is close by we don't let Nibble to roam freely. Oliver is extremely fast and it would only take a second for Nibble to get hurt.  As a matter of fact, we had a little scare last week when Oliver came out of nowhere and attempted to pounce on our little friend.  I was outside with Nibble, letting him run in the grass for a bit, and I thought Oliver was in the house.  Apparently not.  Nibble realized the danger and assumed a battle pose with some grunting sound effects included, but I was there to stop Oliver from fulfilling his desire and it all ended well.

As terrifying as the concept of Oliver getting the best of little Nibble is, there is a positive side to it all. Nibble has to learn that cats are predators and danger is ever so present and lurking around every corner.  If anything, Oliver is teaching him that.

Our cats are learning a much needed lesson too.  You can't have all that you want.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who Am I?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” 
- Aristotle

After reading Jan's beautiful post about who she really is, I knew I had to write a similar post about myself. Maybe through her captivating words, I came to a realization that I know myself well enough and I'm comfortable enough to do it.

So who is it that I really am?  In truth, I'm a spiritual nomad. I don't belong to any groups, I walk my path completely alone. I'm not a practicing witch but I'm a witch at heart who sometimes indulges in Buddhist literature.  One day I feel like a witch, one day I feel mindful like a monk and others I feel like both.  There are also days when I feel like none of the above.  To some people this might not make any sense but to me, it's light as a day.

I was born and raised as Roman Catholic but I've always had questions about my religion that nobody could satisfyingly answer.  Half way through my thirties I realized that Christianity was no longer serving me.  It was time to let it go.  Leaving religion behind was probably the hardest and scariest thing I have ever done.  My parents, devout Catholics, understood and I thank them for that with all my heart.  Being able to be myself in front of my loved ones and be open about who I really am means a world to me.

Today I'm not part of any religion but I'm also not an atheist.  I'm comfortable knowing that I simply do not know who we are, why we are here and what happens to us when we leave this mortal coil. I'm okay with that.  I'm open to all possibilities although I don't hold any firm beliefs.  Deep down inside, I'm very spiritual and I draw this spirituality from the very world around me.  I feel connection with the Universe and every living thing in it, be it an animal or a plant.  When I celebrate, I celebrate Nature. Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Fall Equinox, Samhain as well as every full moon are very important to me but I do not perform any specific rituals (I do dress up as a witch during Samhain though). My celebration is acknowledging what's taking place and my ritual is simply being out there drawing on Mother Earth's energy.  Easter and Christmas to me are family traditions rather than religious celebrations and I enjoy them both very much.

I live my life by one commandment only: Live and Let Live.  I believe that everyone is entitled to freedom and should be able to do what they want to do as long as they don't knowingly hurt anyone. Once you hurt someone, all bets are off and you deserve the karmic lesson that will come your way. My life is full of such lessons and I respect that.  Nobody is perfect.

Although I'm not religious, I respect those that are.  I believe that every religion holds some pieces to the great puzzle that our Universe is.  If only spirituality and science could come together for good, then maybe we could have a better understanding of who we really are and what the world around us is really made out of.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Macro Wednesday: Dandelion Seed Heads

"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”
-Dorothea Lange

Happy Wednesday my dear friends!  I hope this day finds you in great spirit and health.

My field of dandelions in the yard is slowly changing into a field of dandelion seed heads.  My hubby mowed the lawns after Mother's Day was over, but of course they've all come back as dandelions do. Now our lawn is filled with sea of beautiful puff balls and photographer in me cannot just sit and watch without trying to capture the moment.  Please click on the picture to see blown up image.

I believe that beauty is all around us as long as we are bothered to look.  Somebody looks at the field of dandelion puff balls and says they look ugly.  I lower myself to the ground to take a closer look at them and I say they are beautiful.

Mother Nature is the most intricate of all artists.  Her work is an amazing combination of beauty and purpose.  A tiny dandelion seed, equipped with a delicate parachute breaks away from the base and flies in the wind propagating wide and far.  Now, that is art.

Every year when the puff balls form I take my camera and get to work.  It doesn't matter how many pictures I already have, I can't help it.  They are like a magnet drawing me in with their enticing beauty. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Garden Update

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” 
- Claude Monet

It's been a while since I've updated on my garden and things have been growing like crazy. We've been hit with stretches of hot, sunny, summer like weather and most of my babies have been loving it. Lettuce is the only one that would prefer rather cooler temperatures. Poor things wilt and cry for help when the hot spell hits.

It's such a pleasure to walk around the garden and see everything bloom and grow.  My raspberries have been working very hard, putting out new shoots non stop and now they have started blooming as well. That means some fresh, sweet fruit is on the way!

 Strawberries have not been lagging behind.  They are full of beautiful white flowers which will turn into delicious fruit in less than a month.

Onions look like an army of little soldiers.  Standing on guard in the yard. :D

And here is the lettuce I've mentioned.  Romaine lettuce tolerates heat rather well, it's the red lettuce that is not having fun in hot and humid conditions.  It's growing in partly shaded area so that should help a little I hope.

My sweet peas and pea sugar pods are all out now and growing fast.  I can't wait till we'll be able to go and get a handful of delicious sweet peas for dessert.  Yes, dessert.  Angel and I love to go into the garden after dinner and pick some.

This year I'm growing my potatoes some in containers and some in the ground due to limited amount of space in my garden.  Potatoes are one of those veggies that  should not be grown in the same spot over and over again because they pick up diseases really fast.  The prime spot for my potatoes was used last year and so this year it's containers and a little sunny spot on the side of the house.  It will have to do.

They have already broken through the soil twice.  Last time as soon as they peaked through, I covered them up again with extra 2-3 inches of soil, peat moss and crushed leaves.  Now they are out again and this time I'll let them grow a little before I bury them again.  Potatoes grow in mounds of soil.

This long weekend I planted the brussels sprout plants into the ground.  We are expecting couple of super cold nights this week but brussels sprouts are very hardy and I'm sure they will survive with no problem. I love watching them grow.  They've been in the ground for just couple of days and I already see them getting bigger.  These guys are going to grow fast.

Remember my tiny wee tomatoes?  These sweethearts have been planted in March and have grown into rather handsome studs.  I was planning to get them into the ground this past weekend but because of the cold spell this coming week, I decided to wait a little while longer, possibly until Saturday.

Cucumber plants are not far behind.  They already have a month under their belt which means in less than a month we'll have our first yummy cucumbers.  Their big day will be Saturday as well.

And then there is zucchini.  I've planted six of these guys just in case some don't come out but they've all shown up for duty.  I only need four.  Looks like I'm going to do some gorilla gardening. ;P

Hopefully the cold spell which starts tonight is the last one for this season.  Tonight our temperatures supposed to drop to bone chilling 2°C and that is simply not fun for some of the veggies.  Mother Nature should put her bag of tricks away.   It's time to grow some food.