Thursday, April 30, 2015

Good Bye April


"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
- Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926


Good morning everyone and happy Thursday!  I hope this day find you in great health and spirit. There have been so many wonderful and happy post lately with people enjoying the amazing weather we've been gifted.  It's such a pleasure to read each and every single one.

Today is the last day of April, can you believe that? At the danger of sounding like a broken record I'm going to ask: Where did this April go?  Did it really go that fast or was I having a lot of fun? Maybe a little bit of both. 

As a matter of fact, April has been pedalling at such neck breaking pace that my poor daffodils nearly missed the blooming mark.  One more day and they would have bloomed in May instead of April. Aren't they supposed to bloom in mid April?  They are about two weeks late this year, I think.  Having said that, I was pretty happy to see the first one open its beautiful head sometime yesterday. Hello gorgeous!

For today's post I picked the quote above because I found it pretty amusing at how accurately it described this year's April.  Weather wise, we had a little bit of everything depending on which way or how fast the wind blew.  This April was like a chameleon masking itself as March or May whenever it felt like.  The stretch of recent cold weather with gale winds, snow and hail was especially unnerving, because it arrived so late in the month.  I'm glad we're done with that and hopefully for good.

Despite the stretch of frigid weather, this was a pretty good month all around.  We've celebrated two birthdays (my oldest daughter's and Hercules's), rejoiced in family celebrations during Easter, have been visited by Easter bunny which left a lot of chocolate all over the house, and saw the start of this year's garden.  My back is a little stiff these days, my nails have dirt in them I can't get out, but my heart is full of joy and hope for the new season.  I'm bringing this happiness with me into May and hope that it will treat us just as good if not better than April did.

Welcome back beautiful May!

Namaste


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Have Some Respect


“May the footprints we leave behind show that we’ve walked in kindness toward the Earth and every living thing.” 
-Inspired by Native American philosophy


Good Morning everyone and happy Hump Day!  I can`t believe we are already half way through the work week.  The way things are going, before we know the summer will be done and over with.  Oh no, lets not even entertain this idea.

On Monday the weather improved slightly and even though it was still chilly, the sun came out and I decided to go for a short hike.  I wanted to see the process of Earth waking up, the very beginning of sprouting, blooming and blossoming.

I found several flowers beginning to bloom and I stopped to admire them all.  Bloodroot was everywhere, the leaves gently hugging the stem, like elegant ladies in dresses with their hair done up (ha ha ha.. ).


As I continued my walk I noticed few other flowers, not so pretty but firmly embedded into the landscape.


The spot where the coffee cup was discarded was recently worked on, as part of trail maintenance I guess.   I could see sections of the trail were newly marked and soil rearranged.  I can imagine workers were hired to do that, brought some coffee with them and then just dumped the cups right where they were working?  Who does that?

Just a short distance away I found another one.  It seems like some kind soul tried to tuck this one away and make it seem invisible.  Sorry kind soul.  You failed miserably.


As I kept walking, I kept finding more of these alien flowers.  




I don't even know what it took to bring the shopping cart there.  It must have took quite a bit of effort dragging it through the steep and narrow pathways peppered with protruding roots.  This spot was far from the entrance of the trail.

Why is it that we insist to make the Earth our own personal garbage can?  Why is it that we have so little respect to the very Mother that takes care of us, gives us food and shelter?  Why do we insist on being so stupid?

I don't ever remember going into the woods, pulling out food or drink, satisfying my hunger or thirst and then just dumping my non biodegradable garbage as I walked on. Sure, if I was eating apple or banana that would be a different story.  That would be compost.  I'm afraid that coffee cups, plastic bottles, aluminium cans or entire shopping carts don't fall into this category.

Lets use our thinking caps a little more and show some respect to Mother Earth and her other numerous children.  Let's not litter every walking step with our artificial crap.  After all, this is the only home we'll ever have.  There is nowhere else to go.

Namaste


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Garden update


Gardens are not created or made, they unfold, spiraling open
like the silk petals of an evening primrose flower to reveal the
ground plot of the mind and heart of the gardener
and the good earth.
- Wendy Johnson, Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, 2000


Good morning my dear friends and happy Tuesday.  I hope this week is treating you well.

Today we are finally seeing a change in weather from the pesky cold to more seasonal temperatures. I am so happy and I'm sure my seedlings will be as well since they'll be able to enjoy few days outside in the sun again.  The spring has returned!

Everything is growing so well.  Since I've shown you my seedlings last time, I've planted many more.

Here are some new developments:

Green bush beans and yellow bush beans have sprouted fast and furious.  Within few days they've grown really big and I can't wait till I'll be able to put them in the ground.  They think they are so ready but unfortunately the night temperatures are still too low to have them stay outside.  Cool your jets little ones!


Green bush beans
I've also planted the first batch of dill weed and first seedlings are now coming through.  These are from my own seeds I collected last year.  Once they mature, I'll be using the dill flower heads to make my cucumber dill pickles.  Yum!

Dill Weed 
I won't be able to make any pickles without some crunchy cucumbers.  My first batch of cucumbers have broken the soil and are beginning to grow their first true leaves.  I have about 10 cucumber seedlings right now but will be planting more in a week or so.

Cucumber
Brussels sprouts are one of my favourite plants.  Throughout the summer they grow many big, flavourful leaves which can be used in stews, soups or in a stir fry.  In addition at the end of the season they produce sprouts which are wonderful to eat on their own with a little bit of salt and garlic sauteed in the pan.  They are very cold hardy and last well into the winter.  I picked my last brussels sprouts from last season this January.

Brussels Sprouts
Outside in the yard I've planted onions, peas and potatoes.  Only onions have started showing so far. The peas and the potatoes will take a while longer.

Raspberries are sprouting all over the place.  There are so many new shoots breaking through the soil that it's hard to count.  I found couple in the lawn.  I'm going to have to put up some boards to contain these enthusiastic ladies.  On the plus side, we'll have a lot of raspberries this season.  I only planted the bushes last year and right off the bat we had a great harvest.  Looks like this year we'll have whole lot more.

Raspberry shoot
And let's not forget about the tomatoes, the lettuce and the kale.  They are all doing great. The lettuce and kale are not minding the cold and will be able to go into the ground very soon.  They are already spending most of the time outside.

(from left) Green Lettuce, Red Lettuce and Kale

Tomatoes are more delicate and like it warm.  I'm taking them out but only when the temperatures are in high teens and the sun is out.  They are growing very nicely.

Tomatoes
Cayenne pepper seedlings are growing rather slowly but they are making some progress too.  The true leaves have now come out.

Cayenne Pepper
And last but not least, my little Royal Gala apple tree.  Looks pretty happy, don't you think?

Apple Tree
Today we are expecting a beautiful day.  It supposed to warm up to 18°C with full sun.  All my babies, including tomatoes,  will be coming out for some serious basking in the sun once it warms up sufficiently.  The warm weather is said to stay with us for the next several days.  I hope it's for good this time.

Namaste


Monday, April 27, 2015

Photo Monday: Adventure with the snake


“To photograph is to hold one's breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” 
- Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers


Oh, what a beautiful quote, the one above.  There are so many emotions at play during a photograph taking and this quote describes them quite nicely.

This past week my favourite capture was that of a snake.  Over the past several years I've tried to get a good close up of a snake.  I've been on many hiking trips and have seen many snakes in my travels but I've never been able to get close.  Whenever I've seen a snake it was usually just the tail end as the snake made his getaway.

Last week on Wednesday I went to visit the Smokey Hollow waterfalls to look for the first spring flowers.  I found them and immediately started shooting.  As I changed the position to take a better close up, something jerked feverishly beside me.  I jerked too and quickly got up on my feet.  As I stepped away I saw the movement again and realized it was a little snake.  

He wasn't big.  His head was just about an inch long.  He noticed me right away and I could see that he was observing me closely.  His little red tongue was making an appearance ever so often and I wondered if I'll be lucky to get that in the photo.  I lowered myself to the ground again and tried not to breathe or make any noise whatsoever.  The snake's head moved with every movement of mine.  A thought raced through my head: if I move too close will he try to strike my camera?  That would be interesting.

As I got close to the ground, I started shooting.  Closer and closer I moved, snapping non-stop, wondering exactly how close is he going to let me get to him.


In the end I got pretty close and I didn't even realized until I got back to the car, that in some shots I had captured his little red tongue almost perfectly.  Sometimes my camera likes to give me those little presents.  I am very grateful.

From the photos on the web I figured out it was a common, harmless garter snake.  Common or not, these little guys are fast and not easy to capture up close.  I'm glad I finally got my chance.  Click on the photograph to see the larger format.


And as to the flowers I came there to photograph?  They were there, they were beautiful and very numerous.  Despite the fact that they flower in March and April, many of them just started blooming now and there are a lot more to come.  That's just shows that we've had a cold, cold winter and slow start to the spring.

Their name is Siberian Squill or Scilla Siberica.  Despite the name they are not native to Syberia but native to southwestern Russia, Caucasus and Turkey.  And now they are in Canada.

I'm going to go back and get more detailed macro shots of these beautiful flowers.  I only got few shots in before I saw the snake and afterwards I didn't want any chance of stepping on the little fella so I just left.  I might stop by there today as a mater of fact.  It's still cold but the sun is coming out.


I was thinking that there will be a lot more blooming going on by the end of last week, but with the weather switching back to unpleasant cold, everything in my yard became shell shocked and frozen in time.  I've been watching my trees, especially the Juneberries and they have made almost no progress last week. Still, the little blossoms are beautiful when observed close up, almost ready to pop right out of their shell.


This week, starting tomorrow, we are back to seasonal temperatures and a lot of sun. That should make the plant life happy and spark a lot of blossoming in the coming few days.  The daffodils and tulips are out and almost ready to bloom.  The young dandelions have made their appearance as well. And then the bees are going to come... And the butterflies... Oh glory...

Let's have it Mother Nature.  I can't wait.

Namaste


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings


Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw


The best thing in the world, is to open your eyes in the morning to the room bathed in warm rays of the sun and realize it's weekend and you don't have to go anywhere.  It's your choice what you want to do.  Close your eyes and re-enter your dream, lie in bed and meditate, or get up and get on with your day, albeit as slowly as you desire.

Such is the beauty of the weekend.

Yesterday we had a beautiful day just as I was expecting it to be.  The temperature rose and the sun kept shining all day.  I took all my seedlings out for much deserved basking in the sun and throughout the day watched them point their little heads towards the big bright ball of fire in the sky.  After many days of cold and hibernation inside the four walls, my babies were happy to breathe some fresh air and bask in the sun.

I also did some garden work.  I planted few more potatoes and cleaned up a bit.  This year I don't have a good spot to grow my potatoes all together, so some will be growing in big containers and some will be growing in couple of smaller spots I found in the garden, far away from last year's patch.  Potatoes are one of those vegetables that should never be grown in the same spot two years in the row.  The crop rotation is especially important here but that means a lot of headache for someone with a smaller yard like myself.  There are only so many sunny spots available.

Today it's setting up to be another beautiful day.  It's warming up quickly and I think I'll have my tea outside on the deck.  I'm having the aged sheng from yesterday since there is still a lot of life left in those leaves.  Gotta love good quality tea.

Enjoy your Sunday everyone!

Namaste


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk: 2005 Fengqing Zhuan Cha Raw Pu'erh from Teavivre


Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage. 
- Catherine Douzel


Good morning from my neck of the Canadian woods!  I hope you're enjoying this fine Saturday morning as much as I am.  I got to sleep in today and that simply makes my day every time.

Outside today we supposed to get back into double Celsius digits which will be a welcome development.  With the sun shining and almost no clouds in the sky, we should have a beautiful day. The last three days have been ridiculously cold with rain, snow, hail and gale winds.  Everyone around here needs a break and see the spring come back.  I'm hoping to do some work in the garden today. 

For now though, it's still pretty chilly out there and I will be having my tea inside.  This morning I'm not having anything I haven't tried before but rather I've decided to cut into the brick of aged sheng (raw) pu'erh which arrived few weeks ago from Teavivre.  I did a review of the sample of this tea back in February and loved it enough to order a whole brick.  Today I'm breaking into that brick.

My memories from drinking of that sample are so good that I'm really excited to try it again.  The brick is so small, well compacted and so perfect that my heart squeezes a little at the thought of breaking it but what has to be done, has to be done.  I want my tea.


Some people have special tools to get into these bricks but I use my old mathematical instrument, the divider which does the job just as good.


I just insert the sharp end of the divider into the brick and lift the leaves lightly, trying to make sure that as many leaves as possible are left intact.  For today's tea I lifted an 9-10 gram piece.


I rinsed the leaves first in the water just below boiling and left them to sit for about a minute to loosen up.  The wet leaves smelled wonderful.  Sweet and vegetal with a hint of smokiness.  Afterwards, I steeped the leaves for just 30 seconds.  


The resulting liquid was of warm golden brown colour and wonderful aroma.  The tea taste did not disappoint and was just as I remembered it from two months ago: sweet and woodsy with hint of flowers and smoke.  It had a wonderful depth to it and an ever so subtle astringency that tickled the sides of my tongue, reminding me that it is tea I'm drinking.  This is really, really good tea and I highly recommend it.  I'm so glad I got the whole brick and I'm sure in no time it will be gone.

Now I think I have to go and steep myself another cup.

Namaste 



Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy Birthday Hercules!


I wish that I looked as good for my age as you look for your age, but I can't sit around licking my fur all day. 
Happy Birthday.


Good morning dear friends and Happy Friday!  Another week finished, another weekend to enjoy. And of course another Saturday to sleep in.  Ha ha ha.

Today is Hercules`s birthday and he is turning 5 years old.  I believe that is 37 in cat years.  I am 43 and he is quickly catching up with me.  In two years we will be the same age, I can hardly believe it.


I still remember the day we met Hercules as if it was yesterday.  Angel, my oldest daughter Sara and I went to the local animal shelter to look for a kitty we could adopt.  Deep down inside, I wanted a white and orange kitty, I'm not sure why but I did.  We were given access to the cages where they had little kittens and there he was.  Only one orange white kitty and he was beautiful.  He wasn't happy in the cage and when he saw us he started meowing and asking to be let out.

His name was Chip.  The lady in charge let him out of the cage and into my arms.  There was an instant bond and we all knew he was coming home with us.

I've named him Hercules because he seemed like Hercules to me even though he was very little. Over the years he lived up to his name by growing big and strong.  Even vet commented on how well Hercules's name fitted him.

I've pulled up several pictures from those early years for a little trip back in the memory lane.

He loved sleeping in my arms when he was a little kitten.  He was no different from a human baby in that respect.


Angelina loved Hercules from the start.  As she was just a little girl, she used to demonstrate her love by playing with him a lot.  Sometimes it was a dress-up game.  Even though I doubt he enjoyed it, he grew to be very patient with her.


Really, really patient.


When he wasn't playing dress up, Hercules was doing other things.  Like messing with my potted herbs.  In 2012 I was trying to grow some herbs through the winter but I was not having a lot of luck. There was just not enough light and Hercules agreed that we should just scrap the whole project and give him his window spot back. Part of me thinks he might have sabotaged my efforts just a little bit.


Hercules has been a sunshine in our lives from the moment he arrived.  I hope there are many, many more years of this sunshine left.

For his birthday this year he got a toy mouse which has been sitting in the catnip jar for over a day. He is crazy about catnip and so the gift was a great hit.  Other gifts include extra snacks and lots of hugs and kisses.  Happy Birthday Hercules!



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Of Earth's Wrath and Thrift Shopping


“Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” 
-- Evo Morales


What an Earth Day we had yesterday.  I think Mother Earth is angry with us humans and I can imagine rightly so.  We don't treat her well.  We give her one day in a year while she gives us 365.

What a miserable deal.

From rain to snow to hail and back to snow, that was our weather yesterday.  And cold too.  The temperature never got over 5°C.   Our Mother brought the Winter back on this Earth Day and she showed us.  And by the way, it's not over yet.

When I woke up this morning it was -1°C and lightly snowing.  At this time, some of the snow is still on the ground.

Due to Earth's wrath, I couldn't really enjoy hiking or working in the garden yesterday but I did want to honour her somehow so I visited our local thrift shop.  Many of my clothes are starting to wear out and will be needing replacement very soon.  Honouring Mother Earth by going to a thrift shop?  Yes, very much so.  Thrift shops are all about reusing, buying used instead of new, thus conserving Earth's resources. 

To my utter joy I was rewarded.  I found two tops that I like very much and both are in excellent condition.  Both are black but one is speckled with tiny purple polka dots.  Purple and black, two of my favourite colours for I am a goth at heart, you see.  Most of my clothes are black.

There was one more thing I found at the thrift shop yesterday and it put the biggest smile on my face. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a book that I want to read and I even have the PDF copy of it but I have hard time reading digital fiction.  I've been thinking of getting the physical copy of this book once I'm done with Wolves of the Calla.  What is the chance that I'll walk up to a random bookshelf in the thrift shop and find that very book, just sitting there and waiting for me?

That's exactly what happened.  I was floored to say the least.  There on the shelf was The Road by Cormac McCarthy all for my taking.  And of course I took it.

I've noticed that The Road has been made into a movie and it is now available on Netflix.  I really want to see it but I have to read the book first.  For me the books always come first.  I can read the book and then watch the movie but not the other way around.  Now that I finally got the book, looks like I won't have to wait much longer.

The road awaits.

Namaste


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Making fresh butter



“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”
- Napoleon Bonaparte



Good morning my dear friends and happy Wednesday!  We are already half way through the week and although it's going fast, I'm not complaining.  The weekend will be here soon enough and with it the glorious sleep-in time.  And I need that sleep-in time because I'm a night owl and I never get enough sleep during the work week.

Today is also an Earth Day.  Let give our Mother Earth some gentle loving care today and let her know how much we appreciate the home she's given us.  Let this day also be a reminder that we have to celebrate the Earth and take care of her not just one day in a year but all year round.  After all, she takes care of us.  Happy Earth Day Earthlings!

Moving on to today's topic.

Last night I made some fresh homemade butter and you can see the results of my efforts in the picture above.  Have you ever tried making your own butter?

Whenever my husband invites his friends to the house and they are preparing snacks involving butter, he always praises my butter making abilities.  I'm always very pleased with the compliments but can't help to laugh a little inside.  It's really very simple to make butter. You just need the right ingredient. That's right. Only one.

I learned the art of butter making from my grandma when I was only 9 years old.  It was by necessity rather than pleasure but the lessons stuck with me all my life.  

We lived in Poland, back in 1980s during the communist era and the food in stores was scarce.  One of the things that we could never get enough of was butter.  It was not easy to come by in those times and when the fresh delivery did come in, it was quickly gobbled up by people.

One day my grandma approached my cousin and I as we were playing inside the house.  It was raining that day.  She had two jars partially filled with raw unhomogenized whole milk in her hands. She told us she needed butter for a recipe but she was out and there was none in the store.  She needed our help to make some more.

She didn't have electric mixer so it had to be done by hand.  All we had to do was shake the jars vigorously and eventually the butter would deposit itself on the walls.  Sure enough it worked just as she said.  Our arms were sore that night but we made some butter for our grandma and she baked us something delicious.

Today I don't have to shake any jars to make my butter but if the electricity cut out or my electric mixer quit on me, that would still be the way to go.

The one ingredient that's needed for home butter making is UNHOMOGENIZED whole cream. The reason I put it in capital letters is that the unhomogenized part is very important. Regular homogenized cream is an emulsion. Its fat is broken into very small molecules and it no longer separates from the rest of the liquid. To make butter you need the separation.

I don't know if you'll be able to get the unhomogenized cream in your regular grocery store.  I guess it depends where you live.  The conventional grocery stores in my neck of Canadian woods don't carry it.  I get my unhomogenized cream at the natural foods store.  I would think that places like Whole Foods or Ambrosia should carry it though.

What you will need:

-Unhomogenized whole cream at a room temperature

-Salt (optional)

-Big bowl

-Hand held electric mixer

-Fine mesh strainer

-Jar

Directions:

Pour your unhomogenized whole cream into a big bowl and start beating it with your electric mixer.
It will first become a whip cream. Resist an urge to eat it all at that point. Keep whipping away until the mixture starts turning yellow and you see liquid milk forming on the bottom. The yellow substance is the butter slowly separating from the liquid. You can start straining at this point or you can continue whipping if it doesn't splatter too much. 

When the liquid starts splattering excessively, I strain the milk into a separate jar using a fine metal strainer. I continue whipping until the butter chunks get too big for my mixer to handle. At this point I usually take a big spoon and kneed it for a bit, squeezing more milk out of the butter. As I press the butter with my spoon I can see droplets of milk appearing on the surface.  It's actually pretty cool. When I don't see much milk separating anymore, I rinse my butter several times until the water runs clear.

The separated milk should not be discarded.  It's just as delicious as ready store bought one. You can even add a little bit of water to it if you think it's too creamy.  I do it all the time.

If you like salted butter, this is the time when you can make it happen.  Just fold some salt into your freshly made butter while it's still soft.

Enjoy your delicious homemade butter and the compliments you'll receive after people learn you've made it yourself from scratch.  The art of making butter is somewhat lost today and I find that just a teeny bit sad.  I'm happy that I learned how to do it however, and now I'll pass this knowledge to my kids.

Namaste


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earthing


“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” 
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


What exactly is Earthing?

Earthing, also known as grounding, is a process during which a human body receives a charge of energy while being in direct contact with the Earth.

I briefly mentioned this subject in one of my blog posts few weeks back, but I think Earthing is so fascinating that it deserves it's own post.

I've always enjoyed being outside barefooted but I never really thought much about it and didn't know why it was making me feel better, it just did.  I always regarded it as one of those natural things and simply didn't give it much consideration.  

A year ago I became aware for the first time that this process of connecting with Earth had a name and there was an actual movement behind it.  Doctors, nurses, people from all walks of life were speaking on health benefits of grounding.  That got me thinking and made me really sad at the same time.  Earthing was something so simple, so basic and so natural and yet so foreign in today's modern world.  How miserable our civilization has become that a lot of people raise their eyebrows at a suggestion that the direct contact with Earth might be beneficial to our health and well being.

Up until very recently humans have been in contact with Mother Earth quite a bit via various means. Our shoes did not always have the rubber, non conductive soles most shoes have today and up until industrial revolution happened most families were involved in farming or some other Earth based occupation.   From spring to late fall, mothers, fathers and their kids would work in their gardens and on their farms being in contact with Earth the way every living being is meant to.

Today for most families in the western world and especially those living in the cities, staying in touch with Earth is nearly non existent. Some people go years without this direct contact.   It happened to me.  When I was younger and lived in the city, there are years when I can't remember once taking off my shoes and walking barefooted on the ground.  This cannot possibly be a good thing. Curiously enough, it is also the western world population that is the most unhealthy. Of course, lack of earthing is not the only reason for the declining health of our population but I do happen to think that it could be one of the factors, besides polluted food, bad eating habits and a lot of stress.

Earthing is very natural, very simple and when you get down to bare science it also makes a lot of sense. I don't want to get very technical in my post so I'll keep it very simple.  The Earth has a negative charge and the human body is positively charged.  Human body is full of pollutants and free radicals that have to be neutralized.  Earth can do that for us.  When we touch the Earth with any part of our bodies, we allow for the electron flow and the neutralization of free radicals to take place. We do not need the expensive lotions, potions and creams, or extravagant spas to make us feel whole. The basic act of walking barefooted on the ground or sinking our hands into the dirt is free and has profound impact on our well being.  It's really that simple.  We are the creatures of Earth, we need to get back in touch with it and not hide in our insulated footwear and concrete walls.



Few weeks ago I read an article about gardening which said that studies show that gardening helps to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.  At the same time other studies have shown that Earthing has much of the same effect on people.  Isn't it just a common sense to say that there is a common denominator here?  It's the Earth.  When we garden we work directly with the soil and allow the beneficial electron transfer to happen.  We energize our bodies resulting in improved well being.

Next time you are in the park, go ahead and take off your shoes.  Let your bare feet touch the Earth and see how amazing that really feels. It feels so good because it's meant to be this way.  We are the children of Earth and we need our Mother's touch.

Namaste


Monday, April 20, 2015

The beautiful world of macro photography


“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 
- Ansel Adams


With the coming of spring and summer besides gardening there is another activity that makes me squeal with excitement: macro photography.

Few years ago I became interested in finding out how exactly do photographers capture extreme close ups.  As I explored the surrounding world with my camera, I wanted to capture everything closer, much closer than I was able to capture with my regular lens.  I wanted to see the bee's face, zoom in on fly's eyes and have a staring contest with a spider.  Regular lens just couldn't get me close enough.  After a short investigation, I found my answer.

Macro lens.

That was not a cheap venture but I splurged and I got my lens.  It was money well spent.  As I started snapping, I discovered a whole new world beneath my feet, a world buzzing with life and a world threatened with innocent activities as simple as weeding a garden.

Through the last several years I've collected countless photographs of little critters, tiny flowers, curious spiders and others.  The first year when I got my macro lens it wasn't to unusual to go hiking in the area and find me laying across the trail starring intensely at something on the ground, trying to get a good shot.  I was obsessed.

Some photographs came with stories attached such as the story of the jumping spider who gave me one of my favourite captures.



I was in my yard looking around for little critters to photograph when I noticed a movement near one of the deck boards.  I took a closer look and noticed what it looked to be a jumping spider.  He wasn't very big, maybe an inch in size or less.  At first I thought he disappeared into the crack but then I noticed that he was hiding in the shadow as if waiting for me to leave.  When I came up closer, he came out of the crack waved his green little fangs at me and retreated back into the crack.  Incredible. I had a genuine human to spider interaction happening.

Over the next half an hour I kept this spider cornered in the little crack.  I called him Hairy.  If I zoom in on the picture I can see me and the camera in Hairy's eyes.  The black blob in his eyes is my camera lens.  Every once in a while he would come out of his little crack, angrily wave his fangs at me and retreat back.  Over and over.  I just laughed and kept shooting.  The lighting wasn't too great around the crack and it was cloudy that day so getting a good shot at Hairy was easier said than done. Besides, I was so very new at this.

After half an hour and three hundred shots later I thought I had what I needed: a connection with a spider, a fun experience and a shot clear enough to remember all of this by.  Once I took my camera and stepped away from the crack, Hairy took off in a flash never to be seen again.

Besides spiders, bees have always been my other favourite subject to photograph.  They are simply beautiful. Flying from flower to flower, minding their own nectar gathering business, covered in pollen and completely oblivious to a crazy woman with the camera literally inches away from them.


Dragonflies are a toughie.  After couple of years of trying I finally got some shots last year.  We have some dragonflies in our area but not many and when they come they rarely sit somewhere accessible to shoot.  This one came and sat on my orange sweet pepper plant last July and I was more than thrilled to whip out my camera and take advantage of it.


And then there are the dew drops.  Those have to be captured first thing in the morning while the world is still in the process of waking up.  They are tiny, they are temporary and they are so beautiful.


Now that the spring is in its full swing and the whole world is waking up from winter slumber, my macro lens will be busy again.  As a matter of fact it's already been dusted off and attached to my camera.  I'm thinking of dedicating one post a week to the wonderful subject of macro photography. There are still so many things I haven't captured.  The macroscopic world beneath our feet is vast and teeming with life and I'm sure there is not enough time left in my life to capture it all.

Namaste


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Scrambled Ramblings


Everything that slows us down and forces patience, 
everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  
Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton


Good morning friends and happy Sunday!  I hope the weekend is treating you good.

What a change in weather from one day to the next.  Yesterday around this time I was drinking my tea on the back porch and basking in sun's hot rays.  This morning it's quite a different story.  The north east wind has picked up and cooled the air dramatically.  Once again it's freezing out there. 

Oh well.  We have to appreciate what we have.  And yesterday we had a day of summer which I'm very grateful for.

I planted more veggies yesterday.  Specifically, I planted regular green peas and sugar pods.  I prepared a bed for them and planted them straight into the ground because they like cool weather and should be planted in early spring.  Last year we had an amazing harvest of green peas. Angel and I loved going down to where they were growing after dinner and picking a handful.  They were so sweet, tender and yummy.  This year I'm hoping for an even bigger harvest.

As things stand right now, this is what I have planted: tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, green peas, sugar pods, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, yellow beans, dill, onions and cayenne pepper. Kale, dill and broccoli are planted from my very own seeds.  Only tomatoes, kale, lettuce and cayenne pepper are out.  The rest I just planted earlier this week so they will take a day or two longer. I'm happy about the cayenne pepper because it needed 26°C for germination and I wasn't quite able to produce that in my office but it came out regardless.

Cayenne pepper seedlings

Yesterday was also a day of firsts.

We had our first BBQ of the season.  My hubby marinated chicken breasts in his own homemade mixture of liquids, herbs and spices and then grilled them.  We had the chicken breasts with a little bit of rice and a whole lot of salad.  It was delicious.


After dinner I decided to get my bike out and go for a first ride this season.  Angel and I biked to the nearest park where she had some kid fun on the swings and I sat down under the tree and read. Paradise.



Today I doubt we'll be barbecuing or going on bike rides but it should warm up to 10°C later and I will step out into the garden for a bit.  I am hoping to plant the first few potatoes.  It should be fun.  I hope the wind won't blow me away.

And now I'm going to steep myself a cup of tea, although I won't be having it outside.  That north east wind is not only cold but it's gusting to 50 km/hour.  Tea will be best enjoyed inside, while curling up on the sofa under a warm blankie.  

Namaste

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Tea Talk


There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life. 
- Lin Yutang


Good morning my lovely friends and what a beautiful morning that is.  It's already 17°C with full sun.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Today looks like a gorgeous day in the making, and from the looks of the forecast, the last one for a little while.  Next week does not look great at all, rain and plunging temperatures.  Lets enjoy today while it's here.

After a week of rising early, this morning I slept in as I usually do on Saturday.  Oh goodness, did I ever need that sleep.  Now I'm going to make myself a cup of wonderful tea and open the back porch.

This morning I'm having milk oolong tea from Teavivre.  The full name is Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong Tea (flavoured).

The leaves look beautiful, all rolled up in little green balls.  The aroma of the dry leaves is exquisite: sweet and buttery.


I rinse the leaves with 85°C water first and let them sit for a minute to give the balls a chance to loosen up.  Following that, I steep the leaves for 2 minutes.

The resulting liquid is yellow with the same enticing sweet aroma as the dry leaves were.  The tea is delicious.  Sweet, milky and buttery flavours delight my taste buds and the flowery notes remind me it's oolong tea I'm drinking.  And since is a beautiful day outside, I'm drinking this tasty sophistication outside on my back porch.


I've had three types of milk oolong tea so far.  The very first one I tried was from Davids Tea, then I tried Mandala Tea and finally Teavivre.  Of all three I have to say I like Teavivre milk oolong the most but that's just my own personal opinion.

There is a confusion out there about milk oolong tea.  Some companies like to pretend that strong milky flavour of milk oolong is all natural with no flavourings added.  The truth is that although there is natural milk oolong tea and it does have milky flavour, this natural milky flavour is very subtle.  To get the milkiness that the people tend to associate with milk oolong tea, there has to be flavour added. Period.  That's why I like Teavivre because they are very straight forward about it.  They offer natural milk oolong tea and milk oolong tea flavoured and people can try both to see the difference for themselves.

And now that I'm seeing the bottom of my cup, I have to have myself another steep.  And of course take it outside because it's gorgeous out there.

Namaste


Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Kitty Corner


Cats are a mysterious kind of folk- there is more passing in their minds than we are aware of. 
- Sir Walter Scott


Good Morning my dear friends and Happy Friday!  It seems like it was only yesterday that I marvelled at the arrival of the weekend but that was one week ago.  Did we really blow through another week already?  Unbelievable.

This week we had a wonderful weather almost every day.  The weekend is looking pretty amazing too.  Last night we were blessed with few showers that continued through the night and into this morning, but the afternoon is forecasted to be a mix of sun and clouds with the balmy temperature of 20°C.

As a result, the kitty cats had a pretty good week as well.  They were out every afternoon nibbling on the new sprouts and soaking up the sun.

Speaking of kitty cats, I noticed something that I am quite happy about.  As Hercules is getting older, he is venturing out less and less opting to stay closer to home.  I am guessing that with increasing age, just like humans, cats mature and are less prone to risk taking.  Of course I know that some humans never really mature. ;D

The very first year we got Hercules we tried to keep him indoors the whole summer.  It was easier said than done because we live in the home and the back doors are always opened in the summer as we go in and out.  Try to keep a young kitty away from that.  It was very hard and he would cry and cry if we locked him out.  Instead I opted to take him out for short walks and got him accustomed to the leash.

The second summer, Hercules was out a little more and with a little more freedom.  I still had him on the leash most of the time but I did allow him to roam free at times.  He was a real hunter.  He chased everything that moved.  All the squirrels and chipmunks in our yard were on the alert.

When the third summer came I started him off on the leash and as the summer progressed I gave him more freedom.  I noticed that he was staying close to home either in our yard or in the neighbour's yard.  The neighbours got a new kitty that year and they would take the little fella out on the walk sometimes and so Hercules found himself a new friend.

Last summer we did not use the leash anymore and Hercules was allowed to go out and venture on his own because I noticed that he was staying close to home and when he wandered out of my sight and I called him, he usually came back within minutes.  We were both comfortable with this arrangement and Hercules had a wonderful summer.  Unfortunately at the end of the season he did find a trouble somewhere and didn't come back home for the night.  I was one tight ball of nerves until he returned and he was so traumatized by his experience, he didn't ask to come outside for the whole following week. One day I will tell you this story.

This year on April 24 Hercules will be turning 5 years old which is about 37 years in human years.  I can already see that this year he is even more home bound than last year.  I've been noticing that when I let him out, he wanders for a little bit, and then comes back inside the house without me calling him. He has never done that before.  Yesterday I let him out while I was working in the yard and when after a while I didn't see him, I called his name and went to look for him.  I found him inside the house sitting at the window.

This makes me very happy because I want the best of the both worlds for him.  I want him to be able to experience the outdoors when he needs it, get the fresh air and feel the sun against his skin but at the same time I want him to be as safe as possible and that can only happen if he stays on our property.

Looks like he is starting to agree with me.

Namaste



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lost


"Don't tell me what I can't do!"
John Locke, "Lost"


Last night I watched the very last episode of Lost.  Six seasons and 121 episodes later I said good bye to a show that I thought started off pretty innocent but grew to the size of a monster that swallowed me whole.  The finale itself was 104 minutes long, almost like a movie in itself. All I can say about my experience is, "wow what a ride".

I picked up watching Lost around the time I got caught up with The Walking Dead in the beginning of January and wanted some new entertainment.  I don't watch regular TV but I do like to sit down, relax and watch something after dinner every evening.  Lost looked like interesting enough show and I love survival themes.

In a very short summary without spoilers, the show was about passengers of a plane that crashed on an inhabited tropical island.  The survivors realized quickly that no rescue was coming and they had to do whatever it takes to survive on their own.  Almost immediately strange things began happening. Where exactly did they crash?

Coming off of The Walking Dead seemed like nothing could quite measure up and fill the void. Indeed, Lost started off just okay for me but episode after episode kept pulling me in.  I wasn't exactly sure why but I needed to keep watching it and after the first season I was firmly hooked.

I have to say that I've never seen a show like this before.  Throughout the seasons the show was like a roller coaster ride.  Always interesting, sometimes borderline bizarre, at times shocking, increasingly emotional and sometimes confusing.  Yes, there were times I felt literally LOST but somehow it was very fitting.  I enjoyed being lost and trying to figure my way out.

I don't know exactly how else to describe it, but this show was very much like watching a big screen production in 121 parts.  121 part movie.  There was a beginning, very concrete and strong story development and in the end, a conclusion.  It wasn't hard to see why it had to end after only six seasons.  Its destiny was written into the script right from the start.

Lost contained elements of drama, adventure, mystery, fantasy, mysticism and survival.  All of that mixed together in a delicious concoction that tickled and satisfied my senses.  I think anyone that enjoys the above and feels deep spiritual connection with Mother Nature will love this show.  It was probably the only show that I watched that made me cry during AND after the finale.  That's right. After.

I realized there was a void in my heart where the island used to be.

Namaste


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Old MacDonald's Farm?


“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I've discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory-- disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.” 


I have been aware of how our meat is being produced for few years now.  I still remember the day the light bulb lit up over my head and the way I felt when I fully understood the horrors of what was happening.

As our children grow, we read them books about the happy cows grazing in the field, rambunctious pigs rolling in the mud and busy chickens pecking the grass. We sing them songs about Old MacDonald's Farm and erroneously make them believe that our food comes from these happy animals.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality 98% of our meat comes not from operations such as Old MacDonald's Farm but from factory farms, just like the ones presented in the video below. All of the conventional supermarket meat comes from tortured animals who never step their foot on the green grass, who never feel the sun on their skin, who never see the blue sky or have the rain cool their body in the heat of the summer. 

I don't know the real solution to this problem and I'm not saying that we shouldn't eat eat meat.  I'm still an omnivore myself although I've been boycotting all conventional meat and dairy for the past several years. I think that if all of us who become aware of this unfortunate reality made adjustments to the way we shop for our food, what we consume and how much we consume, these filthy factory farms would go out of business.

It starts with each and every single one of us.  We can put a stop to this insanity.  We can find a small local organic farmer, learn to fish, learn to hunt (seriously) and last but not least, we can seriously reduce the amount of meat we're consuming, because I kid you not, we eat way too much of it.  All of these adjustments would make a huge difference if every single one of us contributed.

I watched many different videos on this topic.  I've seen the horrors that are happening at these factory farms and I've cried every time I watched one of these films.  I thought I've seen it all but every once in a while something new emerges that shocks me.

When I discovered this video few days ago, I knew I had to write this post and share what I found. First of all, I have never heard of or seen a factory farm cesspool before. Second, aerial view of these buildings reminded me of concentration camps.  There is something seriously sinister about it.

We have to keep spreading the awareness, we have to keep appealing to human conscience. We pride ourselves of being intelligent and compassionate beings and yet we are the worst savages this planet has seen.  It's never too late for redemption.

Namaste