Monday, December 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

good morning Nanabijou

the Sleeping Giant + the sun = awesome team!
November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Climate History, Geologically

Of course I'm in favour of green initiatives, environmental conservation, and cleaning up our act. I'm so glad to have watched the recent surge of community gardening from inside a greenhouse, and knee deep in local soil. It's been great. I've been outraged by deforestation, greed at the expense of resources, filth, apathy.

I also believe in science and logic; I can thank my Dad for that, and hours of Quirks & Quarks radio shows together. Politically motivation often ignores science, add that o media hype, and we get hysteria..., and here we are. Geologically, biologically we living in just a blip of this planet's existence (do you remember high school physics?). We've certainly done some damage in that time - there's nothing wrong in trying to turn that around; but the Earth has been both much warmer and much cooler at various times throughout its evolution, this is not new people.

R pulled up some stats from Environment Canada last night of temperatures in November during the 1940s. It's too bad older stats aren't more easily available online (I know I can find them at some libraries..), but I don't really need to. I mean, if you're curious go right ahead and look 'em up. It's true - the Earth has experienced some wild weather over the last hmmm, 4+Ga years. (Gosh, that's a long time!)

So, can we just not bother with the nonsense from now on, please. I'd rather talk about greening up our streets with more trees, creating natural parkland in urban centres, community gardens that fuel food banks and teach children, clean food, water, and spaces.

All my life I've been sensitive to toxins, hormones in food, additives, preservatives, dyes, and all other shit pumped into our systems. I was one of those kids who got rashes from the rain, who couldn't eat red candy or orange cheese - which in the 70s was "weird" to most of my friends. Ultimately it's toxic crap that's making me sick today, something from this infectious world. "All natural", "organic" is not a current trend to me, it means something a little more basic than that - and doesn't involve politics or a cool logo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

hello winter

It felt very much like winter yesterday when I wandered down to Vickers Park after a visit to the clinic. Crunchy snow and bright sunlight usually means the air is pretty crisp, and that it was - and it was beautiful!

Vickers Park pano
iPhone 360
James M lens, Ina's 69 film
not sure who drew this heart
but it made me smile :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Tracks of the elusive 
Snow Basset -
a sure sign that 
winter is here.
I'm happy to see the snow today, the big fluffy flakes. I'm ready for it, ready to feel festive.
Autumn was so beautiful this year and winter has come in gently, but I think those nice bike riding days are over (not that all bike riding days are over). Today's snowfall is also beautiful, and that is real winter cold out there too. Bring it on old man winter!

The garden was blanketed by 9am, making it pretty in a whole new way again.

Dear Garden Diary,

The new garden look enormous compared to our previous dedicated kitchen garden. R moved all the soil, I took the photos and made soup. (I don't know how I keep ending up with this end of the straw...)
Okay, the yellow brick road is a bit much in this doodle, but - like I tried to explain to R, I'm imagining some recycled brick as the border between grass & sunny perennials and garden, in a colour like the Bora Laskin building. A yellow brick road yes, and about a foot and a half wide.
The doodle above will be one of many garden plan doodles from now until the end of winter. So many possibilities. :) I probably could have made more plans the other day when I did this had I not spent so much time putting eyes on the beets and bees in the flowers.

This was the soil we had delivered in..July, I think, from LCR Estates. On a rainy day, in the evening. Must have been right before we left for Oz. R (with Ms help) moved it all in the rain from the drive to the dog run. It's beautiful triple mix, and has already filled the whole west side garden (new this year after having to remove all the rocks and pebbles because a certain dumb Basset kept swallowing pebbles). The vet bills this year far outweighed the gardening bills. 

There is still a large heap left in the dog run, which R plans to move this weekend. I guess I'll take photos and make soup. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Met a dog named Kone today ("snow" in Ojibwe). Walked in blowing snow again, hello winter. Came home to find 1012 Gardening Guide from Stokes Seeds in my mailbox, hello winter reading.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Superior Sunrise

15 November 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011


After the Remembrance Day service in Waverly Park I took a walk up to the garden on the ground of the Heritage... where I found peace, love, and the season's first snow. Fitting, and refreshing.
sunflower in the peace garden
red elderberry
in a yard on Regent and Van Norman

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dear Garden Diary,

8 November 2011
Yeah, I took this photo using my iPhone, dangling it over the balcony's railing. Dangerous. Earlier yesterday I dangled it over a bridge on May Street. This is why I have to return to using my Nikon for photos, with it's sturdy strap - less likely to slip through my fingers to a watery or pottery death. I've been so distracted with the iPhone photo apps lately that I haven't bothered updating about the garden. These things happen.

Well, we cleaned (R did most all of the gross work) and tucked away pots, preparing for winter the best we can. If we weren't basement hoarders we might have more space to store things. hmm.
R also did all of the digging, creating additional vegetable garden space. There is now three times the space and half the grass lawn. We're definitely putting a yellow brick path in to boarder the grass and perennial garden because we are corny like that. grin. Beyond the mugo pine the potentilla will be taken out and a gate will be put in its place.

This is exactly what happened with my first garden. Over eight years I slowly turned sod into garden. This is only my third season with this yard. Heh heh... We'll always have to have sod in the dog run - and the dogs will have have the run of the "dog forest" to the west of the existing path. It used to be a lovely, kept formal garden with lush grass that could only be manufactured. It was beautiful.
But it wasn't my kind of garden, and I think R feels the same (he grew up with orchards and bees, and did the dogging after all). It's fun to have a productive yard, and we both want to use this new space wisely. We now have the space to properly plant after our over-zealous seedling shopping sprees, we vow not to screw this up. We had more tomatoes than we could handle this year, giving them away from a box on our door step in the end...

I've said it before: our most challenging hurdle (more even than having a Gromit) is leaving the garden at the peek of the season. That's a toughy.., summer vacation time is summer vacation time - and family beckons. In the real world family trumps gardens, so the gardener has to adapt. I'm thinking there has got to be a way of planting around our three week adventure away.

I am so excited to have space for root vegetables in our own backyard. So excited. I think a couple fine brussel sprout plants would fit too. grin.
There's still a heap of triple mix waiting in the dog run to be put into the new garden, some lime, meal, and whatever compost I can come up with. It looks good and wormy already, so we're off to a good start.

Now that it's November, it's time for doodling gardens not digging in them..., taking long baths, settling in for winter. I can't help looking forward to next year, feeling so much better after feeling so off for so long. I didn't even realize how ill I've been until I started feeling better - things like balance: just in the last two weeks, while walking downtown noticing that I feel more steady than I have in years, and my body moves more cooperatively (if that makes any sense). I can breathe a little deeper, sleep a little deeper, think ahead again. It's actually quite remarkable, and a little scary.
Whatever infection that started this all - back in 2009, I'll probably never know..., and honestly I don't even care about knowing anymore. It all makes sense, the culmination of an infection (undoubtedly starting in my kidneys, as per my initial complaint, spreading, finding equilibrium with my immune system, reacting autoimmune: "lingering pathogen") combined with a toxic overload - mold most likely, and god only knows whatever else (Ryan Building). Stress. Miscarriage. Depression.
I won't disregard gardens and greenhouses either, sadly. There's a reason why products get pulled from shelves and tests are run on soil. It could happen to anyone, really, for so many reasons - making it hard to fuss about - unless you plan on living in a bubble, or worse: in fear.

It took two very different approaches to medicine: Western and Eastern, two hemispheres, an acupuncturist from the picturesque Leura Mall, and four local female doctors practicing in four unique healing directions to bring me back. The last month has been like an awakening.

I believe that by the time next spring arrives I'll be back to where I was, maybe even better.

CURRENT MUSIC: Watching the Wheels - John Lennon

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hipstamatic Tree

(one of ) my favourite tree(s)
PACI, Waverly Hill
30 October 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


With my new iPhone I can garden blog on the go with the Blogger app. Sweet.

iPhone camera foxgloves:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dear Garden Diary,

Today is a foggy, autumn day in Thunder Bay.
All the leaves that were on the trees last week are now blanketing our garden, the streets, and sidewalks - I hear people crunching by as I type with mittens up above on this lovely balcony.

Below me, the front garden is on fire with colour. The cotoneaster is a rainbow of reds, oranges, and green - with little black berries speckled all over.
The elder is a popping shade of lime with other greens of hostas and lungwort - even the yellowed, hostas add some flare to the canvas.

In the backyard, the sumac is also wildly aglow.

a tree in the churchyard below
across the street

This year it seems Autumn has been particularly vibrant and long lasting. The colours everywhere are incredible - I'm happy I've enjoyed so much, soaking it all in from my balcony perches, trail rides, Sunday drives, and tree farms.

a Sunday drive on the Sleeping Giant
to Silver Islet in September

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Indian Summer

It was a beautiful ride along the trails this morning. Even though it seems most of the leaves have fallen (so many are on the ground, blowing down our street) there are still a few trees hanging on to their colour, which are stunning.

There was some debate over the Willow Springs bird's face at the the TBAG, with some thinking it was a little creepy. Personally, I think it's charming. The face, to me, is something out of a Grimm novel, full of character. I can only imagine the things that go on there when nobody's looking.
 On the way home, a stop at the farmer's market on Memorial: with pumpkins galore,
and apples for cider, and apples for pie, apples for crumble, apples for caramel...

Eggplant (I don't really like to eat eggplant,
but I like to grow them because they're very photogenic).

I wish these days would last a little bit longer. ...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Autumn

Autumn is upon us, and from the back balcony toward the Great Lake I can see a vibrant Mountain Ash celebrating the season. To think: this is downtown.

The tree tops all around me are gorgeous - from the front balcony it's a blaze of oranges and yellows, with some left on the trees and the rest lining the curbs of the street. There are a few trees in town I'd like to stalk for the coming week, to capture them in full glory. 
 The recreational trails are so beautiful this time of year,
even my cruiser couldn't resist a little off-roading.

my favourite TBay tree in Autumn
Oliver Road
2 October 2011

yellow brick road

4 October 2011
While enjoying my morning mug of coffee on the back balcony this morning, a new plan for the garden came to me. Rethinking the proximity of the dog run to the vegetables, as well as sun exposure, I simplified the plan by bringing the new vegetable garden toward the house, next to the current kitchen garden. My previous plan seems ridiculous to me now, and complicated. I don't know why this didn't come to me in the first place.

In the new plan the fence is simplified - the whole east side of the garden, deck & Barbecue Central included, will be fenced off with two gates: one to the path to the vegetable gardens, deck and barbecues, the other to the clean, dog-free grass. When the dogs are being well behaved (ha ha) they will be able to join us on the grass, or R at the barbecues, maybe even nibble on a cherry tomato or two...but otherwise will have nowhere to go but through their forest and to the dog run at the back of the yard.

A little bit of mulch around the edge of the path to keep from overcrowding the walkway, and along the fence, to keep it neat (perhaps a few dainty sweet peas along the fence each year, keep it simple). To separate the vegetable garden from the grass and the sunny perennials: a brick path. I've always loved the look of a reclaimed brick path in the garden. Why not in yellow brick... ?

Years ago, before satellite radio at the greenhouse, there was a CD player. Every CD I created for us to listen to had a recording of Somewhere Over the Rainbow; it became expected. From Mary Lou Williams in Montreal, to Art Tatum, Dick Hyman, Stanley Jordan, to Chucho Valdez - I still have them all in an SOTR folder. How fitting that I meet a man who takes a yellow brick road home to Oz each year, and together we aim to reconcile our love for dogs and gardens in a small downtown plot. I'm sure we can find some yellow brick at the ReStore.

If we do that, I'm definitely going to have to find some Narcissus 'Lemon Drops' for the garden.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fresh Garden Salsa

from our garden
27 September 2011
Today's harvest. I think I'm making some salsa tonight! 

I'm making things up as I go, using standard salsa ingredients:

8 tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
2 jalapeño, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced 
4 green onions, finely chopped 
2 capsicum (any colour), finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 white onion, finely chopped

I might add some red onion also, and more garlic to taste. We have some nice looking orange capsicum in the fridge, which I'll add - and whatever else of interest I might find in there. Results to follow....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

photo album

our garden 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Garden

I've really let you go wild since we returned from Australia..., this happens; we'll get back on track soon. We left you right when you were giving us your best, it wasn't fair to any of us.
I haven't been well,
I know you understand,
and this is why you've been entertaining me with your unrestrained beds bubbling over with yellow tomatoes and bumble bees. I've photographed your best sides this year - we'll just leave the mess to the memory.

You've always look nice (to me anyway), and I can see the progress we've made this summer. You'll be back in spring - fresh. Besides, some of your plants were meant to be left alone this year, like your  foxgloves: I wanted them to seed themselves in your new soil along the side of the house, ...and they are. The Clematis too, they need time to adjust to you, and you to them.

You have survived the drought of 2011: both by mother nature and myself, my neglect. Sure enough though, the autumn rains have come and all your damp loving shady perennials out there are soaking it all up. They'll be fine.
Thank you for the rudbeckia show, a September favourite, never failing. They're beautiful (and the last of your blooms).

Your autumn preparations are underway, vegetables out, daffodils in. I'm already excited to see you next spring.

Yours truly,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ramblings on recreational trails

Along the McIntyre on my way to work
with flowers for my desk.
The other day R and I were driving down east John Street, we had just past the Junot lights and were travelling along side the shared bike lane. R made the comment that he rarely sees cyclists using that lane, continuing our on-going conversation that follows all the letters to the editor in the Chronicle lately.
We're both in favour of the bike lanes, but regularly - as with all things - discuss all angles (which is one the many things I love about us). In this case, along John Street, I can see why he wondered about users - they are a little scarce, and I know why.
First, what the shared lane there does is give people the choice: to either follow the straight forward commuter route, or connect to the recreational trail. Personally, the decision is simple: recreational trail. As I explained to R,

 "The reason you don't see as many riders using the shared lane here is because anyone who really rides in this city is in behind there (pointing beyond the houses south of John) riding along one of the best stretches of recreational trail in the city."

It rolls like a coaster along the McIntyre river bends. It's a quick trip, a fun one - there's no better way to begin your day. That was my route to work...., *fond memories* ...sigh.
If you've got wheels under your seat, (or under your feet), this trail is the one to ride. It would be a beautiful walk, but I haven't walked it since 8th grade at EQ - and people are all over it with dogs and children, so you have to be aware. That's what bike bells are for.
faces along the trail
April 2011
I stop for photos along this stretch of trail often..., sometimes I ride it back and forth a few times, then stop to take photos... . There's the river, the sunshine through the trees, bends in the path and wildflowers, but what I search for with my lens are the faces. The faces have been there for years - for as long as I've taken this path. I've never seen the person who draws them despite being there are all times of day, at all times of year. They reappear after rainstorms wash them away, and are in predictable locations, but are still each different every time - as faces are.

I remember feeling heartbroken when I learned the city was moving the trail that follows McVicar Creek behind the 55+ Centre on River Street. They were cutting down trees. Thankfully I attended the Streamwalk, and heard all about the rehabilitation and conservation that has actually gone into the project - and though a few of my favourite trees are now gone, most remain, like this group standing a little too close to the old trail:
Along McVicar Creek
They're still accessible as the old trail has been adopted as a detour, smaller and hidden in the new plants protecting our pretty urban stream. The new recreational trail still has a charming flow, curving with the creek, with new trail-side trees that will someday, hopefully, stand too close to the trail.

Impressed on my memory are my morning trips down this path. I didn't have a camera back then, but took the time to take it all in, remember it, appreciate it. I knew life would change and I wouldn't always take that route, it was inevitable. I did well though because it's all still there, even the sounds of the songbirds and the way the sun - when still low on the Giant's horizon - would dapple through the trees. I don't even have to close my eyes.
Evenings too are beautiful along this trail, but my memories of evenings aren't just of returning from work; rather all the evenings spent with Hannah when she was young, learning to ride her bike, and inline skating for the first time.

Back then I lived in a location that allowed me to take the recreational trails to work in less time than it took me to drive. I'd ride most of the way with my feet up, with my camera around my neck and a coffee in my hand; I’d arrive relaxed and refreshed.
between the university and college
along the McIntyre
There’s no road rage on the recreational trails in Thunder Bay. People say good morning, smile, comment on the beautiful day, on the falling rain. Or snow, and when it does snow I’ve always found that the trails are cleared before the streets are, not to mention clean with fresh snow on the trees around. Who doesn’t love fresh snow on trees?

It’s just a really nice way to travel around this city. From Current River to Westfort the recreational trails connect to commuter routes, and in many areas weave through residential streets connecting them to commercial areas, the hospital, and the university.
to McIntyre Centre
along the McIntyre
In recent years the city has been stalling information signs: some about the urban streams, other about wildlife - birds in particular - that can be seen along the way. The people do that too, I've found. Not only are good mornings and comments on the weather welcome, but people seem to strike up conversations about things they've spotted along the path. Maybe it's because I've always got my camera in my hand, and they think I'm out hunting for the perfect shot (which I always am)..., I just think it's nice that people take the time to stop.
Drivers are always in too much of a rush, and the only talking your generally hear on a Thunder Bay street is that of jeering at jerk drivers who don't know how to use a turning signal. I find that stressful, even in little doses. Little does of these recreational trails can take away that stress. 

I'm trying to come up with a short 300 words to use to describe the recreational trails for The Walleye and find myself stumped. I could go on forever about so many little things - things that mean something to me, that I love about so many places along the way. Where do I begin? Where do I end? Pick up a map, throw a dart at it and ride there by trail? Go for a walk in your backyard..., because there's probably a trail nearby...?
...they make my heart go boom, boom, boom?

 ..and on that note I'm going to take a break.