Choose your friends carefully

No picture today! 1,000 fewer words than regular, full-fat entries!

No picture today! 1,000 fewer words than regular, full-fat entries!

The title says it all: beware the insidious influences your friends can have on you. Attend to my words, dear readers, and tremble!

Grace and Howard never got around to buying a dishwasher.

Because of this oversight, they cannot savour the daily hour of music-drowning clank and splash. They do not know the joy and challenge of scraping plates and later seeing what food particles the dishwasher was able to detect and bake onto ceramic and steel. They have never experimented with the effects of caustic soda on aluminum or boiling water on thin plastic.

Instead, the hapless couple are forced to take five minutes after every meal to wash their cups and bowls in the sink. Their counter is eerily tidy.

Nor can Grace postpone any cooking, because everything is already clean. Her utensils are not twiddling their food-flecked tines, waiting for enough other dirty dishes to start a load. Grace has no justification for procrastinating, no plea of innocence, no way out.

And not only that! With ten cubic feet to spare, Howard and Grace are deprived even the commonplace pride of complaining of a lack of cupboard space.

You’d think this would be enough warning, gentle readers. But I’m here to tell you, that after several weeks this summer of gardening for Grace and Howard and then having lunch with them, I… I… I now wash my dishes in the sink too.

Yes, folks: be careful who your friends are. Dishwater seeks its own level.

Still don’t believe me? Then listen to this!

Last week, I caught Tucker in the act of cleaning his chandelier. Not only did he see nothing wrong with his mania, he actually apologized for not having done it sooner.

It’s been a whole year, he confessed.

Shame on you, I deadpanned. In my mind’s eye, I pictured the thick layer of greasy dust that coats the rabbeted edges of our white kitchen cupboards.

A mere two days later, in the privacy of my own home, I suddenly realized I had been influenced. Influenced? Infected!

On that day, E.g.’s work would keep her away until midnight. In mid-afternoon, I bought some E.g.-unfriendly, Dandyknife-favouring food at the Superstore. At 4:30 pm, I found my stomach growling. And yet, in my unfettered freedom, where was I? At the stove, tossing the kipper and a chunk of butter into the cast-iron frying pan?

Oh, no, dear readers. Forgive me…

I was upstairs…

vacuuming lamp shades.

Three rashers of bacon and two bucks' worth of fresh figs. What's not to like?

Three rashers of bacon and two bucks’ worth of fresh figs.
Ça, c’est un amuse-gueule!

Eight pounds of red currants from our bushes have been socked away in the chest freezer. The last of the summer rhubarb needed harvesting, the herb bed is a jungle, and the driveway dill is tall and happy. Inspiration! Time to play!

A small display of fresh figs — one of the few treats not constantly available for purchase — arrested me at the Superstore on Sunday afternoon. Twenty-five cents a pop, what’s not to like? I brought home a dozen, most of whom became a “vegetable” for that evening’s supper. Nothing but figs and bacon, into an ovenproof dish, cooked for twenty minutes or so alongside the salmon…

The border collie, cleverly hiding behind the weave polls, stalks the wild salmon.

The border collie, cleverly hiding behind the weave polls, stalks the wild salmon.

…which was almost as easy. For once, however, I decided to scale the fish before cooking it. What fun! Silver translucent confetti littered the counter. Anyway, two quartered (sixthed) onions and one chopped sweet potato dived into the roaster, frolicked with a bit of olive oil and sprinklings of lavender pepper and anise seed, and sustained the belly flop of the driveway-dill-stuffed salmon as it landed on top. About 45 minutes at 450 degrees.

While supper was cooking, I hard-boiled four eggs and made some mixed-nut hummus (visit Joanna at So Slow Cuisine for the recipe) so E.g. would have some lunchables now that she’s back pier-side for cruise ship season. Having the meat-grinder attachment for the Cuisinart stand mixer makes hummus so easy to prepare: grind the solid bits (I added a hot pepper), then stir in the liquids.

Looks like peanut butter cookie dough, but doesn't need cooking.

Looks like peanut butter cookie dough, but doesn’t need cooking.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

Monday’s supper, an expERiment that succeeded, I’ll call the ER meal. A small boneless gigot of ERstralian lamb topped a pound of red cERrants from our bushes, a large tin of tomatERs, a good glug each of shERaz and TaylER-Fladgate port, several cloves of crushed gERlic, three sprigs of rosemERy from our houseplant, a small handful of junipER bERries, some lavendER peppER, and a hot peppER. The side dish, moulded into small bowls and plopped onto the plates in elegant hemispheres, consisted of cooked millet with raisins, nutmeg, olive oil, lemon juice, and minced mint leaves, cilantro, and oregano flowers, all from our herb jungle.

Oh, and the rhubarb? A crisp, of course, chumming with the remainder of last year’s St George blueberries. Oats, a few dabs of butter, not too much sugar ’cause we tend to eat leftover crisp for breakfast.

We are a jolly crew of boys.

We are a jolly crew of boys.

Yes, there are leftovers.

Yes, I know myself well enough. One other purchase when E.g. and I went grocery shopping after church was this — just in case my attention flags:

The rice will be done in fifteen. Wash your hands.

The rice will be done in fifteen. Wash your hands.

Maud’s Place

Isn't she a beaut?

Isn’t she a beaut?

Yesterday morning, Carlton brought me a hammer. After church, I tucked it into my bag along with the bulletin, and carried it home in triumph.

Now I have the use of Carlton’s father’s two-pound sledge, some landscape ties from Greg through which to pound some rebar to make a foundation, and the promise of a nice weathered board from Howard with which to make a step, in order to enter…

Strandboard left over from lean-to demolition shows footprint. Strapping marks door placed on lee side.  Just work with me here.

Strandboard left over from lean-to demolition shows footprint. Strapping marks door placed on lee side. Just work with me here.

…enter what?

Since I started contemplating this small structure to be built behind the garage (you know, where I pulled down that ugly lean-to last year), its intended size, purpose, and species have fluctuated.

A garden shed to hold lawn furniture? Too utilitarian. A gazebo? No, that’s a summer house; I want a three-season structure. A music room, a prayer room, a study, a studio? These terms all sound too pretentious and would thus lose their power if spoken aloud.

View out the side window. Old windward-facing birdhouse seen here in photo has since been replaced by the new one, with entrance visible from the rocker.

View out the side window. Old windward-facing birdhouse seen here in photo has since been replaced by the new one, with entrance visible from the rocker.

Then I remembered Maud.

If you ever spend some time in Halifax, be sure to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. There you will find, lovingly restored, Maud Lewis’s house. With its footprint of 10’x13′ and its sleeping loft, the home’s floor area is about four times that of my proposed 8’x8′ structure. On the other hand, I don’t have to move into my building with my life partner and live in it for thirty-two years.

View out the front window. For days when it's too cold or wet to sit outside.

View out the front window. For days when it’s too cold or wet to sit outside.

I think I’ll call my new space “Maud’s Place”. C’mon in, Maud, and bring your paints. I’ll fetch us some tea from the house.

The rug's been made. Now for the room.

The rug’s been made. Now for the room.

Wyemie the Giraffe

The horns have blown, and the ears did not hear.

The horns have blown, and the ears did not hear.

This is Wyemie the giraffe. He is a very patient knick-knack.

We don’t usually name our knick-knacks, but since the little fellow was knocked off his perch twice in the past month, suffering Dislocation Of Important Giraffe Body Parts (DOIGBOP) each time, it was thought meet and right to restore, along with aforesaid body parts, some of his dignity by bestowing upon him an appellation.

Dr Dandyknife acted promptly.

Dr Dandyknife acted promptly.

He picked it out himself.

That is, I’m pretty sure he did. The second time he tumbled off the CD shelf, I heard him shouting “WYEMIE!” on his way down.

The svelte of the veldt, restored to wholeness.

The svelte of the veldt, restored to wholeness.

F, L, …

You might want to go 'round back.

You might want to go ’round back.

Earlier this week, I was over to visit Fay and sew some more buttons (this time without the wires that had attached them to their merchandise card) onto the baby sweaters she had knitted. Clearly my sparkling repartee on this occasion surpassed all previous visits, as it took Fay’s husband Tucker a full twenty minutes before he thought of a more scintillating activity than listening to us.

Mom? Put that nozzle down. Slowly. That's the way.

Mom? Put that nozzle down. Slowly. That’s the way.

And so, while Tucker ran laps in the hallway, washing each crystal in the kitchen sink and returning it to its rightful place in the chandelier, Fay told me about some friends of hers. These friends had returned from a long weekend away, to a house full of fleas.

Oh, really? I said.

Yes, they’d had to sleep elsewhere that night, and call the exterminator the next morning.

Oh, wow, I said.

The slipcover was washed yesterday. And possibly tomorrow.

The slipcover was washed yesterday. And possibly tomorrow.

I didn’t tell Fay that I’d already begun to suspect a flea or two in our own home. That I had finally remembered to apply the dogs’ Advantix vials and the cat’s flea vial that same morning. That I’d meticulously vacuumed the living room, and that the couch slipcover — Cai and Fergus’s most common bedding — was hanging on the line to dry. That I’d brushed enough fur out of the pupsters to stuff a mattress.

I've cleaned my house, can I go play?

I’ve cleaned my house, can I go play?

I haven’t told Fay that the day after my visit, I wrapped up my gardening session with Danni early so I could get home to vacuum every square milimetre of the house, upstairs and down. That I’ve done four more loads of laundry — armchair slipcover, cat bed and its woollen sweater insert, dog blankies, throw rugs, floor cushion, even the bath mat just in case. That I’m going to continue vacuuming daily for two weeks, the life cycle of a flea.

Being the kind of housekeeper who leaves a snorkel by the front door in order to breathe while wading through the dog hair, I’m discovering that hoovering has opened a whole new world. Again and again, I ask myself, “And what’s this attachment for?” I stare awestruck at the Cai-coloured wideness below my feet, and practice pronouncing it: “Fuh-lore. Floor!”

All together, now: "We'll swing in the sunshine..."

All together, now: “We’ll swing in the sunshine…”

Pretty embarrassing, really. Just as well Fay doesn’t read this blog. My secret is safe.

Worts And All

On Sunday evening, Grace and Howard picked up Lilian and drove to our house, whereupon the five of us choir members piled into E.g.’s car to go sing at a nursing home service. Returning to our place, we stood around outside gabbing for twenty minutes before the other three left for home in Howard’s car.

Lilian complimented my front-yard gardening, while Grace boasted to her of my “green thumb”. I begged to differ.

“Look,” I explained, “I go pull weeds for people, then head to the nursery and spend my wages on more perennials, and if they take, they take. It’s the plants that decide whether they like it here.”

While my own front garden needs a lot of weeding just now, the flowers are currently distracting from all the himminies and humminies poking through the woolly thyme and tendriling around the forsythia canes. This is the first year the garden has managed to pull off this small miracle.

With its shallow soil and oversalted, last-to-melt snowcover, part of the front bed needs to rely on annuals to fill it out, but by August everything is looking pretty good. See for yourself!

Yes, that's dill on the far left. It self-seeds every year. Passersby enjoy the surprise.

Yes, that’s dill on the far left. It self-seeds every year. Passersby enjoy the surprise.

Continue reading

A weekend up the river

On Friday, my friend Danni took me to Hampton to meet her friend Betty. On Saturday, E.g. and I left the house early for a trip to the Kingston Market. I snapped a few photos for you. They’ve been cropped only and not otherwise tinkered with, because the fog makes the colours pop enough to, I hope, get across to you what I saw and how I saw it. Enjoy!

I. A visit to Betty.

Betty is a gardener. Right now her garden is bright with yellow ligularia, peach daylilies, blue campanula, and pink roses.

Betty designed the enclosure fence herself. It looks very nice to human eyes, and daunting to deer. A pathway of mulch edged by cedar shakes lines the fence and cuts across the garden, while a stepping-“stone” path has been built of tree trunk rings.

Betty built sturdy frames for her roses.

Betty built sturdy frames for her roses.


Neither Danni nor I could recognize Betty's trillium plants, even though we were standing right in front of them...

Neither Danni nor I could recognize Betty’s trillium plants, even though we were standing right in front of them…


...because the trillium leaves were of rainforest proportions. I had thought I was looking at a castor-bean plant.

…because the trillium leaves were of rainforest proportions. I had thought I was looking at a castor-bean plant.


Roses and coral bells.

Roses and coral bells.


Twelve-year-old Buddy demonstrates the principles of Wheaten Terrier camouflage.

Twelve-year-old Buddy demonstrates the principles of Wheaten Terrier camouflage.

II. A trip to the farmers’ market.

Arriving at the Gondola Point ferry landing. A pair of cable ferries, wide enough for three lanes of vehicles, crisscrosses the river all day. They're funded, they're free, they're fun.

Arriving at the Gondola Point ferry landing. A pair of cable ferries, wide enough for three lanes of vehicles, crisscrosses the river all day. They’re funded, they’re free, they’re fun.


May the road rise to meet you, especially if you're parked at the prow.

May the road rise to meet you, especially if you’re parked at the prow.


Yep, she's a foggy morning on the Kingston peninsula, all right.

Yep, she’s a foggy morning on the Kingston peninsula, all right.

A line of picnic tables marches through the middle of a gravel lot, around which the vendors’ stalls and the main building gather. I sat at a table, sipping my coffee and drinking in colours, while E.g. wandered around with her own camera. I took these next four photos from the picnic table.

The dark and light sections of this candy stall tarp looked -- from where I sat -- like a Monet painting of hillside and sky. I enjoyed the stately flight of the candy floss.

The dark and light sections of this candy stall tarp looked — from where I sat — like a Monet painting of hillside and sky. I enjoyed the stately flight of the candy floss.


Garden decorations and bird feeders. I posted a picture of this man's stall last year, too.

Garden decorations and bird feeders. I posted a picture of this man’s stall last year, too.


She's selling candles, but the colours evoke candied almonds and jujubes. Even her hair is colourful.

She’s selling candles, but the colours evoke candied almonds and jujubes. Even her hair is colourful.


E.g. bought a pair of pork chops and a free range chicken from our favourite farmer. I bought a bird house.

E.g. bought a pair of pork chops and a free range chicken from our favourite farmer. I bought a bird house.