A Colorful End to Summer

I was looking at my big fat beefsteak tomatoes the other day and it struck me how very green they were, so I thought I would do a photo essay of  summer ending – by color.   Color my world –  just like we used to back in grade school, with the big 64 pack of Crayolas.   I just happened to have a box with my craft supplies in the basement and they have the same waxy smell I remember.  

Crayola crayons

The Crayola company first began selling crayons in 1903 and since then they have made over 200 distinctive colors.  (Wikipedia link)  Although many of the original colors are still around, I believe they are a bit more inventive with the names now, so I’ve decided to help them out, (see brackets).

The very green tomatoes.    (Lean Green Tomato Machine, because what tomato plant isn’t this time of year)

green tomatoes

The purple clematis is blooming.   (Purple Rain, as in the Rock Star Formally Known as Prince).  

purple clematis

The neighbors yellow Black-Eyed Susans nodding hello over the fence, (so very Mellow-Yellow).

Sunflowers

The orange tones of fresh summer fruit – melons, nectarines and peaches. (Fruit Salad Palette)  

Ripening tomatoes.   (Red Hot Salsa)   

Red tomatoes

The Last of the Pinks.    This  Dipladenia was the best plant I bought this summer, water and drought resistant (we had both) and no deadheading.  It’s still hanging in there as if it was in the tropics, which it felt like some days.  (Caribbean Dream Pink).

Pink flowers

The first bouquet of fall flowers – yellow and green and pink.

Autumn bouquet

White for the clouds of late summer, towering and cumulus, but looking fall-like.    (Cumulus Cloud White)

seagull and clouds

Blue for the water and sky and sailboats.   (The original Sky Blue can’t be beat).   

Sailboat

And beige for the sand and the last trip to the beach.   (Sandblaster Beige)

beach towel

Let’s say goodbye to the last (Psychedelic Sunset) over the lake.   

Sunset over the Lake - AMc

The first signs of fall are already here – the sound of crickets at night, sometimes on the hearth – the first drift of wood smoke in the air – the maple tree with it’s leaves dipped in paint – that first chilly morning when you have to reach for your chenille housecoat and it’s not because of the A/C – and that dreadful/wonderful/your pick pumpkin spice which saturates the season! 

Class dismissed – put the crayons away and go outside and play while the sun is still high in the sky!      (Sky High Blue-Green)

seagull

apples

PS.  Red for the apple for the teacher and for the harvest coming in at the farmer’s market.   Speaking of farmer’s markets, I’ll be doing a restaurant review soon on a locally sourced Harvestfest Dinner (link) – so get your forks ready to join me.   I hear there will be pie – as in (Very Cherry Red)!    

Harvestfest Pie and coffee

 

The Subject Was Knock-Out Roses

The Knock-Out Roses are blooming again, starting into their second cycle of the summer.    While never as showy as the initial blooming, they are still a welcome sight, a bright spot of color among the withered baskets and dried up lawns of early August.   

Knock Out Roses

Knock OUt Roses 1 (2)         If you want a low maintenance, easy to grow rose then Knock-Out Roses are the rose of choice.   I have 24 of these rose bushes and it was one of the best garden investments I’ve ever made.   

roses and lavender

Knock Out Roses

At $20 per pot for the pink double ones I’ve had ten years of beauty from them.

Knock Out Roses

If you are not familiar with the family of Knock Out Roses they were created by rose breeder Bill Radler in 2000 and were a hit right from the start.  Traditionally roses have had the reputation of being finicky plants, hard to establish and prone to disease, requiring lots of tender loving care.   

Knock OUt Roses 2 (4)

Knock-Outs have become popular because they are basically no-care and disease resistant, but the biggest appeal for me was they are repeat bloomers.    After a glorious initial bloom in mid-late June here, they will repeat the blooming cycle every 5-6 weeks.   New growth on the bushes is seen as red shoots/leaves.   One year when we had a particularly late fall, I had roses up until December – they looked quite strange with a dusting of snow on them.      

snow on roses

Well more than a dusting….

They are also self-cleaning in the sense that there is no need to dead head them, although you can if you wish.  I spray mine with the garden hose on jet when they start to look too shaggy.   They are also heat tolerant and do well in most hot sunny locations, requiring 6-8 hours of sun a day.    The two I planted on either side of the house do not generally do as well as the others as they do not get enough sun, likewise several at the back which are in the shadow of the house. 

Knock Out Roses on Arbor

Made in the Shade

Although that is not true this year, as we have had horrible heat close to 100 for days, so the ones in the shade are doing better than the rest.   We also had a late cool rainy spring with little sun, so the bushes have failed to achieve their usual height.   I should point out that most of these pictures are from previous years, lest anyone think I have created miracles during this weird weather year.   

They also don’t need much water, so as they are the perfect plant-them-and-forget-them rose, especially important if you are a lazy gardener like me who hates to drag the hose around.   

Knock Out Roses

As tall as the shepherds hook

Pruning and height:   I prune mine back to about 12 inches in early spring, although last year I misjudged and pruned in late March then we had two more weeks of wintry cold, so I learned my lesson and waited this year.   If no pruning is done, they can reach 3 to 4 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet tall, and some years I have achieved this when we had a milder spring and a good growing season.   Although they may be shorter than usual this year due to our poor spring, they still have plenty of buds on them.     

Knock Out Roses

This year’s shorter bush

Caring and fertilizing:    I give them a dose of bone meal in spring and a sprinkle of controlled release fertilizer and that’s it.   The website suggests some winter protection in colder climates, but the year I blanketed them with a layer of fallen leaves, was also the year I noticed a lot of blackspot on the stems the following spring.  The nursery owner suggested I forego the leaf layer and spray them with horticultural oil to treat/prevent any fungal disease, which I do now every spring.    I do mulch them, but other than that they have survived our brutal Canadian winters, although this year I was a bit afraid as the stems were so late greening up and looked so dry and brittle for weeks, but they eventually came along….sigh of relief.    

Here’s the company’s website, with a page of FAQ’s – link.

There are ten colors.   I have the Double Pink Knock-Outs, as I love bright pink and when I bought the first lot the nursery owner suggested keeping the color the same if I wanted to make a statement.   The Double blooms are fuller and put on a nicer show, so I always recommend the doubles.  Unfortunately three of the Doubles I bought a few years later came out as singles, despite the silver grower tags on them stating double – liars!

I really wish they had climbers, but they only have shrub roses so far.   They do have a tree rose, which stands about 6 feet, but at $90 I found it hard to justify when I have so many others and being a small tree, I wondered how it would over-winter here? 

Knock Out Rose Tree

Knock Out Rose Tree

Of course there’s always a gardening mishap or two.   One year some unidentifiable slug (I was never able to capture one), started munching on the bushes on the west side of the yard and managed to steadily eat their way along the whole row.   I was busy with work and by the time I noticed it was too late – they had decimated six bushes.       

Knock Out Roses munched

2015 was not a good year!

Although I tried everything – soap, powder, washing them off with the hose – they continued their stealthy munch munch munch.    But the next spring they bounced back, good as new.   

Although they are bred to be disease resistant, a few years ago Rose Rosette Disease (also known as Witches Broom), started attacking the Knock Outs in some parts of the United States (see Southern Living article), but it hasn’t affected mine so far.   Knock on wood that it never moves this far north, but if does, then it’s game over and they all have to be dug up and discarded.    Best to check with your local nursery to see if this virus, spread by mites via wind, is a problem in your area before buying.     

While I do have other roses – an ancient climber, 

roses on trellis

with prolific blooms, 

Roses on trellis

This years abundant blooms.

and a ‘John Cabot’ climber, (also very short this year due to the difficult spring), the Knock-Outs remain my favorites.    

roses on arbor

So if you are looking for an easy care rose which will provide beauty all summer long, these are the roses to pick! 

Roses on Trellis

PS.   An old oil painting of my mothers.

Roses - AMc

Roses in a Vase

 

 

 

No Day At The Beach

When something is not fun, the colloquial expression,  “It was no day at the beach” comes to mind.   Similar to “it was no picnic” or “not exactly a walk in the park” it denotes a situation which may be difficult to deal with – which is exactly what I discovered the first time I went to the beach this summer.   

I had not been earlier because of the kitchen reno and the hot/humid/rainy weather.   Although I can’t sit in the sun anymore I try and go at least a couple of times a year to take pictures and spend a relaxing afternoon with a book, but as it’s some distance for me, there never seemed to be a good day to pack up the beach stuff.    We’re lucky we have beautiful beaches here and very blue water, but the truth is we don’t take advantage of them as often as we should.

Beach  Canatara

Beach umbrella

Finally one day when I was running errands in town, (there always seems to be time for errands), I took a detour – as it was such a nice sunny bright-blue-sky- with-a-breeze day, it was a shame to waste it.    I thought I would sit in the car and enjoy a coffee and snack and watch the sailboats for awhile. 

sailboat race

 Except….

What the heck happened to the beach?

Beach chair

It seemed to have disappeared.     My usual spot, with the tree I usually sat under, consisted of a mere few feet of shoreline.

Beach

As the waterline was almost up to it’s roots, my beach blanket would have been swamped.

Beach

Before, you could walk out past the end of the groyne and still be in waist high water.

Beach

Now, the groynes were buried under water and considerably shorter. 

Beach

At least half of the stretch of sand was missing, although it was better at the other end.

Beach

There is still a strip of sand in front of the parking lot, where they have placed boulders to prevent people from driving on the beach, but the beach down below has eroded considerably. 

Beach

They have made some effort the past few years to protect the remaining sand by growing dune grass, but it was still a shock to see how much had washed away.   

Beach chair

The lake levels are about a foot higher than they normally are and beaches all along the Great Lakes basin have experienced erosion and flooding this year.   I shouldn’t have been surprised by the state of our beach, as driving down river earlier in the summer I noticed the same thing with the river level.  Some of the boat ramps were closed because the river water had come up over the breakwall and flooded the parking lots.

boat ramp

And some docks were under or near level with the water.   If I had expensive river or lakefront property I would be worried – another foot and the dock will just disappear.   

dock

The five interconnected Great Lakes make up the largest body of fresh water in the world.   Although they say their water levels rise and fall in a cyclic fashion according to the prevailing weather patterns, I have never seen the water so high here.   About ten years ago we were coping with the opposite – low levels exposing beaches and shipwrecks offshore which had never been seen before.   It seems it has become a world of weather extremes.   Although most of the problems with high levels and flooding in the Great Lakes can be attributed to the excessive rainfall this year, it does make you worry about global warming and the polar ice caps melting.   Here’s a link to an article from The Weather Channel with more information on potential causes. 

Beach

No matter what you may think about climate change, this sad sight, coupled with our brutally cold winters of late, and our prolonged rainy springs and hot humid summers, with all the torrential downpours and violent storms everywhere – it does make you wonder – are we ruining our planet?  

seagull

Hey what happened to the beach?

If things continue beaches may become a thing of the past, a relic portrayed in paintings and photographs. 

The Beachcomber - AMc

The Beachcomber

And life-guarding will become an obsolete occupation.

Beach and lifeguard chair

Perhaps it is not too late to take action?      

Postscript:    The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation has been advertising for “Coast Watchers”.   These community volunteers help the Goderich-based centre monitor conditions along the Lake Huron shoreline and collect scientific data for a long term monitoring program.   Last year they had 130 applicants, whose job it is to monitor a specific stretch of coast line once a week, from May to October, and record data such as wave height, temperature and wind speed.   Another general observation group monitors for algae bloom,  significant garbage wash-ups or spills, and rare birds or a species at risk.    The Goderich-based centre was formed two decades ago with the goals of protecting and restoring Lake Huron’s coastal environment and promoting a healthy coastal ecosystem.  It’s volunteer Coast Watchers Citizen Science Monitoring Program has been running for approximately 15 years.  Training sessions are held every April. 

Sounds like a great idea.  Why be a weather watcher, when you could be a coastal watcher!

Postscript:  Have you noticed any signs of climate change in your corner of the world?

 

The Literary Salon – Beach Books Summer 2019

Beach umbrella

What makes a great beach book – any book with summer in the title.   Here’s my summer reading list (four read, two to go), and although only two of my selections qualify with respect to the title, they are all beach-worthy in one way or another.   

First place, as always, goes to Elin Hilderbrand’s annual summer release, Summer of 69.  

Summer of 69

Publisher’s Blurb:  Follow New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand back in time and join a Nantucket family as they experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a 1960s summer.   Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It’s 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country.   In her first “historical novel,” rich with the details of an era that shaped both a country and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again proves her title as queen of the summer novel.

Why I liked it:    Her usual fare, but anyone who lived through the summer of 1969 (sorry millennials), will find this book especially appealing.   I was the same age as Jesse the youngest of the siblings, so I could really relate to the story line, the fashions and the music.    I especially liked how she incorporated songs of the era as chapter titles. 

“For What It’s Worth” I think we had better songs back then.   I’d like to “Get Back” to that year on “A Magic Carpet Ride” as “Those Were the Days” my friend.   I was a “Young Girl” in ’69, a year when “Everybody’s Talking” about “Fly Me To The Moon”, that distant orb in the sky which was “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.    It was the “Time of the Season” for love and as we were “Born to be Wild” we were full of “Midnight Confessions”.   We didn’t need “Help” from “Mother’s Little Helper” or “White Rabbits” or have the “Summertime Blues” as it was a time of peace and hope.   For all it’s protests it was also a time of optimistic change, as politically “Everyday People” who had “Heard It Through The Grapevine” (as opposed to CNN or Fox), did not have “Suspicious Minds” and could look at issues “From Both Sides Now”.    Perhaps, “Someday We’ll Be Together” again, hopefully “More Today than Yesterday.”     Whew – I got them all in!   (How many do you remember?)

Instead of flying to the moon, let’s fly to Paris – One Summer in Paris – by Sarah Morgan

One Summer in Paris

Publishers Blurb:  To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.  Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.   Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is.  Living in neighboring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them…

Why I liked it:   I’m not a big fan of romance fiction, but was attracted by the title and the book jacket.    I’ve never been to Paris, the story line sounded promising and it had a bookstore in it.   Basically this book was pure fluff, albeit readable fluff.   I don’t think I’ll be reading anything more by this author, as she is traditionally a romance writer and it was a bit too predictable for me.   Plus there was actually very little about Paris or the bookstore in it, which just goes to show how we can get sucked in by marketing.     (I swear if I ever write my murder mystery I’m going to call it Murder at the Paris Bookshop even though it’s set in another country – guaranteed sales – but perhaps that title has already been taken?)    

Did I mention I’m a sucker for any title with a bookstore in it, so No. 3 is The Bookstore on the Corner – by Jenny Colgan.   

The Bookshop on the Corner

Publishers Blurb:   Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.  Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

Why I liked it:    I haven’t read it yet, but with a bookstore, how could it fail?  (I’m reserving judgement, see above).   (Edited to add:  Two chapters in and I’m loving this book – the main character, the humorous style of writing, the Scottish locale, it’s simply charming, and there are actual books in it!)  (Note after finishing:  I’m quite disappointed – two thirds of the way through this book turned into a Hallmark movie.   It was all down hill after the scene with Mr. Darcy wearing a kilt and carrying an injured lamb…..well those were actually two separate scenes but you get the drift….really I m much too old for this romance stuff.  Where is Jane Austen when you need her!)   

It’s summer concert season.   Let’s go back in time again, this time to the 70’s.  Based loosely on the rock group Fleetwood Mac, Daisy Jones and the Six – by Taylor Jenkins Reid was a selection of Reese Witherspoon’s book club.    I can already see the movie being made….now who will play the lead singers?

Daisy Jones and The Six

Publisher’s Blurb:  Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.  Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.   Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.   The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Why I liked it:  Despite it’s great reviews I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book.   It wasn’t a subject matter that interested me, as I attended a Catholic high school and my recollection of the 70’s was not exactly sex, drugs and rock and roll.    But I ended up loving it – and it’s definitely one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year.  Basically it’s a love story, but not your typical one.   I even liked the unique interview format a la Rolling Stone, which surprisingly readable.  The book is pure fiction but the characters seemed so real that several younger reviewers on Goodreads believed it was a memoir about a real band.   Someone really needs to set those lyrics at the end to music.

Enough of the retro, here’s a psychological thriller to keep you in suspense during those nights when it’s too hot to sleep – The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient

Publishers Blurb:  Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.   Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.   Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

Why I liked it:   I don’t usually like first person narratives, especially by male protagonists,  but this was very well done and overall an excellent book for a first time novelist.    Never even saw the ending coming – I am in awe of the brilliance.  

And lastly, because even the best of summers have to come to an end and real life resumes, a family drama – After the End – by Clare MacIntosh.

After The End

Publisher’s Blurb:  Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.   What if they could have both?  A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find.

Why I liked it:   I haven’t read this one yet either.   I’m saving it for August, but it sounds like a departure from her usual crime suspense novels (I Let You Go, I See You).    We shall see….

There – a little something for everyone under the sun – Happy Reading!    

PS.   What are you reading this summer?

Beach pail

The Blue Garden

Although the white garden at Britain’s Sissinghurst Castle may be famous, I have always wanted a blue garden.   Although there is a certain romantic appeal to a vista of pale white flowers glowing in the moonlight, white simply does not make a statement to me.   I need color in my garden – pinks and purples and blues, perhaps a dash of yellow or red.    White is an accent color, seen only in a few daisies which came up from last years toss of a wildflower mix into a back corner.  My grandmother had a white snowball bush, and my mother had white spirea bushes along the front of the house – I cared for neither.  I did like the white apple blossoms on the crab-apple trees in our old orchard, tinged with a blush of pink and heady with fragrance, but their show was brief, one glorious week in spring.   No, it is color I crave and blue is my favorite color.   Although my garden is predominantly pink and purple (see last years The Color Purple and the upcoming Rose Cottage), my attempts at introducing blue into my garden have not been very successful.   Blue flowers may be a rarity in nature for a reason.

These are delphiniums from a Nova Scotia vacation so long ago that I’ve  forgotten the name of the small sleepy town where we stayed, other than there was nothing to do after supper so we toured the local botanical garden.  Certainly I was not into gardening back then, but the image of delphiniums against a picket fence was striking enough to warrant a picture, although my memory of the rest of the place is vague – I think there were roses past their prime? 

Delphiniums (2)

And this is my one solitary blue delphinium, which bloomed one year and was never seen again, nor were it’s pink and purple cousins.   The same thing happened with the lupines. 

blue delphinium

 A neighbor of my mother’s had a beautiful display of delphiniums a few years ago, five feet tall and waving look-at-me,  but he is a wonderful gardener.   I suppose I can’t expect a scene out of Downton Abbey, if I don’t put much effort into it. 

Then there was the blue rose, which came up a pale lavender/lilac at best.  What a marketing scheme that nursery tag was, a scrawny thing, it bloomed for a few seasons, producing exactly one rose every year.    I was so annoyed with it, that this year I tore it out when I was removing the dead Rose of Sharon beside it which hadn’t survived the winter.

Those pretty blue lobelia flowers in garden baskets look nice for a month or two at most, but do not survive the heat and neglect of July/August.    I’ve given up on them too.

blue flowers

I love the first sign of Siberian Squill in early spring, especially vibrant with the contrasting yellow of daffodils. 

Daffodils & Siberian Squill

There is a large swath of them growing wild along the river road and another neighbor has a lovely patch in her backyard, but I have never been able to find them in a nursery.    Maybe next year I will remember to ask if I can dig some up.  It’s another invasive species I wish would invade my back yard.    

Siberian Squill

Blue Hydrangeas are always lovely, but how many bags of aluminum sulfate have I bought trying to get them to go true blue.    I’ve had some some success with this bush near the side arbor, but only because the neighbor’s overhanging cedars make the ground naturally acidic.   Last year it was covered with blooms, this year there isn’t a single one and yet all the other bushes have plenty.   How do they decide which one is going to take a vacation?

hydrangeas

Last week I dumped some more AlSo4 on the rest, hoping all the forecast rain would wash it magically into the soil, and had some success.   At least they weren’t all lilac.   

blue hydrangeas

hydrangeas

blue hydrangeas

I had some luck with forget-me-nots this year, which a fellow gardener shared, somehow it hurts less when things don’t survive if they are free.    Of the donated bunches I planted last spring, one came up at the front of the house, and two small patches on the side bed.   This year I transplanted some more, hoping they will become invasive.   They reseed themselves once past blooming.

forget me nots blue

My Heavenly Blue morning glories are the good old dependables, except one year when they didn’t come up at all.    They are hardy souls and thrive on neglect once they get started, growing a foot a day in late summer.  I blogged about them here – link – A Glorious September Morning.

Morning Glory with bee

Blue Morning Glories

Blue Morning Glories

This year I planted them in front of two recycled trellises, hoping they will be more contained so I don’t have to spend three hours tearing them off the neighbor’s fences in the fall.   

Morning Glorious

Morning Glorious

I’m planning on checking out a blue clematis the next time I visit a nursery, but it must be blooming, so there are no surprises like the one I planted last fall which turned out a dark purple not the vibrant Jackmani I was expecting.    All future flowers must show their true colors before they are purchased!   

A few years ago a local garden tour brochure described one of the entries as the Blue Garden.    I was so excited to see it – and so disappointed to find there were no blue flowers at all, except blue planters, painted rocks and bits of blue ceramic garden kitsch.   I have a limited tolerance for most garden kitsch, no cutesy signs,  rusty iron figures or painted trolls are allowed on my castle grounds.    However I would like a cobalt blue garden cat to preside over my garden like Linda discovered at Walking Writing Wit and Whimsy.   It would provide the blue color I desire, a dose of whimsy and it wouldn’t need watering.   Forget the blue flowers, better to get a cat!  

Have I missed any blue flowers?  What is your favorite blue flower?

 

Strawberries, Snakes and Jane Austen

Strawberries

It’s strawberry season again, but this year seems to be a washout.  Blame it on the rain and the lack of sunny days.  The local berries are just coming in but they are so sour I’ve decided to wait a week hoping we’ll get some sunnier weather.   The kitchen reno is still ongoing so I can’t bake a shortcake or make jam anyway. 

strawberry plant

For every one sweet one ripening in my little garden plot, there are two that make your mouth pucker.   Maybe that’s why the birds are leaving them alone?  And here I thought those plastic snakes I bought at the dollar store were working!    

snakes

This was a tip from another blogger last summer, as plastic snakes are supposed to act as a deterrent to the birds.   Walmart was out of snakes, so these are cheaper versions from Dollarama and the clerk told me they work so well they can’t keep them in stock.   They look more like skinny worms to me – and neon pink and blue?    Those birds must be color blind, but upon further research it appears birds have better visual acuity than humans and can see UV light and a wider range of colors.   I suspect they must be waiting for sweeter fare too.  

So I’ll leave you with a link to better days and last year’s blog, Strawberry Fields Forever, plus some Jane Austen.  

Strawberry Field

Flower Power

The only positive thing about this cool rainy spring is that I haven’t had to water anything…not even once.   Mother Nature has done it for me.   In fact it’s rained so much this past month that most of the farmers haven’t even been able to get their crops planted, the latest season ever as many recall.  It’s sad to drive through the countryside and see all those bare soggy fields.  The crop insurance has been extended a few days, but things are looking desperate, and the forecast is more of the same.  Let’s send out a few prayers for our farmers – because if they don’t plant, we don’t eat.   

I’ve been preoccupied with the kitchen reno, but here’s a recap of the best of the spring flowers, even if I’ve been too busy and it’s been too rainy to enjoy them.  

The hyacinths at the corner always make going to the mailbox a treat. hyacinths

These little purple violets scattered in the grass are always so pretty, especially if you ignore the weeds!  violets in the grass

The nicest thing about this picture, also taken near the mailbox, is the shade, which means the trees are finally leafing out.   TulipsI love the play of the shadows on the lawn. tulips

The squirrels dug up most of my tulips, tulips for lunch

so I really appreciate it when someone else makes an effort.   It’s always a treat to drive down this street and see this yard,  tulipsand this one. hyacinths spring garden

Last year I transplanted a few blue forget-me-nots from my neighbour – they were so pretty I hope they are invasive.  forget me nots

My only purchase earlier in the spring was a pink and yellow dahlia and a couple of bright pink begonias, my first for both types of plants.   I didn’t know what to do with them, and read that the dahlia had to be dug up in the fall so I just stuck them in bigger pots.  dahlia The dahlia has flourished, with many buds again, but the begonias got too water-logged.  dahlia

The lilacs finally bloomed, mine pale and anemic, so I enjoyed the neighbors dark purple ones which hang over my fence.   The bloom-again lilac was a few weeks later, but I was disappointed in it’s smell.   We’ll see if it lives up to it’s name.  

The lily of the valley was plentiful too, another invasive gift from a  fellow gardener.  lily of the valley

My 50 cent bargain iris from last years horticultural sale bloomed for the first time, all of them coming up purple, except for one ugly burgundy one I gave away as it didn’t fit the color scheme.    iris The second year for this fuchsia clematis.  My new one, planted last fall, is not out yet but as it is a Jackmanii, it may be later. clematis

Sometimes I’m not sure if things will bloom the first year, but the half-price peonies planted last fall burst forth a pretty pink.    peonies

When I finally got to the nursery again, these were my selections.  I’ve never had a dipladenia plant before (smaller than a Mandevilla), but it looks very tropical. garden flowers on tableAnd one can never have enough lavender.garden flowers on table

 I may pick up some half-price geranium pots if I can find any, but even the nursery plants are struggling this year.   Many look so pathetic no one would want to take them home, which is just as well, as man does not live by flowers alone.   I planted lettuce in early May and all the rain has made me the Lettuce Queen of the neighborhood.   Let us be grateful for homegrown salads!lettuce

The Farmer’s Market

           If you have ever dreamed of packing in city life and moving to the country then this book is for you.    Canadian author, Brent Preston turned fantasy into reality in this account of starting an organic vegetable farm and ten years of trial and error and back breaking labor before finally achieving a profitable outcome. 

The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food RevolutionThe New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A must read manual for city dwellers and lovers of the organic food movement about a family who chose to leave the rat race and follow their dream of running a profitable organic vegetable farm. Dust off those fantaseeds and learn the gritty reality of where your food comes from.

           Although he might have started out with a simple plan in mind, by the end of the ten years he had mechanized his operations, hired agricultural co-op students for summer labor, perfected a delivery service and marketing campaign, and ended up specializing in just three crops, one of which was lettuce.   One of the things he did initially was to participate in the local farmer’s market every Saturday morning, but after a few years of this he packed it in.  If you think about it, never a weekend off for you or your kids, up at 4 am to load up the truck and then later in the day unloading the unsold produce.   Plus, while he said while he enjoyed the social aspect with the regular customers and the other vendors, there just wasn’t enough profit in it to continue.   Better to cater to the fancy restaurants who would pay premium for anything fresh and organic.   

           There is no doubt we are what we eat and organic food is in – food in it’s natural state.   Ask a person who has been lucky enough to live to be over ninety and chances are they grew up on a farm.   So farmers markets are booming because organic food is so popular, but are the farmers doing well?  I grew up on a farm, 100 acres, so I know how hard it is to make a living on one and how much work is involved.   We had a dairy farm with Holsteins  when I was a child and my dad had a small herd, three milking machines and a cream contract.   He got up at 4:30 am every day to milk the cows, then he would come in, shave and have breakfast (bacon and eggs and perked coffee), as we were getting up for school, by 7:30 he would have left for his other job, home at 4:30, early supper, then milk the cows again, and he would be in bed by ten or falling asleep while reading the paper.   On the weekends there were all the other chores to do.   Even back then you couldn’t quite make a living on a farm without a second job, and with a growing family, he finally switched to beef cattle instead and cash cropped corn, soybeans and wheat, and while that was a lot of work too, we were finally able to take a family vacation without being tied to the milking schedule.   Now farming is big business, a thousand acres or bust.  There was an article in the local paper recently about the International Plowing Match which listed a combine as worth $500,000, and a tractor with GPS the same.   My dad’s first tractor in 1948 cost $1000 and had a side seat upon which we kids would ride – heaven forbid, no one would let kids do that now.   My elderly grandfather who died in 1951, was against the new-fangled modern machinery, as they had to sell his beloved Clydesdale horses in order to buy it.  HorseThe last tractor my dad bought came equipped with air conditioning and a few years after he died, they had CD players, now they are steering themselves.   While farming may be mostly mechanized now, organic vegetable farming is still labor intensive, especially during the harvest.   It’s not a job many people want to do, and often the farmers must hire seasonal workers from Mexico or Jamaica to help out.

        September is the best time of year to visit a farmer’s market as it is bursting with the last of the summer produce and the early fall harvest.   While the peaches and berries may be almost done, the  plums, pears, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, new potatoes and onions are coming in.   

tomatoes

potatoes

Our local market is open Wednesdays in the summer and Saturdays year round.   Even in the winter, the inside of the old building is full of root vegetables and cheese and butcher shops, but in the nice weather the outside stalls see the most action.    They really need more space, but it’s been in the same place for eighty plus years and you don’t mess with tradition.   Located in an older residential part of town, there is one small parking lot and you have to drive round and round waiting for someone else to leave.  With about 50 spaces for 200 people it’s kind of like musical chairs for grownups.  Luckily, no one lingers long.   While you can get a pour over coffee with freshly roasted beans, there is no cafe to sit in or cooked food available.   We don’t see a lot of homeless people here but one day a woman with her cart piled high with all her worldly possessions asked me for some money, and with my hands full I shook my head no, but then after putting my produce in the car, I went to find her, and gave her ten dollars, which I suspected might go to drugs but who knows?   A friend of mine keeps Tim Horton’s coffee shop gift cards to hand out for this reason, but there is something so very sad about begging in front of a place with so much plenty.     

              Even in the winter I will visit about once a month, because there is still cheese, and apples and oranges to buy, but I’ve often wondered why they open at 6 am.   All the vendors are yawning by noon, or closing up early as they have been up since four loading their trucks.   Wouldn’t 8-2 be more civilized hours?   If they are supplying restaurants do they need to buy that early?    If I don’t get there by 11:30 (or  I’m still playing musical chairs), I may miss my favorite cheese stall or they might be out of Gouda.  

The cheese wars can be fierce.  There are two cheese vendors, right across from each other, and the Battle of The Gouda got so bad last year, they both decided not to post their prices.    They will glare across the aisle if they think you have abandoned camp, but if they have run out, what is the alternative?  My grandmother was Dutch, so I grew up on Gouda, the mild form, not the spicy seeded variety she bought from The European Shop.   

Dutch Inheritance - AMc

Dutch Inheritance

The market cheese is better than at the grocery store and they will give you a sample if you are undecided.   Even if you know you will like it, a sample will often tied you over if you got up early and missed breakfast.    Buying cheese at the market is also much cheaper than in the grocery store so I usually stock up on aged cheddar as well as the Gouda.    The one cheese vendor has recently retired and been bought out by the egg lady beside them, who I don’t think has gotten the hang of the weigh scale yet as she is very generous with her pounds, or kgs.   I don’t buy eggs from her though as I can’t stomach those brown eggs with the bright yellow yolks.   It reminds me of the eggs growing up on the farm, but I know free range chickens are all the rage and I am sure they are full of omega-3’s.    

I like to look at the flowers, the glads are out now, but I seldom buy as I have lots of flowers at home. 

glads

I have my own semi-successful potager, so I don’t feel the need to buy tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce, but one whiff of the dill brings back memories of my mother canning dill pickles.    You can get a free bunch of dill with every large purchase. 

20180818_114916

dill

The early apples are starting to come in, which will soon mean spies and pies.  I can smell the cinnamon now.

apples

 My favorite time of year is when the summer fruits are available, the strawberries and peaches.   You can get a bushel of overripe fruit for ten dollars and make a whole batch of jam for what you might pay for two jars.    There is a jam vendor also, for when you run out, who also sells homemade fruit pies.  So definitely there is a cost savings, and the food is so much fresher and better tasting, not to mention not loaded with tons of preservatives and artificial ingredients. 

Not everything is better at the market though.   Sadly, it is home to the world’s worst bakery which sells the most tasteless bread ever baked, not to mention tarts with uncooked dough and a scant quarter inch of fruit filling.  The next time I walk pass, the owner asks if I want something so I venture a tactful complaint – I figure if no one tells him he can’t fix it.   He tells me he hired a new baker so I bought butter tarts this time.  Same thing.  I gave up.  There must be an art to making play-doh like that?    Butter tarts are a national institution in Canada but I have a fine recipe inherited from my mother.   We have much better bakeries in town but I suppose once a vendor has tenure in the building, it’s for life, and so many people don’t know what good pastry tastes like.   But the bread – there’s simply no excuse.    Bread is the staff of life, but so is good nutritious food.   If you ate today, thank a farmer!    

PS.   Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving today! 

Wild Turkeys - AMc

Wild Turkeys

Three Coins in the Fountain

lily pond waterfall

While trying to take a picture of a water lily in my neighbors fish pond I was struck by how lovely the music of the waterfall was.   

lily pond waterfall

There’s something about the tinkling of water in the background that is so relaxing, be it a small backyard waterfall or fountain, or one in a local park or in a big city like Rome.    

concrete structure with group of people statues

Photo by Sarah Acconcia Norris on Pexels.com

The Trevi Fountain in Rome is one of the most famous fountains in the world.  They say if you throw a coin in the Trevi that your return visit to Rome is guaranteed.   Back in the last century during the Audrey Hepburn/Roman Holiday craze there was a movie called Three Coins in the Fountain, a 1950’s chick flick, about this same legend.    I watched it recently (inter-library loan having managed to locate it in some obscure archives, thus saving me the $60 advertised on Amazon), and while as a movie it was rather dated, the scenery and especially the fountains were…….bellisimo.   (Coins are meant to be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder.  An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day.   The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy;  however, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain, even though it is illegal to do so.   Wikepedia)   

If you are a Frank Sinatra fan like me, the best thing by far about the movie, other than the stylish clothes of the era, was the song of the same name.  

While replying to a comment back in August, I stumbled upon a travel blog about Rome, with lots of gorgeous photos.   So if you wish more information check out this blog……there’s no point in me recapping the whole history of the Trevi fountain when there is a very excellent blogger (Musings of a Whimsical Soul) who already has.    

There are two fountains near where I live, one in a local park where I should be walking every day for exercise but don’t.  There is often a cold wind off the river in the winter and in the summer it is too hot, but I have no excuse for spring or fall.   Still, is is lovely to look at while driving by. 

Fountain

The other one is a larger more expensive fountain downtown.    Someone with a lot of money and no heirs (or spending their inheritance), bequeathed $250,000 to the city for a waterfront legacy.    Although officially named after it’s benefactor, it is commonly known as the Fish Fountain, because of the fish on the sculpture, thus destroying any hope he might have had for lasting fame.   It looks nicer on a clear blue sky day, not foggy like here.  Although still warm, we have had many cloudy, rainy days in September and a whole week of the same forecast ahead.    

Fountain

For those of us with less money, the craft store, Michael’s has their fountains on end of season clearance now.   

water fountain

Not quite the Trevi…..

A small indoor fountain can provide some tranquility over the winter as well as add moisture to the dry air. 

 The local garden center was all sold out of outdoor fountains, although they assured me that one of their landscape architects could design me something like this. 

garden waterfall

No thanks, it looks like a cross between a fake fireplace and a sacrificial alter/crypt.   Still, something smaller for next summer would be nice – gardeners like to plan ahead.   In the meantime, I will throw a coin in one of the fountains, and make a wish that the warm weather would never end.   

Arrivederci Summer!    I know someday you will return…

Beach Books Blog

Beach umbrella

With only a few weeks of summer left there’s still time to get some good beach reads in and often the best time for beach reading is September when the crowds have gone back to school and work.   Here’s my annual list with links to my Goodreads reviews plus a link to last summer’s Beach Blanket books, (a bonus if you are a library patron like me is there won’t be a waiting list for last years).

My number one favorite award of this year goes to The Perfect Couple – by Elin Hilderbrand……set on Nantucket it was the perfect beach book…..so engrossing you never want it to end and you won’t even notice the waves sweeping that dead body out to sea.

waves
The Perfect CoupleThe Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Perfect Beach Read. Her best book yet, the usual island fare with the added twist of a murder mystery. After a dead body is found floating in the water the morning of a fancy wedding all the guests and family members are suspects. Intricately plotted, the characters and descriptions are so real you will feel like you just spent a week on Nantucket. If you take this book to the beach you will not look up once it is so engrossing…..I could hardly put it down. I hope she does more murder mysteries…..looking forward to her new winter series.

Here’s another good domestic drama.   I had grown tired of Joanna Trollope lately but this one definitely held my attention.   
An Unsuitable MatchAn Unsuitable Match by Joanna Trollope

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thought provoking novel about late-in-life marriages, complete with spoiled millennials, an attractive but penniless suitor, and a divorced people-pleasing protagonist who attempts to keep everyone happy but herself. It’s an intriguing premise, and like the title, a totally unsuitable match. If the book had ended any other way I might have been tempted to boycott all her future books. Fortunately, although love is blind, with age comes wisdom. I used to be a big fan of Joanna Trollope but have found her books lately to be a bit of a struggle, I couldn’t even read The Soldier’s Wife, but this restores her to what she does best, a nice Jane Austen-like drama about the tangle of family relationships.

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery?     Mary Higgins Clarke never disappoints.   Can be read in one sunny afternoon.  

I've Got My Eyes on YouI’ve Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not as suspenseful as her usual, I guessed who did it and why about a third of the way through, but it was still a good read from the  Queen of Mystery.    She is still churning them out at age 91 but lately I have been preferring her Under Suspicion (fall) series with Alafair Burke.

For a more in depth psychological thriller, Clare MacIntosh is a good choice.    While I enjoyed her spring release LET ME LIE  it wasn’t as good as I SEE YOU, which I read last October and which had me deleting all the personal pictures on my social media accounts.  
I See YouI See You by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A murder mystery thriller perfect for reading on Halloween night in those lulls between handing out the candy…..ok maybe not such a good idea. Guaranteed to have you double checking all the locks before you go to bed, and I personally ended up deleting all personal pictures from social media. I liked the fact that the characters were flawed, which made the ending so much more delicious – a real treat.

You’re at a cottage and it’s raining so you browse the bookshelves for gems other people might have left behind.    SLEEPING MURDER,  Agatha Christie’s last book written in 1976, is the reason why they call her the original Queen of Mystery.   (80 books, over 1 billion sold).   Miss Marple may be a bit dated and the descriptions tame by today’s standards, but it’s still a masterful plot.   While I had never read much AG, other than Murder on the Orient Express where I already knew the ending, this kept me enthralled on a rainy afternoon and I finished it the next day at the beach in brilliant sunshine.

Beach Book

These are all by female writers, so here’s one for the guys.     A thought-provoking read about the origins of the universe and the future of artificial intelligence.     Dan Brown always tells a good story – book contains the usual steady stream of chase scenes where Professor Langdon is on the run from the bad guys and accompanied by a beautiful much younger woman.   Dream on Dan.
Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)Origin by Dan Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good read – Professor Langdon is back, the usual cloak and dagger, church versus science, fast paced suspenseful affair. But why does he always seem to be running from danger, in every chapter, usually with an attractive much younger female? I guess it makes for good movie rights. The book got off to a great start, but then kind of sagged in the middle, but I had guessed the ending by then. The plot line was simpler than some of his other books, but I learned some interesting facts about artificial intelligence and the big bang theory – see title.

Lighthouse

A Canadian find and locale.   The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol  (plural – not be be confused with similar titled books).     I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this book, but it was mesmerizing.   A five star read.   Good for a trip to a cabin in the northern wilderness.  
The Lightkeeper's DaughtersThe Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In her acknowledgements, this first time author thanks her writing group for encouraging her to take the giant leap to send her work out there. I’m so glad she didn’t keep the manuscript in her sock drawer because this is a marvelous book, by far the best novel I have read in awhile. Somewhat reminiscent of The Light Between Oceans, but with an Ontario locale as the lighthouse island is set in northern Lake Superior. The author who lives in Thunder Bay, grew up sailing in the area, and has done extensive research to keep the story authentic for the time period – it is set in the 1930-40’s. It is a beautifully crafted book, wonderfully plotted, well written, good characterization, with a perfectly satisfying ending. Why doesn’t something like this win the Giller prize? The author also thanks a ninety-four year old light-keeper’s wife who said wistfully after reading the book that she felt like she was back on the island. That was how I felt too – totally immersed in this other world, and really like the author acknowledged, there is no greater compliment than that for a writer.

So put your toes in the sand, open a cold drink and start reading.    Don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

Toes in the sand