Category Archives: Gardening

Gardening helps heal this troubled soul

Tulip poking through euonymus shrub in Only Child’s garden spring 2017

One of the few things keeping me going this spring is my garden (the others are my writing, my son and friends who help me, reading, and even some TV shows). The latter two are much needed diversions and distractions from bad health with pain of some sort at some time during each day), and the Noah’s Ark-like weather – the latter worry mostly to do with that Nigel Applewaite the construction worker who messed up his contract and work to fix the basement leaks. And didn’t fix his mistakes. But that’s another post.

With all the rain we’ve been getting in southern Ontario (and elsewhere too), everything is coming up green outside – including the weeds. The latter are very prolific this year. So are the flowers and onions coming up from some planted last year, and the herbs and rhubarb. Already eating those latter three.

I remember my late mother’s garden – vegetable and flowers and the big shrubs. She and Dad would be out there digging up the garden and planting in April. That was in the 1950s. The world is a much wetter and colder place now. The latter doesn’t just refer to weather, although that was cold in April and for the most part (except for two or three days) this May, too.

So, I plan my gardening around the weather and all the other stuff I do. Doing a bit of gardening at a time is the way to weed a somewhat large garden and get things planted. And weeding gives me a safe outlet to deal with the oppressors and oppressions in my life. I have lost count how many weeds I’ve pulled with the name Nigel Applewaite.

Gardening also seems to revive my energy and provides some purpose. So does enjoying what is in the garden. Unless pouring with rain, daily, I take a walk around and in my garden. And sit out on the veranda and/or patio to eat, read and just enjoy the view.

The patio also brought forth another hurdle to get over. I needed a new umbrella to provide shade at the patio table – the one I had for seven years – second hand and a gift from a friend – finally stopped working late last summer so it went out to the curb for pickup.

You would think that getting a new umbrella would not be a major operation. Well I did check them out at Home Depot – too pricey and way too heavy to carry home – even thought it was only four blocks. So I checked Canadian Tire on line for selections and sale, then I asked one of my friends if she could drive me  – we had talked about his possibility before and she has helped me before (and her husband helped me get my bags of topsoil at Home Depot). She said she could do it on last Monday but when I phoned Monday morning to see about a time suitable to her, I got her husband and he told me in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t do it because they were going away for a couple of weeks and they would be busy for a week after they got back. And she had too many things to do before they went away.

Excuse me? Can’t she speak for herself and if she said she couldn’t do it because of time problems I could understand that – although a refusal when I first asked would have been best.

So, I asked my son if he could pick one up at Canadian Tire on his way here Saturday and I would pay him back. He said “no” because of having to lease a car to do it but offered to pay for a cab so I could come home with it. I said okay and I’d have to find out how to go about doing that from a store with no pay phone (remember I’m too poor to have a cell phone).

But I got lucky. Most of the patio umbrellas at Canadian Tire were light enough and packed in one of those carry bags (like you get fold up cloth patio chairs in) and I could carry it. Also the clerk I spoke there gave me info about getting a cab – if you need one when you pay tell the cashier and she or he will call a cab. So, I ended paying about half the price of those at Home Depot and got the umbrella home for free. I slung the umbrella pack over my shoulder and walked  block and a half to the bus stop and took the one bus home. When my son was here this Saturday, he set up the umbrella and showed me that it also can slant  (which I didn’t know). So the umbrella is there on the patio and if it is warm enough for lunch I just might sit out there with it open. The weekend was not good for that – too windy Saturday and yesterday and raining on Sunday.

So, I guess despite all the crap happening in my life, I still am a persistent stubborn so-and-so.

When I stop being that, then it is time to worry.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Extreme rainfall weather, Garden, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Mom and Dad, Spring

Remembering Dad for his birthday anniversary June 4

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

Growing up – back in the grey ages of course, I spent some time with my dad doing simple things. He seemed to take on the role of teacher as well as parent. Family members used to say he was proud of his little princess. Yes, that was me. Hard to believe it now as I’ve turned into a motor-mouth opinionated person. There is a back story there but that’s not for today’s post. Today, I want to honour my late father – Albert Louis Joseph Eugene Langevin – because the anniversary of his birthday is this Saturday, June 4.

Dad was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1899. The Langevin family moved to Toronto when Dad was five – or so I’ve been told. Doing research in the Toronto City Might Directories for the early 1900s doesn’t show the Langevin family living anywhere in Toronto until  a few years later. And believe me I have looked in all the earlier directories – bending on my knees and moving four heavy directories at a time to a table on the second floor at the Toronto Reference Library. But some of the family history I didn’t know comes out in these short, simple directory listings. For example, I knew Dad didn’t serve in either World War – too young for the first war and too old for the second. But one of his brothers, Uncle Paul, did serve in the First World War. Considering Paul’s age at the time it wouldn’t surprise me if be lied about his age to get in. That was done back then.  From 1918 Dad worked for the Grand Trunk Railway and then the Canadian National Railway when the latter swallowed up the former. Dad worked in the main Toronto office, then on Front Street and connected to the big Union Station on Toronto’s Front Street. Most of his work life there was as a time-keeper. That might explain his penchant for insisting everyone and everything always be on time – no excuses. But his job gave Mom and I free train rides and that’s how we travelled for our summer holidays – to my Mom’s family farms near Lucknow and Mildmay, Ontario and longer trips to Detroit (more of Mom’s relatives there), Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Quebec province.

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Dad married my Mom, Julia, when he was 40 in November 1939 and by the time I came along he was 49. He was often mistaken for my grandfather with his then grey, and later white hair. Yes, he spoke French in his earlier years, but lost that ability over the years living in Toronto. It was actually embarrassing when he, Mom and I went for a holiday in Quebec province when I was 14. We got away with English only in Montreal but not in Quebec City. Dad had to find a bilingual cab driver who helped us find a bed and breakfast to stay.

Only Child's late Dad under Mom's rose archway

Only Child’s late Dad under Mom’s rose archway

Mom was the gardener in the family – with me learning the green thumb tricks from her. But Dad had a few up his sleeve. When he mowed the lawn – with a push mower – he also showed me how to do it and let me do a bit. Same for watering the lawn. But when it came to the trees and shrubs in the front and back yard, he could be a bear.

You see, my friends and I used to set up our dolls and their “houses” (turned over doll or small people suitcases) for rooms. We would have kid-sized dishes and then we would go get “food” for our dolls. “Food” wasn’t berries from the garden, but we would pick and pull leaves from the big and small shrubs. Dad caught us at it once and came charging out into the backyard and gave us you know what for doing damage to trees.

Dad also taught me to ride a bicycle – but not until I was almost 10. I would sit on this 28 inch wheel bike with my short legs and feel barely reaching the peddles and feel terrified that I would fall off. But Dad held onto the front handle with one hand and the back of the seat with the other and steered me along the street. That got me some teasing plus from my friend the Bully. But I did learn to ride the bike on my own, albeit just on the immediate neighbourhood streets which had little traffic. My favourite place to ride a bike was on country roads by my cousins near Lucknow, Ontario. I would ride one of the boy’s bikes or one of the girl’s bikes – depends on whom I was riding with. The terrain might have been tough (gravel roads, not paved) but the only traffic – if any – was the odd car and tractor.

Dad also was very protective, perhaps over-protective as shown by his teaching methods. But I still loved him.

But, when he got cancer in his brain when I was 12, things changed so much. I found myself distancing myself from him. In hindsight I think it was a protective measure for when he was gone. Mom and I knew that the cancer would eventually kill him and it did when I was 16. He was 66 when he died.

I still miss you Dad.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child with her parents at grandpa's farm near Mildmay, Ontario

Only Child with her parents at grandpa’s farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Sharon is holding one of her many dolls

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, cancer, Gardening, Mom and Dad, Only child, Toronto, Train travel

Gardening for health and pleasure

Spring in Only Child's front garden

Spring in Only Child’s front garden

Finally some spring going into summer weather and I was out in my garden every day this long Victoria holiday weekend.

My body and soul needed it. For the pain in my body from the complications of a lower digestive disorder to just feeling fed-up at the crap shoved my way in this world, I needed to be in my garden.

But I took it slowly (except when pulling weeds) and a little at a time each day. Overdoing it just wouldn’t do. And so I also ate meals out on the patio, and sat out in my garden, reading the newspapers and more in the latest mystery novel I’m into.

It is so joyful to see all the green (even the weeds – they do have their purpose for me – like pretending each weed I pull is the person or company causing me grief) and the colours of the flowers starting, blooming and even those, like the tulips,which are just finishing up for the season. Right now the coral bells, peonies and irises are getting ready to open out; and coreopsis is in full bloom as are the multiplying blue and white forget-me-nots. The forget-me-nots in the front come back every year somewhat in the same area. But the ones in the backyard garden came lush and plentiful for the first year. They came under the fence from next door. Tanya, my friend from there who died of lung cancer in February, planted the forget-me-nots last spring in her garden. Their name is very appropriate as every time I go out in my garden I expect to see Tanya out there, saying hi and then the two of us talking together and helping each other in some way. I see these forget-me-nots as her gift to me, a remembrance of our friendship from when she and Alex moved in next door, 10 months after I had moved this neighbourhood,

I still  miss Tanya and feel her spirit when I am in my back garden.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under cancer, Friends, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Health, Only child, Perennials

Only Child celebrates birthday

Birthday_birthday_cake_3Today is my birthday. Didn’t the Beatles have a song that started out something like that? Which would be appropriate as I was and still am a Beatles fan. And yes I went to a couple of their concerts at the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and screamed my throat out – back in the mid 1960s.

Some people reflect on their year and what is ahead at the end of each year. I do some of that, but the annual birthday may be just as appropriate, if only for the “I’m getting older” factor. Birthdays are a reminder of that. When you are a senior, like me it is very mixed.

Yes, I would like to be  around 10 to 15 years later – if I could have my so-called wisdom and experience and my son would be the same age as he is now.  And be in good health and afford to live.

First the bad side of getting old and I will paraphrase my neighbour from down the street (also a senior). When I mentioned that I had been experiencing a lot of health issues the past five months, she said that this time in your life it is supposed to be when we can retire and enjoy life. She said it as if she didn’t believe it anymore.

She is right. Life in the senior lane can be awful. The body fails; the mind fails and for some people it can be very lonely. Add in living in poverty, despite all those glowing retirement ads and stories. Not all of us are rolling in money. Some (myself included) live below what Statistics Canada states is the upper level for singles (all ages) living alone.

Heck, last year when I had that dreadful boarder living here (I finally kicked her out and am glad I did), my net income was lower than the year before when she was living here only five months, not 10. Turns out she drained my electricity and water and that upped those bills.

And utility bills, with or without boarders, are high. So are property taxes and not just for seniors. Many of us live on a budget and certain things (like extra health coverage for health areas not covered by government health plans). Many of us don’t have access (via our or spouses’ retirement plans) to extra health plans, so we do without. We may have to choose one extra area to focus on. Eventually the others will fail us in old age.

And more things happen. So far my memory and forgetfulness haven’t worsened – I don’t think. On days when I have too much going on, too much bad being shoved my way to deal with, I wonder about that. That’s why I’m continually trying to prune what I do and also get rid of the clutter still left in my home. Right now I’m focusing on all the excess paper in my home office. The laundry room and storage there is next – but a lot of that is garden stuff dumped inside now that garden season is about over. I say about as there are still a few more things to do out in the garden and the weather might just be co-operating this coming weekend.

So, what do I give thanks for on my birthday? What do I still like in my life?

My outside garden obviously. In winter I try to compensate with lots of plants inside, but it’s not the same – so I do plan for next year’s garden.

My writing – particularly my Beyond mystery series and personal essays. And promoting my books. And something new I just started and enjoy – doing short skits as public presentations where I dress up as my main Beyond Blood character Dana Bowman.

Teaching writing workshops/running my East End Writers’ Group and helping and connecting with other writers.

Reading (and yes, print mainly although I do have an e-reader), walking, watching favourite TV programs and movies on TV. I’m old-fashioned enough to want to watch TV on a TV, not a computer, although I do watch short videos about the weather, gardening, health, writing and the like on the computer, also like cooking, and dining out with family and friends, going to street festivals, going into unique shops with crafts and the like (mainly “window shopping). And living in this house which I love (despite all the things that need fixing).

What do I want to do in the future?

Continue collecting info on my late father’s ancestry and reconnecting with cousins on Dad’s side of the family (particularly another one doing some genealogy research in that area), travel more – but not by plane. I don’t like all the excess security for those of us who are not security risks. I think my ex put it best when he said something about removing shoes was what got to him. But he and his current wife do still travel. Me, I want to travel more by train to Quebec province (where my dad was born), the train trip out west to BC through the mountains, and to my cousins’ in a medium-sized town in Michigan. One cousin has offered to pick me up at Windsor or Sarnia and I’m hoping to take him up on that later next year.

And more money to come in to pay for extras including house problems and travel.

I also wish for my health not to get any worse.

To tag on to the above two -house and health. If the latter gets too bad I don’t want to hang around. And I don’t want to go into a nursing home or even a retirement home. My next stop, I say, is the urn.

If I have 10 to 15 more good years (see above for what I consider good/not good), that will be fine. Living to an old age for most people isn’t worth it if you are sick in mind and/or body and are just wasting away.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Family and Friends, Gardening, Genealogy, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Old Age, Only child, Poverty, Reading, School reunions, Seniors and Happiness, Seniors Hobbies and Interests

Only Child deals with time stealers

Teddy points out my time being wasted

Teddy points out my time being wasted

I am so fed up with unwanted and unasked for time-stealers. Over the past four months it has been difficult to get things done. Sometimes I feel like I am in freefall, in overwhelm, running around in the proverbial circles. Was it ever like this, even remotely, for my Mom and Dad when I was growing up? You know back in the grey ages in the 1950s and 1960s.

I don’t think so because the world, society moved at a slower pace then and there just weren’t as many “things” happening, so not so much coming at you.

Well, I’ve had way too much going on – a lot of it bad, some of it good, but it needs to be sorted so it’s not all happening at once.

First, the bad – only a short list or we’d be here until doomsday.

My health – this summer I’ve had to deal with sinus/gland infections (still traces but I see improvement with the third natural remedy I’m taking), being stung by a wasp and getting a localized allergic reaction. I’m now on wasp alert and when I killed one the other day I felt a lot of relief, felt the situation had evened out (I know, probably not the actual wasp that stung me), and getting injured from a fall caused by some careless dingbat leaving a picture hanging wire outside. Somebody got cursed then.

Consumer stuff – this is an endless list but I’m only going to focus on travel. The business with VIA rail delay because of US/Canada border problems when I was returning home from Grimsby earlier this month. Now, a much bigger issue is happening locally – Toronto Transit in its “wisdom” is upgrading/renovating two consecutive subway stations at the same time, including closing them to buses and bus platforms and moving the bus boarding a few blocks away in one case. I will enlarge on this one in a future post. Suffice to say I’m composing a letter to the CEO of Toronto Transit about that.

Too much in my life personal and writing going on at the same time.  And much of it not asked for, not expected.

That’s enough complaining for now. So, what am I doing?

First of all I am focusing on the most important to me each month, each week, each day. The rest can go to hell or limbo – for now. I will only take on so much at a time and let others know. If they don’t like it, too bad. My health issues this past summer have taught me that. I have also started to say “no” to things, even if I’ve already signed up for them. Case in point. Signed up for an entrepreneur seminar all day later this month. No cost. But when reason finally prevailed, I realized it starts too early in the morning for me to get out. No, not get up, get out. Some of my health issues are worse in the morning so I can’t get out of here until after 10 a.m. at the earliest. So health first. I’m not attending this seminar.

House and property work (excluding gardening) – I have made a list of who does what and that includes the two handymen. And I ride herd on either of them to get them here to do the job. Also hinging on the when for the main handyman is when I book a furnace cleaning, so the two don’t happen the same day. See what I mean by too much going on at once? I’m also following my cousin Ron’s advice about housework/housecleaning, i.e., lower my standards about what I do and do less. So just basics weekly on weekends – laundry, vacuuming and cleaning kitchen counter, sink and stovetop. Dusting only every four to six weeks and cleaning the bathroom – maybe every two to three weeks. Sorting stuff out – winter project. We are still in fall.

Have also made a gardening – fall cleanup list and am going through it now – this one is a pleasure. Also connected to this is preparing food for the winter and that is not going well – time problems again. I want to dry some of the oregano that’s in the garden and try to dry some apples and bananas. I’ve at least bought the dehydrator (used to have one until it died a few years ago). For fresh vegetables and fruit for the freezer – so far a few corn-on-the cobs I bought at a farmer’s market, plus local wild blueberries purchased from a greengrocers, and the black raspberries and rhubarb from my garden. Still need beans for sure. Problem? Finding time to get to a farmer’s market including when I can actually prepare the vegetables right after purchase. That’s being sorted out after….

I sort out my writing and book promo and speaking engagements. Too many too close together although I’m not complaining about doing well selling  books at Word on the Street on Sunday. But it’s the upcoming stuff – two big ones. Now I plan to focus on one per month – for October my East End Writers’ Group 15th anniversary celebration/presentations. The other one I’m involved with doesn’t happen until the end of November, so my participation in organizing my group’s part (not EEWG) will not start until November 1. I also have to use my timer more – sometimes when a lot of email needs answering (not today – so far) I set the timer and when it rings I only finish the current email. Then there’s my third Beyond mystery book, which I’m not spending enough time writing. That is changing this week.

Some help from God would be appreciated.

To pull it all together I’m doing an update on the A, B, C, and D charts I use. Each has headings like “Don’t want to do/don’t have to do.” That one ties with “Want to Do/Have to Do” as my favourites.

My mother would be proud. She was very organized.

I’d like some comments on how you cope with time management (outside of shooting the clock).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

What Only Child is doing with unwanted chores and the like

What Only Child is doing with unwanted chores and the like

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Balance, Gardening, God, Health, Help and Support, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, Prioritizing, Time management, Writing

Only Child on end of summer

Garden front of house

Tomorrow Sept. 23 is the first day of fall. So today is the last day of summer and winter is getting closer and closer. For someone like me who hates winter, that means I need to focus on something positive.

Every year about this time I start preparing for the big winter hibernate. No, I don’t go underground like the bears (although sometimes I wish I did); however, there are other things I do before I wind down somewhat – at least in how often I go outdoors, and softening the negative vision I see when I look out the window in winter – like snow, ice, dead brown trees and dead brown plants. I do not get anything positive from winter scenes and neither like nor participate in winter sports.

So, I focus on the preparation. I make lists of fall cleanup/fix-up repairs inside and outside and gardening cleanup, actual doing down some veggies and fruits (some from my garden and some from the farmers’ markets), and my list of and buying of grocery items – big items like toilet paper I really don’t want to cart home in the snow and other winter weather. Food items – yes, some canned, but many in bottles and dried – again so I have them here in case of bad winter weather. For October and November I add a bit more to my weekly grocery budget so I can gradually get all these supplies home (yes, batteries and the like included). No car, so have to do it gradually anyway.  And who will shovel the four-letter bad word for winter – snow.

My house and garden list has a column called “Who?” as in “Who will do?” I’ve already contacted my main handyman Mike to set up what he will do and when in early October. My friend across the street, Al, has given me a battery-operated tree trimmer and said he would trim the overgrown yews this time so in future I can keep up with it regularly (he said to remind him, so I have to do that). The fellow who cleans out the eaves troughs – mostly from all the black walnut leaves and branches from the trees next door (branches hang over into my patio but they give me summer shade) has already done one cleaning. There will probably be two more before mid-November.

At least the squirrels will disappear – as long as it’s not in my attic or anywhere on my property. So far they have made a mess with their bad “table manners” chewing on the walnuts – ruined the colour of the two patio chairs and dug up potted plants. One of my favourite phrases lately is “roadkill.”

So, on this last day of summer I am posting a couple of photos from my garden.

Then I have some last minute prep for a Memoir writing workshop – Writing Your Memoir from Pictures I’m teaching this evening at the Brentwood Library branch in the west end of Toronto.  It is free, although I do get paid to teach it.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

Roses in bloom late spring

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child's front garden

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child’s front garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gardening, Grocery Shopping, Home and Garden, Lists, Memoir writing, Only child, Shopping, Snow Removal, Weather

Only Child on green thumbs

Front view from the veranda late spring

Front view from the veranda late spring

I come from a long line of gardeners – my late mother, her mother and father, my godmother, my godfather. Many cousins of my generation seem to have inherited this green thumb.

Are green thumbs hereditary? And where the heck does the term “green thumb” originate?

Two stories on the latter one. The most common is that back in the days of King Edward 1 of England, green peas grew in profusion in the King’s Garden. He loved the taste of green peas and had a number of serfs constantly picking them as they produced. That much pea-picking temporarily turned the serfs’ hands green. And legend has it that the King awarded a prize to the serf whose thumb was the greenest.

Now I wonder, if this is the origin of prizes for garden shows – not just flowers, but vegetables.

The other possibility is something that also happens – if algae has formed on the outside of earthenware pots, handling the pots a lot can make your hands turn green.

So, today, a gardener who creates a garden that grows flowers, herbs, vegetables, seemingly with little effort, is referred to as having a green thumb. Whether the thumb actually turns green or not depends – on what the gardener is doing or if he or she is wearing gloves.

And yes, I have a green thumb. With me it is part hereditary and part environment. As a child I used to pick raspberries, currants, strawberries and plant vegetables such as beans, carrots, and yes, peas. I don’t recall if mother ever had green-coloured hands. She did pick horrible green tomato worms off the tomato plants, put the worms in a can, come to the side door and show the worms to me.

Yeck! No wonder I wasn’t too fond back then of collecting the tomatoes. Now, it is a different story. I watch tomato plants more than the racoons in the area, looking for blossoms, then green tomatoes forming, turning yellow and finally red. Right now the Tiny Tim tomato in a pot on my patio (and the pepper plants in pots too) has blossoms. I’m hoping the ones planted right in the garden will soon do so as well. However, they were planted a few weeks later thanks to too much rain the first part of June.

When I look at my garden I see that my late mom and I share what we plant and planted. No currants here but there are raspberries (although mine are wild black and hers were the ever bearing red ones), peas, beans (still just plants), carrots, onions, and rhubarb. I even have a few strawberries forming on a few of the plants my next door neighbour Phil gave me when he was removing them from their garden. I’m hoping the birds, squirrels, racoons, and insects leave me the strawberries. So I watch the strawberries a lot, too. And then there are the rosebushes, which grow prolifically, mainly in the front yard, but one white rose bush grows tall in the backyard.

You gotta believe that heredity has something to do with this.

Take a look for yourself. Today I am posting my Gardening Page live on this blog. I will add/change photos and text from time to time. Just click on “Only Child’s Garden” at the top left of this blog.

Enjoy.

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Hereditary, Only child, Rhubarb, Weeding