Category Archives: Spring

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

Only Child on gardens back then and now

Only Child's new garden tool area on the patio

Only Child’s new garden tool area on the patio

In April, when the first tulip showed its face in the flowerbed under the living room window, Mom had to get out in her garden and do her vegetable, fruit and flower business. In the beginning, Mom and I moved in tandem with the garden and religion like we found parallels in them – both had beauty, filled us with awe, seemed to bring some order and ritual to our lives: plant seeds in spring and be rewarded with beautiful flowers and bountiful vegetables and fruit in summer; go to Mass and communion on Sunday and be rewarded in life with only good. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

So starts that chapter of my memoir. That was in the early to mid-1950s. Compared that to this April, 2014.

Mark Cullen about sums up the havoc of the worst winter in memory in his weekly Toronto Star gardening column. The gardening expert and lecturer takes readers out to his large garden. Except for the crocuses popping up, the sights do not show a happy spring. He writes about winter burn on evergreens such as cedars, yews and boxwoods, snow and salt damage on soil. See http://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2014/04/17/damage_control_in_your_garden_begins_now.html for the full article.

My garden echoes his on a smaller scale size-wise. I don’t have any cedars and my yews have only a few brown branches. But my precious boxwood’s south-facing side is brown while the rest of the boxwood is turning green.

To top it off, Sunday when I finally opened the tool shed I found some water had seeped in- despite having put plastic around the bottom where walls meet the floor. The carpet was damp and the floor underneath wet. Fortunately in the fall I had enough sense to place the push lawn mower on top of something and wrap it in plastic. My experience has taught me not to trust that all will be okay.

This spring is not our usual spring, thanks to God and his weather. And for those scratching their heads at that comment, I am well aware of global warming. I also know that God gave us humans free will. Might it be that he doesn’t like what humans are doing with that free will so he is either letting the weather take its course and/or not looking after us and listening to our prayers? How many besides me prayed to have the ice storm not descend on us in Ontario last December 22 and afterwards?

And you can forget that Mother Nature stuff. No such person. Even if there were, the name “Mother” and destroying the earth just don’t go together…in my mind at least.

So after giving God a good scolding about the tool shed and telling him he owes me extra funds to pay someone to help me remove the heavy stuff (so I can dry it all out) and seal around the bottom, I got to work.

I removed what I could from the tool shed including patio and lawn furniture which (hopefully) can stay out until late fall. I turned the carpet back as far as I could, then dried its underside and the wooden shed floor with my hair dryer. It worked – what I could get at. Now, on warm days when it isn’t raining, I open the tool shed door and spread the carpet back out so some of the top can dry.

Of course someone with more muscle and know-how will have to remove the heavy stuff and do the sealing. Meantime, I tried to bring some beauty and joy to all the deadwood and brown still outside. I arranged the lawn/patio furniture, placed some pansies in pots around, and removed more of the dead branches from plants and shrubs in the backyard so the new could grow in – if it will. Some has and now, almost a month late, the tulips, irises and day lilies, some left over onions, and the rhubarb stems and leaves are surfacing. The small backyard grass area is beginning to turn green. No hyacinths, peonies yet though. Just a few crocus flowers but I’ll take those and try to breathe in some joy. My umbrella is up and on sunny warm days I can sit at my patio table to eat my meals. I also created a new area setup for my rakes, watering cans and other gardening “tools” on the patio. It shows good colour contrast and cohesion and exemplifies my purpose.

No matter what God shovels at us, I’m going to garden and get some joy out of it. It (along with my writing) is what saves any sanity I have left. The robins have finally returned as well as some of the other birds and I am enjoying their singing. Squirrels are back too and as long as they aren’t too rascally, this year I will try to live with them. The racoons are another matter.

Inside on my bedroom window sill I have tomato, peppers, basil, marigolds and other plants started and on their way to readiness to go out in my garden…whenever that will be this year.

May your garden grow well and bring you joy. And if you don’t have a garden, then adopt a park with flowers and spend some time there.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Sharon A. Crawford teaches memoir writing workshops and courses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her next workshop, Getting Your Memoir off the Ground is Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Hugh’s Books and the Studio @ Hughs in east end Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more about writing memoir, this might be the workshop for you. More details on at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

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Filed under 1950s, Garden Destruction, Gardening, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, Spring, Toronto, Weather

Only Child pines and whines for her garden

Only Child is waiting for this - and so is the Muskoka chair

Only Child is waiting for this – and so is the Muskoka chair

Tomorrow is the first day of spring – by the calendar. Most of Canada is still stuck in winter. Parts of British Columbia, particularly on Vancouver Island aren’t. Gardeners there have seen plants growing, been cutting the lawn and visiting garden centres for a month now. Here, in southern Ontario, Toronto specifically, a few plants were seen poking their heads out of the ground on Sunday. Last night (and overnight) more of that nasty winter stuff – snow-ice pellest- rain sloppy mix – what depending on where you live came down. So I was out at 11.30 p.m. last evening shovelling heavy snow it as it started to rain to try to avoid another session of water leaking in the basement.

I’m fed up beyond my eye teeth (and yes, I still have my own – so far) about all this winter crap. I want to get out in my garden and well, garden. When I was growing up, Mom, Dad and I were out there in April turning the soil and planting seeds. Not going to happen here this year at this rate.

Sunday, my friend Carol and I headed down to Canada’s largest garden show – Canada Blooms – for the annual early sniff and see of green, colour and GARDENS. Even with all that walking indoors, it still raised the spirits. And outside, at least it was sunny and dry, with most of the previous snowfalls’ aftermath melted. I bought two more houseplants – a spring cactus and another African violet.

Now we are back to square one. It’s supposed to be cold all this week. Next week more of this nasty mix of rain and snow – which as I previously posted we never used to get until the late 1990s.

At least we have daylight savings time with daytime lasting an hour longer and increasing in the evenings. When we hit late May sunset will be around 9.30 p.m. That’s my kind of season. You can guess what I’ll be doing outside most evenings then – maybe even after sunrise. My friend Tanya next door and I have been known to be out there pulling weeds in our gardens at dusk.

My Muskoka chair stares at me every time I go down the stairs to the basement. Soon, I’ll be able to get it back outside on the front veranda.

Meantime I’m pouring through the seed catalogue, getting my order, in well order. Now that I have received payment from an editing client (he wasn’t slow paying– it was two countries’ postal services – the US and Canada), I can actually buy the seeds. And growing extra coleus to bring outside (along with some other potted plants like the Rex begonias, rosemary, ornamental pepper and citronella) in late spring – if it ever arrives.

Anybody else anxious for the real spring to arrive? Or if you are in the southern hemisphere, do you dread the coming winter?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Canada Blooms, Extreme Weather, Gardening, Home and Garden, Indoor Gardening, Mom and Dad, Muskoka Chair, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Spring, Weeding, Winter Weather

Only Child wants to garden outside now

Only Child's memories of garden past summer of 2010

It’s cold and gray outside and the date is APRIL 19, not NOVEMBER 19. Some places, such as Calgary, Alberta, have snow. What happened to spring? I want to garden outside and am weary of contenting myself with almost daily tours to see if the tulip and hyacinth plants have grown another fraction of an inch and if there are  any bulbs (a few, not open). The chives started poking above the ground late last week and I grab hunks of it to add to baked potatoes and  other culinary creations. Then I do a tour of the inside-the-house plants – the coleus and others that I hope to place outside sometime this spring. It might have been the best year for my indoor plants but the jungle inside isn’t good enough for now.

I am my late mother’s daughter and it’s in  my genes, in my nature to garden. When I was growing up we were out in the garden planting seeds now. As I write in my memoir:

In April, when the first tulip showed its face in the flowerbed under the living room window, Mom had to get out in her garden and do her vegetable, fruit and flower business….

So on this April day in 1952, “Princess Sharon,” age three and a half, with arms crossed, stands between the hedges overseeing the family garden. Dad planted those hedges to separate garden and lawn, and I, his princess, am raring to go gardening. At my shoes, rhubarb sprawls to the left and right, like flat green feet extending from the bottom of the hedge. I’m wearing a cotton dress with large flowers scattered throughout the material and Oxford-like white shoes and socks. The garden itself appears bare and white like sand on a beach except for the couple bent over their shovels, turning the soil from back fence to hedge. I cart out my small shovel and dig in, but I make only small dents compared to Mom and Dad’s efforts. Mostly I hover, watch, and listen.

(Excerpt from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

In this April of 2011 I am certainly doing a lot of hovering, watching and listening. The latter for the birds – few and far between but I did see the first robin in late March. I also have the excavation by the side of the house (to fix the basement leak) to “hover, watch, and listen” over. But that work is almost done. And maybe I should be thankful the weather has been awful (except for a couple of days of warm grace) – otherwise I might have been ranting about not being able to get at all my gardening because of the mess of earth and tools all over my patio and some  spreading out onto the back lawn.

We were definitely spoiled last summer – the most perfect summer with weather beginning hot in April and lasting into the fall. Thanks to El Nino. What do we have this year? No Nino? Last summer I knew it wouldn’t last/couldn’t repeat itself and to savour it day by day.

Maybe that’s the key. Find something special about each day and enjoy and savour it – one day at a time. After all I did start my tomato, pepper, nasturtium, marigold and peony poppy seeds indoors over the weekend. They and other plants will eventually get outside. And the tulips, hyacinths, pansies and chives are growing (slowly) outside. Patience is a virtue – one I never cultivated.
Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Only child, Only child memoir, Spring, Tulips