Tag Archives: Gardening

Only child’s take on dining out(side)

Only Child with Mom in the backyard

In the stifling hot days of summer, my mother would haul out the whole paraphernalia for our family of three to eat outside in the summer. This was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when air-conditioned homes were not the norm. But at suppertime, our backyard had shade.

So, with some help from Dad and me, and several trips – from the kitchen, down the side stairs, out into the driveway to the backyard went a small card table, three chairs, table cloth, serviettes, cutlery, plates, and all the dishes of food – depending on what we were eating. And yes, it was often hot food. But the entrance to the backyard was inviting – an archway of red roses.

Only Child’s Dad under the backyard entrance

It was enjoyable eating outside in the breeze. But when even the temperature in the shade rose too high, mom used her backup plan – eating in the basement. Before the basement renovation, we would sit in our own private dining room with black floors, huge cement pillars, a furnace turned off for the summer, the old coal bin (which remained after the switch to oil heat) and mother’s pride and joy – her root cellar where all her canned jams, pickles, green tomatoes and the like were stored.

You could say it was all a labour of love combined with necessity – either roast or eat the roast, be cool or sweat.

But Mom had a dirty little secret, one which was shared among some of the women on her side of the family.

Except for cooking, canning and sewing, my mother hated housework.

I don’t recall her even doing a weekly housecleaning, except for laundry and it got hung out (even sometimes in winter) until she purchased a clothes dryer. But vacuuming and dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc.? Only if company was coming.

Then it was the big hustle to make everything neat and clean. Put away in closets and drawers were all her sewing paraphernalia – including the portable machine. You see, the home for all of that was the dining room table. And we needed that for the dinners for company. Company was mostly family and some friends. Mom did love to cook and bake and our family loved to eat.

But cleaning the house. Not in our genes.

And I think this dislike, even hatred for doing housework, is in the genes. I can’t find any scientific proof, so I will use anecdotes. My mother’s youngest sister , my godmother, was the same – loved to cook and bake, garden, and can, but clean? However, my godmother was a farmer’s wife, so there was lots else to do that your average housewife of the 50s and 60s didn’t do. But that doesn’t explain one of my Detroit Michigan cousins – who loved to sew and cook but hated to clean.

Are you getting the picture?

As for me – well I love to cook and garden, but freeze and dry garden vegetables and fruit (sometimes from the Farmer’s Market, not just my garden). I used to like to sew but lost interest over the years – I blame that on other interests taking over, lack of sufficient time, but also bad eyesight. When I am forced to mend an item of clothing, I can take more time threading the needle because I can’t see the hole, than actually mending. And this from a woman who made all her maternity clothes and used to quilt by hand.

As for the weekly housecleaning – some of it gets done – the laundry, changing bed-sheets, clean kitchen counters and sinks, and vacuum or mop. Dusting? Maybe every six weeks – to borrow a friend’s phrase “too much work.”

But nothing beats going outside on the veranda or in my backyard patio to eat my meals. I have it easier than Mom. Sure, for the backyard, I have to use a side door like Mom. But there is a patio table and umbrella already out there, so it is just bring out the food, sit down and eat. And breathe in, feast my eyes and nose on the flowers and veggies in my garden.

Top of my patio table up close

 

And try to keep the wasps away. I’m allergic to them. But it’s my patio and my garden.  So when it’s not raining, I’ll sit, eat and enjoy.

Looking from the patio at fresh lettuce, rhubarb and oregano

 

So, do you regularly clean your house, condo or apartment?

Or do you have better things to do? And if so, what are they?

I’d like some comments about this.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Garden, Gardening, Heat summer, Hereditary, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Only child

Only Child on gardens for sanctuary

The past few days I have been spending time in gardens. Not just mine but others and one big public one. I really needed to do so because of all the busyness in my life. Sometimes I feel like a top whirling around non-stop – until I enter a garden for sanctuary and healing.

Gardens and gardening to heal are not new. Way back in the times of the Egyptian, court physicians, instead of prescribing drugs, prescribed garden walks for royalty who had mental problems. What a novel idea. Maybe more physicians today should do that.

I am blessed that I belong to the East York Garden Club. While I don’t make it to all their meeting and events I did go to their annual pot luck dinner in a member’s garden – where else – last Thursday evening. I brought a fruit salad that I put together in a record 10 minutes – but most of it got eaten, so… In fact at first it looked like we would be feasting on mainly desserts until more members arrived with main dishes.

I talked gardening with many other gardeners, met a few new gardeners and caught up on news (not just gardening) with an old friend from school days – we had re-connected four years ago at one of the schools we went to.

And I looked at the garden and enjoyed the peace, the shade and just being there.

Saturday I roared over to one of the Pop-up Gardens of an East York Garden Club member a few blocks away. She is also a Master Gardener and very knowledgeable. She is getting shrubs etc. in her garden pruned and this was the before looksee. We talked about her pruning and the fact that both of us have special day lillies from a now deceased member of the garden club.

Sunday it was off to the Toronto Botanical Gardens and Edwards Gardens – both are together and it is hard to find the dividing line as the gardens just blend into together. I checked out the gift shop first as it closes before the gardens and then began walking through the gardens, stopping occasionally to rest on one of the benches and of course, look at and smell the flowers. And wouldn’t you know it – I ran into another member of the East York Garden Club,  a lady I have known for a few years who lives a block away from me.

Then there is my garden – I’m out there  on the back patio or front veranda to eat meals and absorb the garden. I walk through it to see how everything is doing. Lots of lettuce which I pick daily to eat. The black raspberries are finished for this year but the beans are starting up and the tomato plants have blossoms – some have small green tomatoes forming. I pay attention to what needs watering – in the pots or in the ground.

And yes, I also attack the weeds. That is my direct therapy to deal with all the crap shoved my way by individuals, companies and governments. I also sometimes name the weeds as I pull them and throw them in the yard waste bins for city pickup to carry off to the …well not the dump for yard waste.

So when the going gets tough, go to a garden. Pull weeds, absorb, return to normal.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Garden Clubs, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Gardens, Public Gardens, Uncategorized

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 plans to hibernate this winter

shovelling-colorThis winter I plan to do like a bear – hibernate. Not entirely, but I plan to limit my outside time. I hate winter weather – cold, snow, ice storms, blizzards, heavy winds, etc. – with a passion.. Winter sports don’t interest me either. About the only things I like about winter are Christmas and winter fashions.

And it looks like I have picked a winter to do just that. Winter started in Canada over the past weekend in all but eastern and western Canada. Snow, extreme winds and extreme cold – all the ingredients that make me want to hide away inside. That is about three weeks earlier than usual – except maybe for the odd few days of a cold-snow spell the first week of December. It is only November 22 for whomever’s sake.

And The Weather Network’s winter forecast broadcast yesterday (and parts of it online at their website) forecast a more traditional winter for the Canadian Prairies and Ontario and Quebec. That means more Colorado lows (like the one we got over the weekend in Ontario, and maybe worse), lake effect snowstorms, colder temperatures (although not as cold as the winter of 2013-2014). But still too cold for my liking. The screwball part of the forecast (and not faulting the forecasters here, but what they found) is where the warmest parts of Canada will be – the northern territories. All upside down. Climate change? Maybe in part for the northern Canadian areas. But I also factor in what the lady on the bus in May 2015 said – “God controls the weather.” I leave all that for you to ponder.

As for me, once I’ve finished all the extra winter grocery stock-up buying, I am going to try to limit my grocery shopping outings. Not easy when you don’t have a car and can’t afford cabs. After the end of November I’m also limiting social, business and business social outings to two a week – one evening during the week and one day on the weekend. I will try to get out once a day (weather permitting – I don’t want to skate on sidewalks or roads) for a short walk in the neighbourhood. However, I suspect that a lot of my so-called outings will be shovelling the damn snow and putting down salt. (Note to self: ask my son to bring more bags of salt when he and his girlfriend come here for Christmas dinner).

I am also cutting back on what I do. Something I have already started. By weather default, outdoor gardening won’t be on  the agenda. That’s the one I don’t like to eliminate. But I can peruse gardening websites and garden books and catalogues for next spring and summer and experiment on what I try to grow in pots inside (and I don’t mean Mary Jane). Also off the agenda are any reunion lunches, etc. with former classmates, community newspaper colleagues and the like. As I seem to be the one who ends up organizing these (and my attempt at one early this past summer didn’t pan out), that’s out. There will also be a few other things off my list or in the case of email time, sitting with a timer for business email and leaving personal email (unless family emergency or urgency time-wise) until after my business hours.

So, what’s left  not mentioned? Well, writing, writing, writing, client work, and getting teaching and book promo gigs for next spring and afterwards in 2017. Already I have April 2017 booked up and another possibility for either April or June to be sorted out and finalized. Also want to do more reading –  not just books – I do manage to read many books, although my Goodreads account doesn’t indicate this. Hey, that takes time to manouevre through Goodreads to do so – but also magazines and for the weekend newspaper (Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star) finish reading all the sections I do read. I also want to watch TV, try some more recipes (I love to cook and eat too), and do some simple and cheap home decorating like re-arranging, adding a few small accessories.

With some things cut back or out the window (so to speak), I hope to do three things: get back to tracing my ancestry on my late father’s side and continue sorting out shelves, cupboards and drawers in various rooms in the house. I have been doing some of that latter sporadically lately. But I really need to tackle that drawer in my office that is overflowing with old outdated business cards collected over the years. The third thing to do is finish the preparations for my funeral and the like. And just the details like type of memorial (nothing even remotely religious). After all I am not getting any younger and you have to be prepared for these things. Preparing a will and powers of attorney (done here) are not enough these days.

I also intend to get together for a few dinner or lunch or brunch outings with my son and his girlfriend and close friends. Friends include some of my old school buddies. But as part of my twice a week social outings. And no big reunions. No big conventions or shows until the big garden one in mid-March – Canada Blooms.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately the best-made plans get screwed up by outside sources – like weather.

What was it the late John Lennon once said? Something about life being what happens when you are making plans? Actually it comes from a song he wrote about his older son,  Julian – Beautiful Boy.

Cheers

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Only child, Organizing and Deleting, Reading, Snow, Time management, Weather, Winter Weather, Writing

Only Child looks at fall

Soon to go inside for winter

Soon to go inside for winter

Continuing along the line of last week’s post on back to business in September, September also means a return to fall and then we know what happens after that.

The Weather Network presented their fall forecast last evening. I’m not going into that right now. You can view it here. It is what the word “fall” conjures up that is running around in my mind.

Back in the grey ages (1950s and early 1960), fall meant my dad had to change the screen windows for storm windows. Yes, that meant climbing up on a ladder and physically removing all the screens and putting up the storms – about a dozen windows. At least we don’t have to do that these days, but fall brings up more chores.

Clearing out the garden isn’t a chore, but everything else is. Cleaning the eavestroughs or getting someone to do so – in my case I hire someone but he has to come back several times to do more cleaning thanks to the black walnut trees which shed somewhat gradually (although you wouldn’t believe when you look at the ground) over six or more weeks. A few leaves have fallen down so far but most of the leaves on the trees (there are two walnut trees in my next-door neighbour’s yard that hang over – not complaining about that as they give me patio shade in the summer) are still green. Not holding my breath here.

Patio and verandah furniture will have to be brought in and the air-conditioner covered. There will still be a few more lawn mowing sessions. I finally got my eavestrough problem fixed – I hope, but that saga is for another blog post

For me, fall brings mixed blessings and curses. The latter is tied in a lot to what comes next – winter. And this one won’t be as mild in southern Ontario as the last winter according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

But the significant sign of fall for me is that my old patio umbrella finally stopped working. I had closed it for the past Saturday’s rain and wind storm. Part of the top blew off (thank you God, she said sarcastically). Still trying to decide if I should go through the time-consuming rigamarole of getting a new one now or leave it to next spring. There might be end of season sales on patio umbrellas but I could still run into the same problem as last spring when I was looking for a new one – there weren’t many suitable available and I did check out online and in person, sometimes with a friend. That’s another thing – besides the check online and in flyers for sales and availability of umbrellas, I have to get someone to either drive me to get it or pick it up and repay them. Not their fault, of course, but when you don’t have a car partly because you can’t afford a car and all its expenses….

Methinks I’ll just dump it at the end of the driveway later in the fall. If someone who can fix it wants it, good luck, they can have it. Otherwise the City of Toronto truck that picks up large items such as furniture can do so.

Now on to something more pleasant – fresh produce from the garden.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Fall, Garden, God, Home and Garden, Only child, Weather

Only Child becomes frenzied gardener

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

I love gardening. To me it is life and without it a lot would die inside me.

So why the past week have I turned into the frenzied gardener? Setting aside time slots on weekends, mornings before work, evenings and rushing outside to frantically dig, weed, trim and plant?

It’s the weather folks. And having too much else to do. And dealing with ongoing health issues. The latter and all the extra stuff I have to do for them is something I resent. If nothing else, with all the thing going wrong with my health in the last year, I learned that you can spend too much time dealing with health stuff – finding out what the heck is wrong – including making medical appointments and dealing with medical professionals’ bad judgements and the fallout from that, and of course what I have to do for my health.

First of all, I am not a big fan of prescription drugs, but I am thankful for the double content prescription eye drops my ophthalmologist prescribed. Not only have the drops stopped the eye pressure from decreasing, but the actual pressure has decreased. The latter is not something that is supposed to happen.

No, it’s dealing with all the nonsense related to my digestive disorder – this one has no cure and I’ve been living with it for years and since then it has taken on tentacles, so to speak. I’m not even going to go into my daily regimen for that. Suffice to say, to help ease the pain, help ease the situation, I take a lot of natural supplements and the like. And yes they help. But when I go to make what used to be a simple breakfast, it turns into a major production.

So, my garden is my lifeline and if I’m out there pulling weeds and digging up a storm, please excuse me. It does make me feel better and even drives the digestive disorder pains away. I get great joy looking at my garden and once the tomatoes are in the garden (yes, I’m over a week late with them thanks to the weather – too dry and fluctuates between too cool and too hot – more the former), I plan to sit out more in the garden and just read and enjoy.

And  yes, I’m taking yet another look at what (besides the aforementioned health stuff) is stealing my time and some of it is either going on the back burner or going out the window. I also have a lot of client work (for which I’m grateful) now and that is a priority. So is family, reading and walking. Too much social is not – I’m cutting back or at least spreading it out and that includes replying to email. Don’t get me wrong. I love email – it and the Internet were my first forays online back in the mid-1990s and except for blogging (which I love doing) I much prefer email and  searching on the Internet to trying to keep up with social media. And I’m cutting back on one thing with social I seem to get roped into – arranging work and school reunions of small groups of old friends. I still want to get together with them, just not do all the organizing.

It seems no one else wants to or has the time to organizes these lunches or dinner get-togethers either.

So, it will be one-on-one (or two or three) with friends getting together. That way I’ll see some of them, at least.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Roses in bloom late spring

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family and Friends, Gardening and depression, Gardening health benefits, Healing through gardening, Health, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Prioritizing, Time management

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