An Open Window

An open window in the summer time is a wonderful thing. When the windows are open it means the day is kind, not too hot, not too humid, not too wet, not too windy. Today is just such a day. Looking at the weather forecast, there will be few such days in the weeks ahead.

I’ve been lazy so far today. With the windows open I find myself listening to the world on the outer side. Vehicles driving by, birds singing, and at this point in the evolution of our neighbourhood, the sound of hammers, and heavy equipment, and men shouting… I can tell you that Jason gets a lot of airtime, whoever he is.

Today the construction workers are working on the roof of the building that is visible from our living room windows. It is a one story rental unit. All of it’s openings face into the complex, except one sliding glass door, that faces our street, and therefore our house, to a certain degree. I feel sorry for the people with property at the end of the our street, the construction replaces a wetland that was right beside their house, and now they have blank wall, and the sliding glass door of a rental unit overlooking their property, up close and personal. I feel grateful that our immediate neighbours remain as they have been.

Yesterday Attila brought in another big bowl of harvested basil from our garden. More pesto! I made enough pesto for ten more tortellini and pesto meals. The pesto was spooned from the food processor, into a muffin tin, then placed in the freezer. This morning I took the frozen pesto out of the freezer, wrapped each Pesto “Muffin” separately, placed them all in a ziplock bag, and placed them back in the freezer.

Tortellini and Pesto is our second favourite “junk food” meal, with Homemade Pizza coming in first. It is far too hot right now to make a pizza, so it is great to be able to prepare the Tortellini and Pesto for a quick evening meal, when we feel like eating extravagantly. It is so simple to boil water for Tortellini on the hot plate on the back porch, so that no indoor cooking is needed. Our summer meals always include a green salad.

Last night, after I had finished making the Pesto, Attila took over the kitchen and prepared a large batch of Salsa, using commercially canned no-sodium tomatoes, garden garlic, garden jalapeno peppers, garden cilantro, and I don’t really know what else, I was shooed out of the kitchen while the magic took place. Right now the Salsa is in the refrigerator getting tastier by the minute; some of it will be consumed over the next few days, and some of it will end up in the freezer.

So over the last two days the garden has yielded:

2 English Cucumbers
4 Zucchini
1 dozen Strawberries
4 cups Basil Leaves
1 cup of Green String Beans
1 cup Spinach Greens
1/4 cup Chamomile Flowers (being dried for tea)
6 Nasturtium blooms for salad and stir fry
4 heads of garlic
1 cup Cilantro, chopped
5 Jalapeno Peppers

We don’t get all of our vegetables from our own garden, but from late June until into September, most of the vegetables we eat are grown right here at home. It is very satisfying. A huge advantage for us, is that the food we grow on our property is organic, and we only grow the things we like to eat. Well, that is not entirely true, we cultivate beautiful flowers too. Some are just for the eyes and the bees, the Columbine, Lungwort, Heliopsis, Dianthus, Echinacea, Wild Geranium, Daylilies, Iris, Borage, Cosmos, and Gladiolas are all grown for their beauty and the pollinators. But the Nasturtiums and Scarlet Runner beans are not just beautiful, and loved by pollinators and humming birds, they are also a source of human food, as the Nasturtium blooms are very tasty in a salad, and the Scarlet Runner beans are delicious steamed.

Since I finished reading Kristin Lavransdatter, my little world has felt incomplete without a book by my chair. So off I went to a used book store and bought three volumes. Two will sit by my easy chair, The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji (A Trade Paperback Original, sounds ominous but we shall see), and Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. The third book will reside in the bathroom, to be picked up during unhurried visits, it is The Isles: A History, by Norman Davies, light history reading, very easy to pick up and put down again.

Now that I am out and about more often, I continue to bump into people and situations I consider rather interesting, in their oddness. At the book store it was the strange woman who entered the store while I was browsing the shelves. She began speaking loudly to the proprietor, and into her cell phone simultaneously. She suddenly announced into her cell phone, mid-sentence, in her conversation with the bookseller, that “I have to go and pick up a little dog”. Then, without missing a breath, she finished the sentence she had started with the bookseller. I don’t think cell phones have improved the art of communication in general.

Worldly

Weather

24°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 25 July 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 24.4°C
Dew point: 18.8°C
Humidity: 70%
Wind: S 29 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“… one can easily quake at the thought of all the historical giants who have traveled the same road [writing a history book]. They and their books fill the shelves at every turn – from Hume to Trevelyan.
Fortunately, I was never sufficiently aware of such considerations to be bothered by them.”

Norman Davies, Introduction to The Isles: A History, pg xxi

And Relief!

Attila completed the fix for the leaking garage floor. Over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he dug a 3 1/2 foot deep, five foot long, two foot wide trench in hard-as-rock clay, cleaned and caulked the concrete wall and foundation, filled in openings in the concrete foundation with spray foam, trimmed the foam, applied plastic waterproof sheeting to the exposed wall and foundation, back-filled with gravel and stones, then with earth. When he was all done, he graded the soil away from the foundation, and installed a large patio stone an an easy step out into the yard. He was very relieved to have the whole job completed in three days!

Last evening, as Attila and I sat on the porch, the weekend heat wave came to an end. Within minutes the humidity dropped, as did the temperature. It remained warm on the porch, as the the decking, the chairs, etc. were still super-heated after sitting in full sun when the temperature was 31C. Breathing became so much easier.

The hot weather killed most of the third planting spinach seedlings, there are seedlings left, out of dozens. I think that is all that perished in the heat wave. The second planting of spinach is doing well, but is bolting. But we are dry, dry, dry! Attila waters the garden every single day, and this is barely keeping the plants going. But they survive, and we wait for replenishing rain!

Today we harvested:

Spinach
Chamomile Blossoms
Edible Pod Peas
Fresh Basil
Zucchini

The first Zucchini from our garden! This is so exciting! Guess what I am sauteing for my mid-day meal tomorrow!

Some of the garden seeds and bulbs we purchased this year came from The Dollar Store. All of the seeds and bulbs we purchased there have been a great success. Right now I am sitting in my easy chair enjoying the beautiful Gladiolas, cut from the garden. Seven bulbs were purchased from The Dollar Store, and six of them grew tall and healthy, no sign of the seventh. And now they are blooming joy right in front of me.

Gladiola from our garden.

This morning when I went out into the garden to pick some spinach for my mid-day meal, I glanced into the net in the Mosquito Magnet. It was crawling with mosquitoes! Attila had attracted them to the area where the Mosquito Magnet sits, as that is where he was digging his trench. He worked into the night, both Friday and Saturday night, and so had the area lit. The combination of a human body working hard, the heat, and the light, attracted a great many mosquitoes, and it seems we have prevented the captured insects from procreating! Unfortunately their relatives are still busy populating our little corner of the world.

Our Mosquito Magnet runs on propane. At one time I was an administrator for a propane company, and could buy the unit at cost, so I did. It was the one and only year that Attila and I both had living wage jobs, so although it was still expensive, we splurged. It was while we were living in the bush, at the country house, where the mosquitoes were incredibly numerous and aggressive. Naively, we thought the Mosquito Magnet would allow us a small area to enjoy the outdoors without being plagued by mosquitoes. Well, I am here to tell you, that the Mosquito Magnet didn’t stand a chance. The unit worked the way it was supposed to, and within a day, sometimes two, the catchment net would be packed full of mosquitoes. We were breeding them, I think, in the wetland on our property. Anyway, we put the Mosquito Magnet away because it could not keep up with the insect population at the country house.
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But here we are now, living at Mist Cottage, and although the mosquitoes here are worse than they have ever been since we bought the place, the population is sparse compared to the country house. So a week or so ago, the Mosquito Magnet came out of retirement, and was pressed into service again. It makes a difference here! But every day a new generation of mosquitoes rises up from the grass, I swear they breed on the grass, to torments us. I hate to think how numerous the mosquitoes would be this summer, if it were not for the Mosquito Magnet.

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Monday 22 July 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 21.5°C
Dew point: 15.5°C
Humidity: 68%
Wind: E 16 km/h
Humidex: 26
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“When you are kind to someone in trouble, you hope they’ll remember and be kind to someone else. And it’ll become like a wildfire.”
Whoopi Goldberg

The thing about this wish for the world, is that is does not involve getting any recognition or thanks for your kindness. The reward is in the kindness being passed along, and if the kindness is passed along, you will never know. I think this is the essence of genuine kindness, recognition is contraindicated.

Heat! Humidity!

Attila took a day off work on Friday. The heat wave arrived on the day before, Thursday. We had been planning a trip to Toronto on Friday, to get supplies that are not available in this area, but decided against it. Our vehicles are far from new, and the thought of being stranded, even for a short time, at the side of a highway, in this heat, is unthinkable. With temperatures and humidity as high as it has been since yesterday, I have simply stopped moving about. We have AC, set to a high temperature, and it keeps the humidity under control, and the temperature steady, so if I remain inactive, I do not feel physically stressed. When I go out onto the back porch, it is like walking into a sauna, I can sit for a while and chat with Attila, tend to my cooking projects, but after about fifteen minutes I begin to feel physical distress, so into the house I go.

Attila, on the other hand, decided that since he had three consecutive days off, he would tackle digging up the foundation of the garage, to fix a floor leak. He spent most of yesterday digging, and is out there right now, digging. The humidex is 44C (111 F) and he is in a trench digging. What Attila knows is how pace himself, he takes many, many breaks, and drinks cold drinks at every break he takes.

The digging is the hard part, he needs a pick axe to loosen the dry hard soil enough to shovel it out. I don’t know how he works in this weather, I really don’t, but he does it. Fixing this leak is the only home renovation project officially on our list for this summer season, so he is looking forward to getting it done.

We found a $10 piece of plastic foundation wrap at the ReStore, so the project is very economical, dollar wise. It is extremely expensive labour wise though.

I have eaten all of the Spinach and all of the Beets from my raised bed garden! This morning I purchased some Kale, I thought I’d like to see how it is in my mid-day stir fry. NO! A very big NO! It is like eating shoe leather, even cooked, and the taste holds no appeal for my palate. It was on sale, thank goodness. I had thought I would buy Swiss Chard, but it was in a sorry state and costly, and the kale was hale and hearty, and inexpensive, so why not I thought.

Part of it is now in the steam juicer, which is on the hot plate, on the table, on the back porch, with other vegetable scraps. It will add nutrients to a vegetable broth, which I will freeze for soups. The rest of it is on cookie sheets, sitting out in the sun on the back porch, it will be dehydrated, turned into a powder with a mortar and pestle, and added to soups and casseroles… well, maybe. I am going to try adding it to a dish and see if it ruins the dish, and if it does, into the compost bin it will go.

I priced the grocery store cost of an equivalent quantity of organic spinach and beets, and it is the equivalent cost of all of the seeds for our garden. So we have harvested enough produce so far to pay for the seeds we bought, all of them, not just the spinach and beet seeds. But this was a relatively “expensive” year for gardening. We bought chicken wire, one roll, and two fence posts. We bought many bags of peat moss, and sheep manure. We bought some bedding plants, about $20 worth. So I’ll be keeping track of what we harvest from the garden, and how much it would have cost to purchase the same organic products at the store.

The harvest from our garden to date:

Dandelion blossoms for juice, for jelly.
Strawberries, eaten one by one, day by day as they have ripened, about one quart so far, more to come.
– One dozen or more large Spinach plants.
– One dozen or more Beets with greens.
Basil leaves, in every stir fry, and just yesterday enough for Pesto, three meals worth, and more to come.
Edible Pod Peas, about two quarts, in stir-fries and fresh green salads, there are nine more peas growing on the plants, and when they mature those plants are done, then I must plant more.
Rhubarb, about 20 cups chopped, two cups frozen, the rest made into Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling, which was canned.
Cilantro, one large bunch, Attila is using for his split pea soup, and about 1/2 cup chopped went into the freezer. The plant is thriving and there will be a lot more Cilantro coming.
Radishes, Attila has been planting radishes at intervals since early June, so he has eaten quarts of them, uncounted.
Garlic, 5 heads of garlic and a dozen Garlic Scapes.

Who knows what other bounty the garden will give us.

The Pesto I made yesterday, two for the freezer, one for tonight’s dinner, with Cheese Tortellini, store bought, I haven’t yet tried my hand at making Tortellini. This recipe called for pine nuts, but I didn’t have any, so I used walnuts instead, I think that is why it is so dark in colour. The basil plants are still quite large, despite this harvesting, so there will be more pesto for the freezer for us!

Worldly

Weather

HEAT WARNING
31°C
Date: 3:00 PM EDT Saturday 20 July 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy, Lightening
Pressure: 100.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 30.9°C
Dew point: 25.8°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: SW 24 gust 39 km/h
Humidex: 44
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.”
]Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
121 AD – 180 AD

Today the word wilt stands out for me, inappropriately I am sure.

Stranger in a Parking Lot

I was dropping stuff off earlier in the week, at an office building. As I emerged from the front doors of the building, I saw a woman standing directly in front of the door area, out in the parking lot, she was texting. She struck me as strange at the time. She was very well dressed, quite pretty, walking back and forth with her cell phone, long jet-black hair, thicker than I’d ever seen on a human being, makeup, she looked a bit out of place and odd, pacing in the parking lot.

I proceeded to my nearby car, unlocked the door, and as I opened the door and was about to get into the car, she came around the back of the vehicle that was parked between my passenger side and the door to the building, and in an agitated way said to me, “did you see that!”

“No”, I said.

“That guy almost hit me.” she said.

I thought, what guy, I didn’t see any moving vehicles?

“He didn’t even care,” she said, “and he said to me, “what’s wrong with the sidewalk.”

I thought, I heard no voices, and you were less than twenty feet away from me.

Then she proceeded to express her disapproval of people using cell phones while driving, and described an accident she had a year ago. When I expressed the opinion that you can’t be too careful, she excitedly explained that the accident was the the other driver’s fault, there was nothing she could do, and that she was still receiving physical therapy at the hospital. I apologized for “implying that she hadn’t done the right thing” during her accident, although that had not been the meaning of my words. I offered the concept that it might be best if cell phones ceased to work while car motors were running. Then she thanked me for being so affirming, told me that I was standing next to her car, and that she had to get going, she was parked next to me, and where I was standing while she talked at me was in front of her driver’s door. I told her I hoped her day got better. As I got into my car, she very, very quickly got into her car and sped away.

The whole experience was bizarre. I don’t know what reality she is living in, but I wish her luck with it, it sounds horrid.

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 10:32 AM EDT Wednesday 17 July 2019
Condition: Mist
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 22.2°C
Dew point: 22.2°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: WSW 4 km/h
Humidex: 32
Visibility: 3 km

Quote

“The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.”
Hubert H. Humphrey
1911 – 1978

Kristin Lavransdatter

Books. I have conducted a life long love affair with books. My Mom and Granny read to us when we were little. When I was very young, I associated the act, of transforming black marks on a page into a story, with magic. Books possessed a mysterious alchemy. It was a revelation and a wonder, when I learned it was a mere and predictable configuration of lines and spaces that unlocked the secrets of the written word. Magic suddenly became an easily understood formula. The mystery of books dissolved. But to my surprise the magic continued. There are worlds in books.

Having taught myself to read before I entered the education system, with encouragement and a few basic tips from my Granny, I’ve dedicated a lot of waking hours to the pursuit of reading. My youth was spent reading literature. The first book I ever took out of the school library was Pilgrim’s Progress, and to be honest I wasn’t impressed with the story. Then I discovered The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, and a new and deeper perspective on religious theory opened up to me. Later, during my teen years, when I toiled at manual labour in my summer job picking fruit on a farm, I would read a book at night, and spend the next day, high on my ladder, or on me knees in a field, thinking about what I had read, turning it all over in my mind, looking at it from this perspective and that. My days, although filled with strenuous repetitive work, flew by, and I learned the freedom and joy of manual labour, the mind can fly.

When I entered post secondary education reading took on a completely different cloak. Articles and books were assigned, there was little to no time to explore ideas freely, knowledge was tightly conscribed to a narrow path. I learned to embrace that too, and to love the discipline of it. As time progressed, and I continued with my degrees, concepts and theories deepened in meaning, connections and pathways of thought revealed themselves.

When I left the academy, I was suddenly free to choose my own reading material. Oh the joy in that! I read primarily works written by women, for in the academy the vast majority of authors chosen for me were male. Then, after years of reading only female authors, I began to choose books based on a wide variety of elements.

Which brings me to the book I have most recently read, Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. I bought this book in the early autumn of 2017, while I was still in mourning after the death of my brother in 2016, intending to read all 1124 pages over the course of the winter. Fate had other plans for me though. It was shortly after I began reading the book, and settling into a peaceful daily routine as the colder weather set in, that Attila announced he was leaving me. After that there was no peace in my life, for a very long time, and although I read occasionally, I did not read often. Attila did not leave, and slowly through 2018 life settled, and a new and fragile peace unfolded. Through 2019, I increasingly turned to my books.

On Saturday last, I turned the page to the very last, in the book Kristin Lavransdatter. I enjoyed the book, the medieval setting in Norway was authentically portrayed, as much as it could be for a book written in the 20th century. I occasionally found it tedious, as it dealt with the religious beliefs, and political climate, the superstructure, of the time. However, the author did not become lost in a fervour of religious or political details, but returned to the small scale human experience when the larger scale contexts of the time had been fleshed out.

I felt a little lost, when I closed the volume for the last time. This book sat by my side through some of the saddest moments in my life. And now, it is time to say thank you Sigrid Undset, thank you for the journey, the time we shared in the magic of story in a book. This book will always be a portal into my time of sadness, and the lights in my life that led me onward and outward.

Worldly

Weather

19°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Monday 15 July 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 19.0°C
Dew point: 15.8°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: NW 6 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.”
William Hazlitt
1778 – 1830