Monday, May 31, 2010


This is our lovely sunset about 20 to 10 this evening. I darkened the foreground to catch the sun properly. It should show more orange, but the camera never sees what the eye sees, does it?

One thing I become aware of through living in the country with a pretty clear view of horizon almost 360º is how far north the sun travels in the summer, and how far south in the winter. This is such a nice time of year with all this extended daylight. When we go to bed the sky is still light. I could go out and pull weeds in the garden. When we get up in the morning (5:20 a.m. today) it's light enough to do the same. Only too soon does the daylight reach its zenith and begin to decline.

The year is cyclical. Events and processes reoccur. If only life were like that! Saturday will be our 45th anniversary. Would I like to go back and do it all over again? You bet!

After the sunset, beauty lingers.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Sale Day

This rainbow in the west greeted me two days ago at 5 in the morning. Though the colours in the bow don't show clearly here, it was beautiful to the eye. I actually darkened the scene somewhat to highlight the rainbow.

The view this morning was a different story-------------
The rain of yesterday turned into snow overnight. But this was only the beginning. The snow has continued to fall all day so far, with periods of heavy, fat flakes falling fast.

Here's a comparison between the scene about 9 a.m. and later on about 1 p.m.

We were very concerned about possible damage to trees, as the heavy snow clings to the leaves and makes the trees bow down under the weight. It's not unusual to have a spring snow storm in Alberta, and it's also not unusual for the storm to do lots of damage to trees. By now, 2 p.m., most of the trees have shed their burdens and are returning to an upright stance. But the snow is still falling thickly, so we'll have to wait to see how this all turns out.

A year ago this particular Saturday we had the highest volume of sales since we started the garden centre. Needless to say, we now anticipate the earliest "no sale" day we've ever had, contrasting to the usual mid-July date for a "no sale" day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Quilt Show

Yesterday afternoon Shirley C and I were busy setting up a quilt show in the town library. The quilting group that meets in the rural church, led by Shirley, is celebrating 15 years of getting together to sew. I'm a member of that group, and Shirley and I are both on the board of Arts Alive, a society dedicated to promoting local artists and artisans. So we were doing double duty, as representatives of "Shirl's Girls" and board members of the society hosting these "Art on Display" events.

We were unfortunate in two ways: the article announcing the open house to begin this exhibit was not published in the local paper until the day of the exhibit, and many rural people did not receive the paper until today, Friday. So I had made a few posters to put up around town this week in hope of spreading the word. We also told as many people as we could contact personally about the open house last night.

And secondly, when we went to put up the display, Shirley and I found that we were the only ones who had brought quilts in for the display. She was a bit depressed about that, but I cheered her up by saying that between the two of us, we had enough nice quilts and quilted things to make it a good display. And that's how it turned out. We made the bulk of the display, but two other women in our group later brought a few quilts, and Shirley took along some of her daughter's quilting as well.

Here are some of the quilts that we showed in the meeting room. Counter-clockwise from the upper right are one of Shirley's full bed-size quilts in white and blue, on the table a blue, white and yellow table center of hers, and her darling teddy bear album quilt, partially covered by a wall hanging of mine for which I simply cut flannel scraps and made 9, 12 and 36 patch blocks, using an inner and outer border to tame the busyness of it.

Shirley's two daughters both quilt and she had on display three very clever cloth books that her older daughter had made. They are full of detail and secret compartments. The pink you see is a tent. Open the zipper on the tent and find a cute little teddy bear taking a nap.

Shirley's younger daughter was the one who took the pictures you see here, since yours truly forgot to take a camera along.

I think there were about 20 people who came and viewed the exhibit. It was a fun time and they did admire the work displayed. Some of the work was hand quilted, some machine quilted, some pieced, some whole cloth.

Here you see two local quilters checking out the quilts displayed on my very handy clothes drying rack, which has often doubled as a quilt display. The very top quilt on that rack is a "Turning Twenty" by Linda, who follows this blog, and what you can't see is a darling quilt she made for her newest granddaughter. The rest of the quilts on the rack are mine, included the quilted bag. I'm wearing my self designed dress with red hearts appliqued on the bodice (back and front).

So in spite of our disappointments, it was a good evening. The library staff are very enthusiastic about this display, and love having the quilts around. They've been very supportive and helpful, and we think it's a winning idea for both the Library and for Arts Alive.

The Annual Quilt Show at Calgary's Heritage Park is on this weekend Saturday and Sunday. This is a huge quilt show with quilts in many buildings on the grounds, and also on display in large tents in the grassy areas. It's too bad the weather is so miserable: while the rest of the country gasps in unseasonable, even record-breaking hot weather, we are under gloomy skies with rain and a current temperature of +3ºC, or about +36ºF. Yesterday there was heavy snow in the towns just south of Calgary, with snow forecast for Calgary. In ironic contrast the cities in Northern Alberta are nice and warm today.

Oh well, we're scheduled for good weather toward the end of this coming week. We'll just look forward to that!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Term

Today I'm going to coin a new (I think) term. You've heard of chick lit? Well, today I am reading a book by Elizabeth Berg, The Last Time I Saw You, about a 40-year high school reunion. She shows you several characters in the now, with flash-backs to their high school years. What has happened in the interim? Why would they like to go to a reunion?

When one of the women checks into the hotel where the reunion is being held, she sees a couple who "had to get married" when they just eighteen. Look at that! They are still together, and seem happy! "They were the Cute Couple" she thinks....."They were just cute, like Karen and Cubby in the Mouseketeers." (p.110) It made me laugh out loud; I immediately knew just what she meant.

But you know, you'd have to be, what? in your fifties? in your sixties? to get that reference. I guess I was in Junior High when I watched the Mickey Mouse club ( Remember? "Come along and sing our song and join our jamboree! M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E. Mickey Mouse! Mickey Mouse! Forever we will hold our banner high (high, high). M-I-C See you real soon! K-E-Y Why? Because we LIKE you! M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E!"

So here's the new term: This is Biddy Lit! For Biddies like me, well over 50!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Victoria Day

Today in Canada we celebrated Queen Victoria's birthday. Well, I think that it's more or less an excuse to have the first "Long Weekend" of the summer. For folks who endure a long winter season, any excuse to get outside, plant the garden, go camping, have a barbecue is most welcome. The long-range forecast for this weekend was awful: very cold with rain or snow. But it turned out quite well. We had sunshine, not too much wind, and the afternoon temperature reached +17ºC (about 63ºF), which compared to the previous three days was absolutely wonderful.

I planted the green beans today. Well, actually, purple beans, since I grow "Royal Burgundy" beans. They are purple when you pick them, and turn green when you boil them. I like them because even when the beans get quite long, they don't get very fat, and don't develop big seeds. Still to plant: scarlet runner beans, for which I need to find about 6 long poles for them to climb.

Was also able to begin cleaning up the asparagus bed, weeding out loads of big dandelions, and clearing away last year's dried up stalks. It's a good idea to let some of the asparagus spears grow tall, as that helps the roots develop. But for now I'll pick pretty much everything. In season we eat asparagus pretty much every other day. And if there are more than we can eat, the extras are frozen for winter meals.

Friday I was able to get into Red Deer and
do some shopping, and came home with this terribly exciting addition to the sewing room: a new Janome 7700. This machine has eleven inches of "throat" space, the distance from the needle to the upright part of the machine. That extra room will make machine quilting so much easier. It also has a built in "walking foot" called an "Accufeed" which moves both layers of material under the pressure foot along at the same rate. It wasn't until this morning that I finally found some time to do some sewing on it.

It's sort of like a new computer: a machine that can do way more than what you're used to. I'm looking forward to later this summer when the garden centre and the garden are not taking up so much time and I can explore what this machine is capable of.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bursting into Bloom

Warmer weather arrived late last week, and people began thronging to the garden center to load up on their bedding out plants, shrubs and trees. In fact, we've been so busy that I haven't sewed a stitch since last Wednesday. I'm really itching to get back at it again, but since the warm weather is here, the outdoor things NEED to be done NOW!

I've finished planting onions, which were started in April. We're growing WallaWalla sweet onions for eating, and probably some sweet Spanish for storing for the winter moths. We love onions, and I use lots in my cooking.

Also planted eleven 8-foot long rows of peas, Green Arrows. When they are up and growing, we'll put up the fences for them to climb. That keeps them up off the ground, and helps keep down the slugs that love them. It also keeps the pea pods dry and clean, and makes them much easier to pick.

The Prunus family are bursting into bloom with the warm weather. Here's a view of some double flowering plum bushes in the landscape outside the back door. Just in front of them beside the little mugho pine is a new Muckle Plum that Jim planted last fall, just come into bloom. These all have blossoms before they leaf out. The pink is actually more intense than shows in the photo.

We have a lot of Schubert Chokecherry trees in our landscape. They bloom white in the beginning
of the season, then leaf out green, and later in the summer their leaves turn a dark maroon, very attractive! It's said that chokecherries make the best wine, so I tried making some one year. I guess I didn't use enough sugar--it wasn't drinkable. They are called chokecherries because they are so bitter. If you eat them, you feel as if they've choked you. (So they say, I haven't tried it.)

Spring is not early in Alberta, but when it comes people rejoice in it. The road in front of our place
becomes "jogger's alley" or "walker's row" as so many people get out to enjoy the fresh mild air. We have a short summer season, so we make the most of it.

One benefit of living this far north is the length of daylight we receive this time of year. Already the sun lingers until sometime after 9 p.m. At the latest, in the third week of June, it will set just before 10 p.m. with light lingering in the sky until at least 11 p.m. This goes by the lovely name of "noctilucence, " after the Latin words for "night" and "light."
The evening light seems especially beautiful, and often when the sun is low in the sky the colors, not only in the sky, but also across the landscape, are the most attractive, soft greens, smokey blues, and distant amethysts. The camera does a very poor job of capturing this beauty, but I can't resist trying again and again.

When we go to bed around 10, the sky is still light, and when I got up this morning at 5, the sky was lit in the east with deep colours of the coming sunrise. We live in a world full of beauty!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Real Pity!

Yesterday morning we had to be in Calgary for a medical appointment for Jim. We left at 6:45 a.m. and got home by noon. Later in the day we happened to notice that we had a message on our answering machine, but it was badly garbled. The only clear part said something about "power" and "be there in half an hour. If you have any questions call ----" and gave a phone number. The time recorded was about 9 a.m.

We tried calling that number to find out what it was about and got someone else's answering machine. It said it was "Jason for Asplund". Asplund, as far as we know, is a road construction company.

Since he said he would be here that morning, Jim went out and asked S. if she knew about it, as she was here all morning. He came in and told me sadly, they've been trimming the trees near the road. Apparently the power company sends someone around at intervals to be sure no trees are encroaching on the power lines.

Here's the result:
There's row of Schubert Chokecherry trees on the southern end of the property, between the dugout and the road. They aren't even under the power lines, but "Jason" saw fit to chop the tops off them. Here's a close up of one of the tops, chopped off between the upper limbs:
See in the very center of the picture how the main
trunk ends abruptly
between the two limbs branching out from it?
It's doubtful that these trees would ever grow
high enough to interfere with the power lines at all, as that is not the growth habit of this species.

It seems such a pity, and such a violation to have your trees so badly "pruned," especially since Jim is knowledgeable about pruning, and would have done it
himself, if they had only asked!

It's also terrible to cut out the "header" of a tree. The growing point at the top of the tree sends out hormones that prevent the other branches from trying to be the highest point on the tree. With the top of the main trunk gone, the natural shape of the tree will be destroyed.

There's also the concern that the flat top is open to rot now, as it was sawed off level horizontally. The trunk has no protection from water that may begin to seep into the wood and rot it.

It's so bad that a person who doesn't know about the habit of growth for tree species, and isn't trained in proper pruning techniques is given this job. I hardly dare tell Jim how sad I am that this happened. I'm sure he feels bad enough about it!

Another casualty was the really beautiful tower poplar right at the end of the drive. This picture doesn't show very well how the main trunk is simply cut off at a certain point, but that is what happened. You can see a picture of this tree is its full autumn glory if you go back to the posting of November 16, 2009.

So, Linda, (see the comment on the last post) it wasn't us working on our trees. It wasn't even our choice, and wouldn't have been.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Addictive!

Since my last post I've disappeared into another universe: addiction to piecing. During the past week I made 80 6 1/2" squares for this new scrap quilt. The project just kind of grew from a simple beginning: take a red 2 1/2" square and sew strips around it. I tried to stick with colours and shades that looked good together. By Friday evening I had 80 squares made, enough for a generous single bed quilt, if I added sashing.

But did my stash of strips diminish? Does it look like it? Seems just as many to me as when I started.

Saturday I took them all downstairs and laid them out in ten rows of 8 squares each. It became apparent that these three squares stuck out because of the light fabric in them. So I took them apart and put other fabric in its place.

That's better. These squares will blend into the quilt, where they stood out with the lighter fabric.

There were four other squares that also needed to be changed. They had a yellow-beige fabric that was just too noticeable.

So far everything had come out of my stash of scraps. That's where I looked for material for sashing. I liked the black with white polka dots, thought it was make a good contrast. But I soon realized there wasn't enough there. So off to the Local Quilting Shop to see if they have any black with white polka dots. The best choice available was the material on the left. That might do.

Well, I didn't like it as well as the polka dotted material, but Jim thinks it's better. It is a directional fabric, so I had to figure carefully in cutting the vertical sashing and the horizontal sashing, to get it to run the same direction. I'm using red 2 1/2" squares at the intersections, to echo the red in each block.

Since the red square that starts the block is off center a secondary pattern of reds is coming about, three on an angle to the right, and the next row three on an angle to the left. I really like how the reds seem to float on top of the quilt.

This morning I was gungho to get the quilt top together. I'll do it in two sections again, for ease in machine quilting.

But by the time the third row was together my machine was making a strange rattling sound. Tomorrow I'm going with M. to Red Deer to pick up my Janome 6500, which was in for service, so I'll take my Janome SchoolMate, the lighter weight portable in and have that looked after.

I'm eager to get back at this, and see the whole quilt top assembled!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Day, Another Idea

Another day of heavy wind and horizontal snow, therefore another day to play with fabric and ideas. I am still itching to do something with my scrap containers. So this time I started with a red 2 1/2" square, sewed another 2 1/2" square of other fabric to it and then started adding strips to the sides. Here are the 36 6 1/2" blocks I finished today, up on the design wall in a possible arrangement. They would obviously need to be moved around so that the materials were well distributed. But I think it has possibilities. I think I should make another 36 blocks and then see about arranging them. Maybe if it snows tomorrow also?

The tree mover has been here with his big
tree spade last week for two days, and again on Monday from noon till 8 p.m. This is a very efficient way of moving a tree. Digging by hand would take an eternity to move all those trees. With this rig he is able to move an average of three spruce trees in a hour from our nursery field to the neighbours' yards. Three of the neighbours in our vicinity have bought anywhere from 35 trees to 76 trees. We sell them for $50 each and the buyer pays the tree mover.

Here's a close up of the spruce tree in the
spade. There are four "arms", two on top, and two on the bottom. At the lower end of each arm is a spade point. In this picture the whole back spade has been raised so that it's almost horizontal. To dig up a tree, the spade is turned so that it's vertical. When the spade points are up, there is a hollow space in the center that can be placed over the tree. The spade points are then lowered hydraulically and come together under the center of the tree, and far enough down to preserve most of the root system. The arms, with the tree held securely, are then raised as you see here, and the truck drives off to wherever the tree needs to be planted. Of course, the driver has first dug a hole to receive the tree. When he plants this tree, he digs the next hole, takes that plug of soil back to the field and dumps it into the hole where the tree was. Then he's ready to dig the next tree, and move it to the hole he's just made. Back and forth, back and forth he goes, and at the end of the day there's a lovely row of Colorado Blue Spruce, each about 5 feet tall.

The next step is to carefully fill the edges left around the plug of tree and roots, stamp it all down well, so the tree doesn't tip over, and water it in. Be sure to water it well at least once a week the first year. After that it should be good to go.

If the weather is better later on this week, I'll take a picture of one of the nice rows of newly planted spruce. Most people tend to plant trees to close to each other, not taking into account how large they will eventually be. We recommend that these spruce be planted on 40' center to center to allow them to grow to a full, natural shape. A good arrangement for a windbreak is to plant three rows of spruce, on an alternating pattern, so that the middle row is planted diagonally between the first and last rows.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Last of the Flowers

Last fall Jim took the time to pot up many, many bulbs for forcing. The bulbs are planted in pots, put into cold storage for a time, and then taken into the warm house one at a time. They begin to sprout, and soon are blooming. We've had these pots of blooming flowers in the house since December. The blooms themselves don't last long, but there's always a fresh pot to take their place.

A long time ago I posted a photo of an Amaryllis that produced fourteen blooms from one bulb. And now here's a photo of the last blooms for the winter. Jim tells me these are Dutch Irises. They have long slender stems, and these wonderful, delicate blooms that last about three days. Some of the pots have deep purple blooms as well as the white and yellows. They have been such a joy to have in the house over the winter.

And now, just in time to follow the last of the indoor blooms, the tulips that he planted outdoors last fall are ready to open up. When they get into bloom, I'll post a picture of them.

Last week's rain and snow gave us a full 2" of moisture. So things are beginning to green up nicely. Pretty soon the trees will leaf out, and the "gentle" season will be here. How we look forward to it!

On Friday afternoon I went out and forked over the soil in the #3 bed. I like to loosen the dirt before planting so that the new roots don't have to struggle through compacted soil. I guess this bed is about 22 feet long. I planted the potatoes in three long rows, the rows being about two feet apart. (The bed is 8 feet wide.) There are four Red Norlands, and then four Russet Burbanks in each of those rows. This is the fewest number of potatoes I have planted since I started gardening. Usually we just get two boxes of seed potatoes and use them all. But we have SO MANY potatoes left over (four big boxes), that we're trying to be more realistic this year. After I was finished planting I forked some straw lightly over the bed to keep down weeds and help hold in the moisture.

Today I used the very first "fruit" from the garden this year: I picked and chopped about a cup of rhubarb for rhubarb muffins. I got this recipe from my friend M., and we think they're delicious.
In a large bowl mix together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Add to the dry mix:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup of brown sugar (I like to use Demerara.)
3 TB oil (canola)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla.
Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped rhubarb
(OR 1 cup of chopped rhubarb and 1 cup of chopped, drained strawberries)
1/2 cup nuts (slivered almonds) (or whatever)
Mix all of that together until no dry parts remain.
Fill greased muffin tins so that they mound up.
Sprinkle tops with cinnamon and sugar (I forgot to do that today.)
Bake at 375, for 25 to 30 minutes.
Leave in pan for a few minutes, and then turn out on a wire rack to cool.

Makes a dozen good-sized delicious muffins.
Enjoy with your morning cup of coffee.