Monday, June 27, 2011

Fresh Bouquet Still Life

Picked a fresh bouquet this evening, put it on the table and was tickled by how it harmonized the girls' sweaters.

Dear Daughter #1 mentioned to me via email a while ago that she was unable to post a comment on the blog.  Later I learned that this is currently a general problem throughout blogspot.  If you want to make a comment on a post, just email me at "" and I will put it in the next post.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So exciting!

When Jim and I came home from church this noon we took a slow tour around our landscape.  So many plants are blooming now: lilacs, lupins, day lilies, peonies (just beginning), baby's breath, irises, and too many other to name them all.  I tease Jim that it's Jim's Jungle, but it is wonderful, perhaps especially the brilliant poppies.

We looked over the raised beds of the vegetable garden and he picked four enormous radishes for lunch.  One little tomato was ripe.

Then we heard a cat-like cry, repeated many times and thought perhaps there was a little lost kitten back of the garden in the shelter belt.  So we went to investigate.  To our surprise we found an owl perched on a branch, staring at us.  And owls can stare!  It left with a soundless flutter of wings.  And we discovered this nest.  It's very large and made of quite thick twigs.  Can you imagine putting that together with just your feet and mouth?  Birds need to work very hard to raise their young!

It was so too bad I didn't have my camera along to "catch" the owl.  We went inside, had some lunch, and then I thought, "Maybe the owl is still there.  I should take my camera out and see if I can get a picture."

Sure enough, when I came near the shelter belt the owl flew out and perched in a larch on the east side of the garden.  I waited very quietly, but he/she didn't show up.  So I crept quietly around and there it was, keeping track of me.  So alert!  I managed to get this one good shot, and was trying for another.  Just as I tripped the shutter the owl left.  I have a blurry picture of a wing and a foot.

Sometime during the winter I posted a white owl, quietly resting in the edge of the shelter belt, in this same area.  The magpies startled and flew away when a train came by, but the owl simply swivelled its head and followed the train as it passed by. Now I think this might be the same owl.

We're very happy to have this owl nesting on our property, especially considering how they prey on mice.  Welcome, dear Owl.  Glad to have you here!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Bouquet

Today we are enjoying our first bouquet of the season.  It's the first because I just couldn't bear to cut our gorgeous tulips when they were blooming.  These are some of the first lilacs and lupins, and they smell wonderful.  Our landscape is full of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, providing an everchanging show throughout the season.

I don't try to be like a real floral arranger, just bring in some of the bounty for us to enjoy.

We have a small family of doves on our yard this year, and we're enjoying them a lot.  These are "mourning doves" so they have just one song to sing.  They repeat over and over: "Coooo--coooo,---coo,coo"  Two long drawn out syllables and then two short ones.  Sometimes the call is preceded by a quick little, two-note "coo" on an upward minor third.  I don't know about other types of doves.  These are the two young ones we've seen around.  And now I know why doves are a symbol of peace: they are so calm.  I took this photo from about 16 feet away.  If I approach too close for comfort, they just get up and walk away.  Such a contrast with the screechy blackbirds!

One summer afternoon a few years ago Jim and I were sitting in the shade of the backdoor patio and a rock dove, or domestic pigeon, came walking up the gravel  driveway.  It ignored us as we sat quietly watching it walk here and there and finally flew off.  It was a treat to see that beautiful bird.  Too bad I didn't have my camera in hand.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1st day of summer; 1st summery day

Yesterday was officially the first day of summer, and it was the first summery day we've enjoyed here.  It was beautiful!  Hot enough to wear shorts for the first time.  There was blue sky, there were puffy white clouds.  The wind was a very gentle breeze.  Just what we all were longing for.

It was also the longest day of the year.  Because we live quite far north our summer days are very long.  If I'm not mistaken the sun rose shortly after 5 a.m. and set just before 10 p.m.  Here's a view out our front windows a little before 10 p.m.  The camera doesn't do justice to the gorgeous colours in the landscape when the late sun bathes it in intense golden light.

Even after the sun is down the light lingers very long in the sky.  I love the term that describes this phenomenon: noctilucence.  As a lover of Latin I'll translate that loosely as "night shining" because "night light" seems so pedestrian a term for such loveliness.

It always seems kind of odd to me that the longest day comes at the beginning of the summer.  It would be more appropriate about the middle of July, don't you think?  And there's always just a smidge of sadness about passing the longest day, too.  It means that we're now on our way to the shortest day next December.

Did you know that the amounts of daylight different areas of the world receive all balance out so that every area, when you count the whole year, gets the same amount of daylight?  That's a nifty fact I learned from my Sis.

So this time of the year we have such long days with light so late in the evening and so early in the morning that it's just about impossible to stay awake for all of it. But then in December the day doesn't dawn until almost 9 a.m. and leaves before 4:30 p.m.  I understand that in the tropics night falls abruptly around 6 p.m.  I know it's just what I'm used to, having the length of day change throughout the year, but I think it would drive me bonkers to have it dark at 6 p.m. throughout the year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Big Help

Since my "tumble" last week I've had some trouble falling back to sleep in the middle of the night.  My left arm, until today, pained quite a bit.  My right ribs objected being pressed against the mattress.  My right hand had a painfully sprained joint at the pinkie.  It all added up to staying awake for an hour or two in the middle of the night, or waking up very early, say 4 a.m., and not being able to sleep anymore.

A night or two of that and I'd be pretty flaked during the day.  So then I resorted to a half Lorazepam around 2 a.m.  That works!  I slept until 7:10 this morning!  And then I realized that there was no more Lorazepam.

So I phoned the clinic for an appointment to renew my prescription.  I was flabbergasted when the woman said the earliest appointment possible was three weeks from now!  I bleated, "But what can I do?"  The hardhearted reply was, "That's the earliest appointment I have."

I hung up, considerably upset.  Especially since both Dear Son #2 and family and Dear Daughter #2 and family will be visiting in that time frame.  I want to be alert enough to enjoy having them around.  What could I do?

Jim suggested phoning our pharmacist. I doubted she could issue any interim dose as they are a narcotic, but I thought at least I'd try.  And sure, enough, a pharmacist cannot dispense Lorazepam without a prescription.  I explained my situation to her and she went to bat for me.

She called the doctor's office and discussed the problem with them.  They tried to find an opening for me today or tomorrow, but just couldn't squeeze me in.  This is a new doctor who hasn't seen me yet, so, naturally, he was reluctant to prescribe without first knowing what sort of patient I am.

Cindy really helped me at this point by letting them know that I'm not a wimpy neurotic nor a wild-eyed drug addict.  She got them to let her issue 11 pills to tide me over the next three weeks.  WOW!  A great big thank you to our pharmacist, Cindy, who gave me exactly the help I needed today!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Not Summer Yet

Our temperatures have been consistently about 4º to 10º below average for this time of year.  Today is a corker! We started at about +7ºC and are now standing at +6ºC (somewhere in the low forties F), combined with heavy wind and heavy rain.  I'm convinced that I see snowflakes every now and then.

Early this week Jim erected a "deer gate" at the east end of the raised beds, hoping to deter at least some of the unwelcome browsers.

On Tuesday we had our annual staff supper.  That's usually a barbecue on our large backyard deck, but this year because of wind, rain and tons of mosquitoes I decided to simply serve the meal at the dining room table.  We had a great time!  The food turned out very well: baked chicken breast in a seasoned sauce over rice, tossed salad with dressings, marinated bean salad (best recipe!) and a jello salad (recipe from Joys of Jello, a pre-wedding shower cookbook gift).  I hardly ever make a jello salad, perhaps once in 10 years, but this one was a winner: lemon jello, crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, cottage cheese and Cool Whip.  Totally out of my usual menu, but it was creamy and delicious.  Followed up by the standard dessert: chocolate/cherry cake with vanilla ice cream.  Then we sat around the living room and had a good time of conversation--and no one went home with mosquito bites!

We've been hearing doves all season, and yesterday this dove was walking around the garden, unperturbed by my presence, unlike the blackbird pair who have young high up in a spruce close by our back door.  

Their nest escaped my earlier predations because it was too high to reach, unless I got out our tallest step ladder.  Now I'm sorry that I didn't try harder to get rid of them!  Any time we are outside they "blitz" us, squawking angrily.  Here's the female who can scold even with food in her mouth.  The females are quite a bit lighter in colour than the males.

Here's the male, glaring malevolently at me from a nearby tree.  It really kind of
spooks me when he flaps angrily around
my head.


And here's the first finished sweater for the two youngest granddaughters.  I think it's really a sharp sweater for a young girl.  The buttons are cute too.  I had bought them some years ago for another sweater, and then didn't use them.  At first I wanted each sweater to have only the yellow, orange and purple hearts.  So I looked all over for some 

more of these heart buttons, but 
couldn't find them, even at Michael's.
I finally solved the problem by using every colour except the pink hearts.  So now each of the sweaters will have purple, green, yellow, blue, orange and red buttons.

Now to finish the second sweater, which needs sleeves, plackets and neck ribbing.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Taking a Tumble

I can't remember the last time I had a "real" fall. There were some slips and slides while hiking in Chile, but no real headlong sprawls or pratfalls. But today as I was leaving the local grocery store with two large bags and a big plastic jug of milk I tripped over the curly edge of a mat and landed "kersplat" mainly on my left elbow. The tomatoes and a banana got smushed in the process, and my left elbow was royally scraped. The mat was there to keep the wet and dirt from outside confined, but that's what my elbow became intimately acquainted with.

The manager's office was right there and he heard the crash and came to investigate. We've known each other for several years and he's a real nice guy. He was very solicitous and sent the cashier for replacement tomatoes and banana. The bag boy collected the things that had spilled out. We dusted me off and examined the damages. Thank goodness I didn't break anything!

I came home and washed off the dirt--it was a dirty rug, set there to catch the dirt from shoppers' shoes. So besides a bad rug burn I had lots of gravel to soak off. That stung! Then I put some antibiotic ointment over the whole area and covered it with a telfa pad to keep it clean.

Now, about three hours later I can feel that my right pinkie is sprained and there's a very sore spot on my ribs. I don't doubt there'll be a nice bruise on my midriff.

I hope the store either removes the mats or securely tapes down the edges with duct tape. I think there's a real hazard there. If I had been a fragile, elderly person (no, I don't feel elderly in spite of being 70) there could have been serious consequences. I'll heal up pretty soon, and am very glad there were no broken bones.

My biggest regret was that this finished my activity for today. I had a good sleep last night, for once, and was full of energy and ambition today. By the time we ate dinner at 1 p.m. I had gone for a two mile walk with M., dusted and vacuumed the main floor of the house, made 27 small whole wheat dinner rolls, washed the car, made a pot of soup, and cooked dinner. I had plans to come home from my little shopping trip, take a shower and give myself a haircut. Instead, I bandaged up, had a dish of frozen yogurt and read a novel.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Birds and Gardens

You'd think with a blog name such as "Grammilou's Garden" I'd be writing lots about gardening. Well, this year there's been a change. I began caring for the vegetable garden in 2003 because Jim, who had always been the gardener, was too busy with the Garden Centre to do the planting.

Last year the garden was not very successful. For example, the corn, though it towered over me (and there's a picture of that in the post of September 4, '10) produced only two ears that actually ripened. The rest never did. Jim thought that I had planted too late (it had been the 19th of May) and used a variety that took too long (peaches and cream, 70 days). He also wanted more variety of vegetables than I was in the habit of planting. So he took over this year. That is actually fine to me, as gardening is fairly far down the list of favorite activities for me. I do like weeding--because everything looks so nice and neat when you keep it up.

There were other failures last year besides the corn. We didn't pick any tomatoes or peppers or squash, very few scarlet runner beans and modest amounts of asparagus and fava beans. There were some rows of spinach, peas and lettuce that I sowed early that never even germinated.

I think these failures were due to the lack of heat last summer.

So this year he's in charge. Because he gets busy selling in the Garden Centre by the third week in May, with some sales earlier, he had the whole garden planted very early. I kept saying it was too early, but he really "lucked out" in that we've had only three nights of killing frost since the garden sprouted. We covered the beans, corn and tomatoes those nights.

So here's what the garden is at now. This is barely half of the raised beds. It looks pretty good. See the corn way in the farthest bed in the background? He did start that in the greenhouse in March while I was away in Chile.

The wooden frames in the foreground are covered with chicken wire and are there to protect the strawberry plants from predation. On Friday R. planted lots of strawberries. About two hours late we saw a deer in the garden. After chasing it out I counted 14 newly planted strawberries that were chewed down to a nub. Hope they survive!

When I went out to take some pictures of the garden I realized that the old apple tree in the deck was chock full of cedar waxwings. They were busy eating something around the blossoms. I'm just not sure what was there but they were surely finding something! I read about these birds that when they find a good source of food, such as a loaded berry bush they will eat until full and then continue plucking the fruit but pass it down the line to a bird that isn't satiated yet. Isn't that interesting!

I didn't see Mrs. Mallard, the wonderful mother duck who raised twelve ducklings on our little front yard pond last year (see the post published on June 2, '10) until recently. Last week when M. and I were returning from our daily morning walk we spotted her leading this year's brood into the small dugout just across the road from us. This year she has ten darling little ducklings following her. I was so happy to see that she's been successful again!

In the spring it's the geese who arrive first. Then the ducks, then the robins. Later on come the blackbirds. Last year there were really too many blackbirds around. They made life miserable for Honey, our small dog. I've seen them "blitz" her, actually "whacking" her on her back. They also seemed to be, pardon the language, "shitbombing" the back of the house where she usually sat on the step. So I was not happy to see flocks of this size swirling around.

They are very aggressive birds, and will even take an egg from a robin's nest and deliberately drop and break it. So I decided to enter the fray on behalf of the robins and other species. When I found a blackbird nest on the yard I destroyed it. There are lots of other opportunties for them to nest on our 20 acres, other than near the house.

This approach has seemed to be successful. We don't see them in the yard in the same numbers as earlier this spring. Hope that means a better balanced population next summer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New/Old Knitting

On Thursday I finished knitting this cowl for a dear friend of mine. It's pretty wild: three side by side cables going around the cowl, and knit in this variegated yarn. She had received a lovely white jacket for a present and wants to protect the collar area every time she wears it by wearing a cowl. I think she might need a thinner scarf also as an alternative. This looks to be pretty warm and might be too warm for some milder winter days.

Of course, finishing a knitting project gives
me permission to begin another. This will be a sweater for the Dear One, who is always cold and wears multiple layers, even on warm summer days. But this will definitely be a winter sweater.

I bought the yarn when it was on clearance in Woodward's (Lethbridge) about 1976. That's the date on the pattern anyway. The price tag on the pattern reads: 90¢. It's a six strand "White Buffalo" unspun wool yarn. It's been in my stash for about 35 years. I guess it's time to use it!

The pattern is for a sweater coat, but I will knit the front as one piece, and make a pullover out of it. That's his preference. We'll see how it turns out.

This doesn't mean that I've abandoned the jazzy striped sweaters for the granddaughters. What is needed there is more machine knitting, which is a different beast from handknitting. Takes up a different space in the schedule altogether.

I thought, because this gauge is 2 1/2 stitches to the inch it would be really fast, but because it's so very bulky, it's more like knitting stitch by stitch by stitch. Wonder how long it will take to finish this sweater?