The end of cottage season has arrived, regrettably. Closing our summer home (as our four-year-old granddaughter calls it) is lots of work, as any cottage owner will tell you. This time of year is not nearly as much fun as the beginning of the season when the anticipation of summer weather motivates you.
This week the weather has been especially nice, great for outdoor things like removing docks, storing outdoor furniture, winterizing the boat, cutting the lawn one last time, emptying containers of annual plants, and more. This year we are still cleaning up trees from the derecho that swept through our area in May.
Inside the cottage fridges have to be emptied and cleaned out, freezers defrosted, and any liquids moved to the basement pump room. We keep this area a bit warmer than freezing temperature so our water pipes don’t freeze up. The water gets turned off and the pipes are emptied with antifreeze run through them.
Food items get sorted into “home” and “stay”. This means I will have two of many things in my home fridge. Any nonperishable food that does not expire before next summer stays here, also stored inside the pump room.
Do tiny flies in your home drive you crazy? Ever notice that fruit flies seem to come home from the grocery store with you, especially when you buy bananas? Apparently, they love bananas and other ripening fruit. What about fungus gnats? If you have houseplants, you have probably seen these tiny pests. These tips will help you get rid of both of them and learn the difference between them if you care to.
Fruit Flies or Fungus Gnats?
Fruit flies are different than fungus gnats. If you care to differentiate, read this article from Get Busy Gardening. I just assume the tiny flies in my kitchen are fruit flies and the ones around my house plants are fungus gnats. I’ve never taken the time to look that closely or distinguish between the two.
Separate and Wash Your Bananas
As soon as you bring them home, separate your bananas so they are no longer in a bunch, and wash them in soapy water. Yes, I said wash them! This will remove the eggs of fruit flies from the bananas. I have never thought to wash my bananas, even during the pandemic, when everyone was washing everything that came into their home. Apparently, fruit flies like to shelter in the crevices between bananas that are attached to each other in a bunch, so separating them is crucial too.
Vinegar Down Your Drain
Another trick is to pour vinegar down your drain to get rid of both fruit flies and fungus gnats. Fruit flies not only like banana stalks but also the wet, sticky environment in our kitchen drains. So do fungus gnats, AKA drain gnats or drain flies. Rotting fruit in our garbage cans and compost buckets also attracts fruit flies, so spraying those containers with vinegar helps too.
Other Tips to Reduce Fruit Flies
Changing garbage and compost bags often helps keep fruit fly infestations down too. Another tip is to keep your fruit in the fridge instead of on the counter, although I’ve never put bananas in the fridge. Some people use liquid traps made with apple cider vinegar or wine and dish soap to attract and kill the fruit flies respectively.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Sticky Traps for Fungus Gnats
As I dolove my houseplants but hate fungus gnats, I have a procedure I am diligent about. Especially as these little buggers can be a quickly escalating issue when purchasing or inheriting new plants:
Shake the plant well outside before bringing it into the house
some people cover new plants with a plastic bag and leave them in their garage for a few days to isolate any fungus gnats before bringing them into their homes. I’ve never tried this.
wipe the leaves of new plants with hydrogen peroxide when they arrive in your home and at least once a month afterward.
use sticky traps to catch adult fungus gnats
shake plant pots once in a while, spraying any adults or babies that you disturb
spray the wet soil in each pot with hydrogen peroxide each time you water your plants
Microwave or bake new bags of potting soil. This kills any fungus gnat adults or eggs that might be unwanted guests within the bags, Let the soil cool of course before using it.
let the top of the soil in your pots dry out between watering. Some plants tolerate drier soil than others, but most hate overwatering, in fact, the quickest way to kill your houseplantsis to overwater them.
Well, whether or not you care which tiny insect is flying around your home, you are now equipped to battle them and win. If they are in your kitchen and you have no houseplants, they are probably fruit flies. If zipping around your houseplants in other areas of your home, they are most likely fungus gnats.
Bottom Line: Fruit flies don’t like wet soil and fungus gnats don’t like rotting fruit. Also: Don’t use vinegar on your houseplants.
I was reminded recently of a new law created a few years ago proposing a concussion protocol or code of conduct to protect athletes. Rowan’s law was established here in Ontario, Canada after she (Rowan Stringer) died in 2013 due to injuries sustained from several concussions while playing rugby. She was just 17 at the time.
Rowan’s Law for Concussion Protocol
Rowan’s Law requires:
that all coaches and team trainers review the government-approved Concussion Awareness Resources every year before serving in a sport organization or at a school. The legislation applies to sport organizations (as defined under the Act), which could include: public and private sport clubs. post-secondary institutions. municipalities throughout Ontario. Rowan’s Law is applicable to 65 sports in Ontario as well as educational institutions. In summary; From July 1 2019, all sports must have in place Concussion Code of Conducts for players/parents and coaches/trainers.
Coaches Association of Ontario
Second Impact Syndrome, AKA Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome
Second Impact Syndrome or Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome is defined as:
Second impact syndrome (SIS), also known as repetitive head injury syndrome, describes a condition in which individual experiences a second head injury before complete recovery from an initial head injury.
This SIS is actually what Rowan Stringer died from. Two concussion-worthy hits within a short time frame (five days) while playing high school rugby. Apparently, she did not share her symptoms with either her parents or her coaching staff. She just wanted to play. Unfortunately, this is much too common amongst ambitious, talented athletes. At what point do the athletes themselves get to decide if they are “OK” or not? Especially those under the age of eighteen like Rowan was. Incredibly, her parents turned their anguish and grief into some progress in this area with the creation of Rowan’s Law.
Miami Dolphins Upset Buffalo Bills
Professional sports teams have concussion protocols in place, at least they are supposed to. How strict they are is suspicious. If you were watching the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills last weekend, you know what I mean. Miami’s quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa sustained injuries causing him to stumble repeatedly after the play. Although his injuries appeared to be concussion-related, he was quick to tell everyone the injury was to his back:
“On the quarterback sneak, I kind of got my legs caught under someone and then they were trying to push back and then kind of felt like I hyperextended my back or something,” Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s game, per All Dolphins. “And then on the next play I kind of hit my back and then I got back up and then that’s kind of like why I stumbled. My back kind of locked up on me. But for the most part, you know, I’m good, past whatever concussion protocol they had.”
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins QB
The NFLPA (NFL players association) is investigating Tua’s results of Miami’s concussion protocol that was passed quickly enough for Tua to return to the game to close out the unexpected win, handing the Bills their first loss of the season.
Conclusions for Concussion Protocols
As a hockey and soccer mom, I know concussion protocols have been in place for years. On some teams. of course, there is always room for improvement.
Hopefully, Rowan’s Law and stricter concussion protocols on all teams will educate players, parents, and coaches/trainers/team owners about the dangers of playing at all costs.
As well, Dolphin fans are hopeful that Tua did indeed pass Miami’s concussion protocol and his injuries won’t prevent him from playing tonight’s game.
Update on Tua
Ironically, Tua was stretchered off the field during the game last night, a mere few hours after I posted this article about concussions. For what? Concussion-like injuries after another hit. Coincidence? I think not. Is this another case of Second Impact Syndrome?
For Tua’s sake, not to mention Miami Dolphin management and coaching staff, I hope not!
Funerals always seem to have a spiritual effect on me, a recent one was no different. I went home touched by a story titled “Keep your Fork, The Best is Yet to Come.”
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her preacher and asked him if he would come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read and what clothing she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything was in order and the preacher was preparing to leave, when the woman suddenly remembered something very important.
“There’s one more thing” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the preacher’s reply. She told him, “This is something very important, I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The preacher stood looking at the woman not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest I’m puzzled by the request,” said the preacher. The woman explained, In all my years of attending church potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part of the dinner because l knew that something “better” was coming …. like velvety chocolate cake or deep dish apple pie – something wonderful, and with substance!
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork – the best is yet to come.” The preacher’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death, but he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than maybe he did because she knew that something “better” was coming.
At the funeral, the woman’s many friends were walking by her casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the preacher heard the question, “what’s with the fork?” And over and over he simply smiled. As he spoke the eulogy, the preacher told those in attendance of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them how he could not stop thinking about the fork and said they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.
The dearly departed person we were all celebrating the life of was a former co-worker of mine for many years. Although she was older than me and retired earlier than I did, we had lots in common. Other than working together in a hospital lab for years.
We kept in touch after we both retired because we had many interests in common. We shared April birthdays (two days apart), an appreciation for the beauty in nature, an affinity for sipping tea, loyal support of the Ottawa Senators, a love of wildlife and plants, as well as the talent to brag about and post pictures of our respective grandchildren.
Sharing Branches of our Family Tree
It also turns out we shared ancestors, this fact discovered years ago in a funny story. Way back, when Diana Spencer became the Princess of Wales we were chatting at work about the wedding. It went something like this:
Her: I found out I’m related to Princess Diana
Me: Really? So am I, apparently
Her: how are you related?
Me: My great, great, great, great (I think only 4) grandmother was a Spencer
Her: Huh, so was mine!
A few days later, she pulls out a family tree and shows me her great, great, great, great grandmother’s branch of said tree. It turned out her branch and my branch were sisters! That made us cousins, many times removed, but related nonetheless. This familial connection also helps explain our shared fascination with the royal family. Although we did not share her love for genealogy, my brother does, so I gave her his contact information so they could compare notes.
Keep Your Fork for Dessert
I have heard “keep your fork” many times over the years, in fact, it brought back memories of the farmhouse meals my grandmother used to make. Of course, that was way before the invention of dishwashers when the only variety of those were the two-legged kind. My reason for keeping my fork was based on my love for a good dessert, something else we shared.
Keeping Your Fork in a Spiritual Sense
The spiritual version to keep your fork for better things to come may help those pondering what is on the other side when we leave this world for heaven. This interpretation may be especially comforting for those suffering before their transition as well as for their family members watching them suffer.
Today, September 19th, would have been my Dad’s 94th birthday. Although he left us sixteen years ago already, I think of him in some context daily. Happy Birthday Dad!
These pictures were taken on Dad’s surprise (sort of) 75th birthday where he was celebrated by his family and friends.
A Broken Heart Took Him Too Early
After my mom died in 1994 at the age of 65, dad’s love of life and will to live seemed to diminish. He was only 66 at the time, and the quality of his life deteriorated quickly after her death. He used his advancing age as an excuse to prevent him from enjoying his golden years, but we all knew it was the void in his heart that was the culprit.
Happy birthday Dad, we are all thinking of you today and hope you are celebrating with Mom and others that left us too soon.
Memories That Make me Smile
A few years ago I woke up to frost on the rooftops and lawns on this date, an early appearance even here in Ottawa, but somehow appropriate for Dad’s birthday. As I looked out the window at the whiteness, I could hear his voice saying “HAH, frost in September!”
The really cool thing is that many of his unique expressions and habits live on in my children and grandchildren. His premature white hair lives on in moi. As my three brothers age, I see many of Dad’s personality traits in them too. Here are just a few memories and the things that evoke them:
his affectionate phrase “dum dum” when someone did something silly, often used on his children and grandchildren. I must admit to using it in my own household too, softened with a giggle, just like he used to.
his use of the expression “HAH” as used above, meaning “who would have thunk it?” or “I don’t think so” (when he didn’t want to do something) or when he found something funny or ridiculous.
his ride-on lawnmower that his six children purchased for him on his 75th birthday. It currently resides at my cottage where the lawns are big enough to need a ride-on mower.
when I am out “puttering” in a garden as he used to love to do. In his latter days he would have a list of things for me to do in his garden each visit. As a youngster, I remember my mom picking out the plants, but Dad was always the one planting and looking after them. I know he would be proud and not the least bit surprised about my new profession, Gardens4U.
when one of my sons (or me) yell at the TV during a hockey game.
one of his sweaters that I found in his closet when cleaning out his house, barely (if at all) used, that I now use as garden apparel on cool days.
his use of an accelerant to start the campfire at the cottage, especially after a week of rain when everything is damp. My husband calls it “grandpa’s firestarter.”
wandering around my gardens in sandals (Dad often wore his slippers to do this, much to my Mom’s dismay) with a cup of tea in hand, stopping here and there to pull a weed or two, or to “stop and smell the roses.”
My youngest grandson was named after you, although he is still too young to realize it. He will though, I will make sure he does.
his goofy grin, that fortunately (for me) lives on in my middle son and also my oldest grandson.
The list goes on and on….
Happy Birthday Dad, I miss you! Oh, how I wish you were still here to visit with my sons and my contribution to the great-grandchildren in your family tree.
Last fall, after much pleading on my part (plan approval is a complicated process), I was granted permission to design and create a butterfly garden at the local hospice I volunteer at. I have also referred to it as a wildflower garden to differentiate it from the more formal garden beds I have designed and planted there. This is my butterfly garden success story!
Although I posted an update this past spring, with details of the planting methods used, the final verdict on the success of my butterfly/wildflower garden was still out back then. These pictures were taken in early summer when things (not just weeds) finally started to grow…
This week, (late summer) I am thrilled to report that the experiment was a huge success! The warm and wet weather (and our hard work of course) has created a riot of colourful blooms in the garden…
Butterflies, Birds, and Bees…oh my!
Although I have been calling this a butterfly garden, the goal is to attract hummingbirds and bees to our new garden as well. The variety of plant shapes and flower colours in this garden is akin to a smorgasbord of delectables to attract all of mother nature’s creatures in droves. This type of garden is also referred to as a pollinator garden for obvious reasons. The stepping stones are to permit strolling through the garden as well as maintenance in the form of weeding and watering.
Hospice Garden Team
There are lots of I’s so far in this post. To clarify and assign credit where it is due in spades, (pun intended) this project (and the landscaping at the hospice in general) would never have reached this level of success without the keenness and diligence of our garden team at Ruddy Shenkman Hospicein Kanata.
These dedicated team members are on-site lots more than I am. For example, we have a watering schedule that ensures all the containers, new gardens, and new additions to older, established garden beds get attended to daily. We also have team members (one wonder woman in particular) designated for lawn cutting. With the extensive RSH property, these are huge, behind-the-scene tasks. As a (semi-retired) professional landscaper,my main role on the team is to design and create new projects (garden beds) and identify chores that need to be done to keep the gardens looking as great as they do. I’m getting good at making lists, although I still love getting my hands dirty in the planting stage.
Successes in Butterfly Garden Planning
I learned lots through the experimental process of this butterfly garden and made a few mistakes but my vision prevailed. Phew!
The mini greenhouses on my back deck all winter were definitely a success and something I would highly recommend! Those plastic clamshell containers from grocery stores come in handy for this purpose. They make for an inexpensive propagation method to sprout seeds, especially those that require cold stratification to germinate.
Also a huge success was the idea to plant seeds under clear plastic cups. On a whim, I did this in the early spring to fill in the blanks between the transplanted sprouts from the greenhouses. Using seeds of annuals from a big box store (poppies, asters, zinnias, cosmos, cleomes, and more) I simply put four or five seeds under each cup, pushed the cup into the soil to keep it from blowing in the wind, kept the soil wet around the cups, and waited for sprouts. I was amazed!
Sprinkling mixed seeds last fall was (relatively) a bust. These seeds were collected from plants in my gardens as well as from my clients’ gardens. I had a garden waste bag full of seeds. Although the thought was to provide a random dispersion of plants, the randomness was a little too excessive. Especially frustrating was trying to differentiate the weeds from the desired plants.
I also regret succumbing to the complaints about my “stick garden.” In doing so I removed the stakes that showed our team where the “keepers” (as opposed to weeds) were, making it frustrating for us all.
Convincing the Doubters
I think I also earned the respect of my fellow garden team members and hospice staff that were scratching their heads in disbelief throughout. Especially when the weeds were hard to differentiate from the wildflowers and butterfly attractors. I heard the term “stick garden” mumbled a few times when all that was visible was my stakes where the plants were supposed to be growing.
The good news? Everyone is enthusiastically on-board now. And, the most important critics of all, a few monarch butterflies and lots of bees were spotted enjoying the garden last week!
The beauty of self-seeding annuals is that they do just that, produce flower heads full of seeds that scatter randomly in the fall. Left in place, the seeds get buried in snow and pop up next spring as new plants.
I added butterfly-loving (brightly coloured) perennials, such as coneflowers, milkweed, Russian sage, blanket flowers, and many others to the bed to fill in the blanks between the annuals.
Avocado toast is a currently popular, healthy, lectin-free alternative to peanut butter or jam, or PB&J. Breakfast, lunch, or an anytime snack are great reasons to give avocado toast a try.
Add Pesto for a Twist
I love avocado toast, especially with my signature twist of homemade, also incredibly healthy, pesto.
Featuring fresh basil and garlic from my backyard garden, my version of pesto can be quickly whipped up by adding parmesan, almonds, and just enough virgin olive oil (for the healthiest version) to create a paste. I use my Pampered Chef blender, love how well it works for this recipe.
Sorry, I never measure the ingredients when I blend a batch of pesto. Or many other things for that matter. You could Google a proper recipe for a guideline though. Although traditional pesto recipes call for pine nuts, I prefer to use always-available-in-my-pantry almonds instead. Remember, almonds contain healthy fatty acids.
I scrape a batch of pesto into an icecube tray, then freeze. A few hours later, pop the cubes into a sealable container and store them in your freezer.
Uses for Pesto
My pesto cubes get added to soups, pasta, sauces, and more. Just today I had pesto avocado toast with a few pieces of bacon left over from yesterday’s breakfast.
Pesto also makes a healthier substitute for mayo in a toasted tomato sandwich or a BLT. I haven’t tried this yet, but can you imagine a macaroni or potato salad with pesto instead of mayo?
Use your imagination! The possibilities are endless. Let me know your favourites.
What’s the difference between grass or grain-fed, free-range, or pasture-raised when it comes to beef cattle and poultry? It can be confusing and advertising can be misleading. Read on to learn the difference.
Grass-Fed or Pasture-Raised
Grass-fed is also referred to as pasture-raised. For beef cattle, this means the cows live on grass without supplementation from grains of any kind. In the winter months, they live on hay which is just grass in a dried state.
Poultry that is pasture-raised refers to those that have outdoor access to scratch and peck at grass and bugs but shelter from hot sun, cold or wet weather. They are also supplied with feed. In other words, they are allowed to roam (somewhat) freely to do what comes natural to them.
Grain-fed refers to the cattle and poultry that are raised on grain alone.
The problem for cows lies in the fact that they (like many humans) cannot properly digest grains which causes numerous health issues. The reason for this is because cows are ruminants meaning their digestion process requires a fermentation stage.
The big issue for massive, grain-fed poultry stations is the lack of space for the birds to spread their wings, literally. Chicken and eggs sold in stores may claim to be “cage-free” but that doesn’t necessarily indicate they are raised humanely.
In fact, large grain-fed cattle and poultry stations are known to support inhumane practices too. Too often cattle and poultry are packed like sardines into a small area.
Animals fed corn as the grain leads to a whole other problem as corn is highly linked to GMO issues.
Then you have individuals like myself who are allergic to wheat. It took me years to figure out why I react to some eggs but not others.
Some cattle start off grass (pasture) fed but then end up receiving grains to fatten them up for market. This is referred to as “finishing.” Done humanely, (without overcrowding) this should not be a deal breaker.
You may not care whether your beef, poultry, or eggs are grass or grain-fed, free-range or pasture-raised. Educate yourself on the difference and you may just start caring.
These pictures were taken at my uncle’s farm where their cattle and chickens are grass-fed or pasture-raised. I love to visit this childhood-invoking farm with my grandchildren.
Have you heard that siestas (AKA naps) are good for you? Apparently, they are, especially during the hot weather we have been experiencing. This is because our body temperatures lower automatically when we sleep.
Read all about the history of siestas to see how they made sense centuries ago and continue to do so today. What started off many years ago as a necessity is now touted to be highly beneficial to our health. Whether you are accustomed to heatwaves or not, cooling off with a midday nap might be the answer this summer.
Why Siestas are Healthy
Research has shown that naps are beneficial for boosting energy, increasing creativity, and even improving short-term memory. Parents know children that who nap during the day can maintain better behaviour and energy levels until bedtime at night. Apparently, adults can benefit from naps too; the question is how long should adults nap for maximum productivity.
How Long Should Adults Nap For?
The same source reveals that fifteen to twenty-five minutes is an ideal length for siestas. A mere 20-minute nap can boost energy levels without feeling groggy upon waking. For adults that is. Any longer than that promotes a deeper sleep which may cause brain fog, grogginess, and low productivity, totally defeating the purpose of midday siestas.
At one hour grogginess is reduced but short-term memory can improve. One hour and thirty minutes of sleep allow for a full REM (rapid eye movement) cycle, and improved creativity upon waking. Longer naps are especially beneficial when making up for a lack of sleep the night before.
Children and Naps
Of course, young children need longer naps to avoid the consequences of sleep deprivation. They probably benefit more from a minimum of 90 minutes of napping. Parents probably benefit most from their children taking longer naps too, creating a win-win situation.
Contrasting colours rather than complementary ones make a bigger impact in your garden. Most people tend to opt for complementing colors when choosing plants. I always tell my clients “remember, you are not wearing the plants, they do not have to match!“
Choose colours that are opposite (not next to) each other on the colour wheel to create some drama:
Use Colour Contrasts in Containers Too
I love using coleus in containers for the wide range of contrasting colour in their foliage. Straight from the nursery, choose from the many options in contrasting colour combinations within the same plant! The chartreuse green of creeping jenny or sweet potato vines make the red tones of the coleus pop in your creations:
For full sun containers, I tend to go for purple, pink, red, blue and yellow for the “fillers” and “spillers.” Their bright colours look so summery and vivid against the various shades of green which are perfect backdrops for “thrillers” and additional “spillers.”
Choose Perennials with Contrasting Flower Colours but the Same Bloom Time
When choosing perennials for your garden beds, instead of picking matching colours, try selecting contrasting colours in plants that bloom at the same time. For example, this yellow ligularis in front of a purple clematis creates a much more eye-catching scenario than two yellow or two purple plantings.
Another great example in my yard is my collection of daylilies I have in a raised bed at the side of my house. From dark wine-red to pale peach, they are contrasting yet compliment each other beautifully!
Foliage with Contrasting Colours
Another trick to make individual plants stand out is to place contrasting foliage colours next to or in front of each other. An example here is the leaves of a purple smoke tree (that just had a haircut so will soon be much taller) behind (right now it looks like it’s inside) the bright green leaves of a hydrangea.
Try some new contrasting combinations in your garden to create some drama. Be sure to send me pictures of your combinations.
Remember, forget the matchy-matchy look, you are not wearing the plants!