What started off recently as a lesson in fall garden chores turned into a beautiful garden bouquet for this little lady…
I like to do as much as I can to clean up my gardens before the snow flies so I won’t have as much to do in the spring. Some plants however like the protection of their leaves, slimy as they may be, over the winter. Perennials that should be cut back to prevent the powdery mildew on their leaves from spreading in your garden are as follows:
phlox (the tall variety)
anything else that looks diseased, dead, broken etc.
Fall is also a great time to move things around, so if you (and the plant) were not completely happy with the location of some perennials, get moving.
It is a bit late for deadheading, but I did do so to a few perennials hoping I might get one last flush of bloom in this warm weather.
Gathering Up The Remaining Blooms
My three year old granddaughter loves to pick flowers from my garden anytime. Recently she started off helping me do some fall cleanup. After the work was done the clippers moved to the few flowers still blooming…
This is the bouquet she ended up with:
Of course I cannot refuse any request from this sweet girl. I love the fact that she loves my flower gardens as much as I do!
This is one she missed as it was just a bud at the time:
Patience is a virtue they say, unfortunately one that I (sometimes) have a limited and selective supply of.
Thankfully with my grandchildren I seem to have an unlimited abundance of patience, perhaps because I now realize, thanks to the wisdom acquired over my years, that it’s the little things that matter in life.
And time, I have much more time to spend on the small things, including the special small people in my life.
I also lead a much less stressful life than I did when my three sons were young. Back then I had two full time jobs, one outside the home and one within. It has been proven that patience is inversely related to stress. Who hasn’t noticed that when they are stressed, the smallest of annoyances makes them impatient and when you become impatient, you feel agitated and stressed?
Of course there are still many things that test the level of my patience. Things like:
What child doesn’t love collecting pinecones? My grandchildren are no exception. They all love to collect them. The problem becomes what to do with the pinecones once they arrive at my home.
Pinecones and Summer Flowers
I got this idea somewhere, but cannot remember where. The last batch of pinecones my three year old granddaughter collected have become a summer flower arrangement, thanks to some spray paint in pretty colours and a plastic bowl.
The first step was to protect my garage floor. We painted the pinecones in the garage as it was raining out the day we decided to tackle this craft.
An old plastic coated table cloth did the trick. I have several of these around, they come in handy in my gardening business to protect the floors of my van when transporting plants, soil and mulch.
Next, I protected my granddaughter’s clothing and hands as the spray paint I have on hand is not exactly kid-proof or easily removed from clothes or skin.
Although I have several aprons, including a few child-sized ones, they would not cover her arms or legs. So I used one of my favourite long sleeved shirts designated as gardening wear; it fit her like a dress.
She also wore her garden gloves that stay at my place for our garden adventures/chores…
I had spray paint in green, purple, orange and two shades of pink, a nice assortment of summery colours. We saturated the pinecones with colour, then let them dry in the heat before arranging them in a plastic bowl…
Fall or Winter Pinecone Decorations
In fall or winter pinecones can be painted white or silver or even left in their natural colour and used in Christmas or winter decorations.
Pinecones collected on our walks are usually small, perfect for.holiday centerpieces and more craftiness.
Craft and even grocery stores carry larger ones in fall and winter. These jumbo pinecones look great in outdoor winter arrangements, some even have sticks attached to them for easy insertion into your decor.
Use your imagination to inspire your own pinecone craftiness!
Recently I took my four year old grandson to Mud Lake, tucked in between the water filtration plant and Britannia beach in Ottawa. More of a (man made) wetland than a lake, Mud Lake is sure to delight nature lovers of any age. Also called the Britannia Conservation area, Mud Lake is maintained by the National Capital Commission (NCC)
Animals in Their Natural Habitat
On our 3.5 km trek around the lake, we saw numerous friendly adult and baby ducks and geese, turtles, tiny frogs and tadpoles, huge bullfrogs, beaver dams (but no beavers) rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, chickadees and herons.
My grandson wanted to catch them all, but I convinced him to leave them there with their mommies and daddies.
Directions to Mud Lake
You can get there off Poulin, then Howe Street or by following Britannia Road to Cassels Street, next to the Britannia Yacht club. There are a few designated parking spots, but parking on either Howe Street on the south side or Cassels Road on the north side is easier and permitted. There are entrances to the trails around the perimeter of the lake from both sides.
There are no dogs allowed and no bikes on the trails. These rules make sense as the area is supposed to be about conservation, namely the health and happiness of the wildlife that considers this area their home.
Although you are not supposed to feed the animals, the geese and ducks in particular were quite friendly, approaching us looking for food.
This aggressiveness is one reason you are not supposed to feed them. Creating dependence on humans for food is another reason to avoid feeding them our food. Ideally, they should be able to forage for any food they need to survive.
Respecting the natural beauty is an essential rule. No littering is obvious. Trails are well maintained and should be adhered to for protection of the fragile eco system.
When to Visit Mud Lake
Open year round, Mud Lake offers beauty, peacefulness and nature at its best throughout each season. Birds are predominant in the winter months, but the trails themselves are especially beautiful when snow covered.
Between Mud Lake and the yacht club, the elevated trails can be icy in the winter and spring though, so explore these carefully.
In the spring, migratory birds are abundant, in fact the area is know to bird watchers and photographers. The latest report shows 269 bird species!
In the summer months the wetlands come to life, full of all sorts of creatures. The trails are wide and easily manageable, even for seniors or baby strollers.
After our hike around the lake, we were enjoying a snack when a snake-like formation of geese approached. Mom was in the lead with at least 18 babies following along. They waddled ashore right beside us, climbed the small embankment and disappeared across the road…
Buzzpatch attracted my attention recently as a company that produces non-toxic, fun stickers that repel insects, namely mosquitoes. As a grandmother of five, these stickers appeal to me for use in my gardens as well as at our family cottage.
Who is Buzzpatch?
The company was established by parents for parents concerned about their children and grandchildren and the over abundance of mosquitoes any time we step out the door. Some (I have a few like this) kids are down right afraid of bugs, others don’t seem to notice them biting, but scratch the bites or worse, develop an allergic reaction to the bites.
What is Buzzpatch?
As the name depicts, buzzpatch are cute sticker-like patches that you attach to childrens’ (or adults) clothing to keep the bugs at a distance. The bugs might hover around, but do not land when they smell the product.
Created from all natural essential oils (predominantly citronella AKA lemon) and no toxic DEET, these patches are safe for everyone. Stick them on your kids’ hats, shirts, pants etc. If worried about toddlers peeling them off, stick them on their bottoms or tops of their hats.
My Experience with Essential Oils as Bug Repellents
I have been a proponent of essential oils for ages now and actually created my own bug repellent using geranium and lemon oils, both of which bugs hate. It smells wonderful and works, although I do reapply after several hours outdoors, especially if working up a sweat in my gardens.
Absolutely non-toxic, I spray it all over my clothing and even in my hair and on the bare skin of my neck, hands, legs, etc. My skin is very sensitive to everything else (including those other bug sprays and sunscreens) but not to this natural remedy.
How do Essential Oils Repel Mosquitoes?
When we as humans breathe, we release CO2 which mosquitoes are attracted to when we exhale. The scent in certain essential oils (like the citronella in Buzzpatch stickers) confuses the mosquitoes, creating an invisible shield around your kids from mosquitoes. That’s the theory, I am anxious to try out the stickers.
How do You Order BUZZPATCH?
Perhaps you have seen the same advertisement I did on Facebook. I was intrigued with the advertisement due to my experience with home made bug repellent, so clicked on the ad and ordered.
I received my order of Buzz Patch stickers this week. They came in convenient, resealable (to keep the scent in) pouches, in sheets of six stickers, ten sheets per pouch. I ordered several pouches to keep a stash at our cottage, home and even in my van for pond adventures with my grandson.
Today I celebrate my greatest achievement. I’m sure it is apparent how much I adore my three sons. They are all kind, caring and loving, not to mention handsome, intelligent, successful, and definitely more humble than their mother.
I am especially proud of the fathers my two eldest have become with the help of the wonderful mothers of their children.
Raising Boys to Men
When my boys were growing up, people always commented on how difficult it must be to raise three boys. I wondered about that comment as I never had any daughters to compare the boys to and I always thought it was an unfair exaggeration.
These days one would call the comments sexist and all kinds of other descriptive words popular in our vocabulary today.
I have to admit, I loved every minute of it. Ok, maybe not every single minute, but 99.9% of them.
Disputing the Theory
As a mother of three boys and a grandmother to three grandsons, I dispute the opinion that boys are more difficult to raise. They may be busier physically, with different interests, but not harder or more stressful.
My father, who raised three boys and three girls, always said the girls were harder. His theory was based on the fact that he worried more about the girls until they were married. Perhaps another sexist comment, but the norm and and non-offensive back then.
Boys will be Boys
There is something to be said for the saying “boys will be boys.” My experience is that (most) little boys are fascinated with things like bugs, dirt and mud, cars and trucks, dinosaurs and more. I don’t believe these interests are taught and learned, but more instinctive or innate. Encouraged (as they should be) perhaps, but not taught.
And, one of the words my youngest grandson, at just one year old, can say is vroom, vroom. OK, that’s two words, but I’m sure you get the gist.
Tomboys Raising Boys
Perhaps I find boys easy to handle because I was a tomboygrowing up, much to the chagrin of my mother. I preferred playing hockey, football, and other sports with the boys instead of playing dolls with the girls. I don’t recall though, being particularly enamoured with bugs.
You could say I had lots of practice hanging out with the boys, that could be why I have so much patience with my grandsons’ antics and interests.
In closing, bearing and raising happy and healthy children is something to celebrate. Even though mine are now adults, I still consider them to be my greatest achievements in life, bar none!
Happy Mother’s Day to the rest of you celebrating your own achievements!
It occurred to me recently that I needed to make my gardens kid friendly so my grandchildren can enjoy them as much as I do. They love my backyard, but my repeated “don’t step on the flowers” as they explore was starting to sound like a broken record. So, I decided to make the gardens kid friendly.
Pathways of Stepping Stones
The idea for pathways of stepping stones weaving throughout my gardens sprouted in my brain when a gardening client asked if I had the use for several stones she had left over from a patio project.
I also have some bricks that were previously used to edge my backyard gardens. I decided years ago that I prefer a more natural edging as the bricks made it difficult to mow the lawn right up to the garden edge. Grass also (annoyingly and time consuming) grew in between them. The bricks had also shifted over the years so were no longer nice and even, a sore spot with me.
A few seasons in and they had to go. Instead of digging up the bricks at the time, I left them in place and extended my gardens in width. Now I am digging them up to use for the kid-sized stepping stones. These are in their new places, just waiting to be sunk into the ground for stability…
I asked my almost 8 year old granddaughter if I should paint the stepping stones a bright colour so she, her brothers and cousins can see them better. She voted no, telling me it is more fun to discover them.
I added the pathways at the beginning of the season when perennials are small. This way I can visualize the spacing needed to create the meandering effect I desire. For example, in the photo above, you can see the lily of the valley pips poking through the ground. In a few weeks time the plantings will have filled out and the paths will look like they have been there forever.
Along with the pathways of stepping stones, I created landing pads in specific spots. There is one in front of each birdbath for little feet to step on while filling the birdbath.
There are now also several landing pads a foot back from the edge of my pond, so my grandkids know to stop there. At least most of them do. No names will be mentioned, but one little boy likes to push the boundaries and get as close as he can.
Plants Surrounding the Stepping Stones and Landing Pads
To keep the look of the stepping stones and landing pads as natural as possible, I placed them in the middle of low growing, resilient ground cover. The pathways now wind throughout my back gardens, perfect for exploring and wandering. They also create access for me, the chief gardener, to weed, plant, amend soil, mulch etc.
The stepping stones and landing pads are also located well away from any fragile or thorny plantings. For their safety and my stress level. Again, some of the grandchildren care more about avoiding prickly things and treating the plants with a healthy respect, others run through the paths full steam ahead.
Another way to interest your kids (or grandkids) in gardens is to add whimsical touches throughout your gardens. I have several animals/creatures for them to visit; a black bear and heron rescued from a client’s garden (they planned to toss them out) a frog and a rabbit (that has its rear end busted off, but now sits wedged into the soil) are favourites too.
The kids can visit bird houses, bird baths, wind chimes, painted stepping stones, (on my fence like artwork as they were too pretty to walk on) stone pagodas, obelisks, arbours, and more as they wander through my back yard.
I would love to add a large inukshuk and totem pole, somewhere and sometime. And perhaps a small tree fort; I have a spot all picked out in the sprawling branches of an apple tree.
Santa brought me five ceramic stepping stones for Christmas, a DIY craft project for me to paint with my grandchildren. Well, at least the oldest three of five grandchildren, the youngest two are not yet into DIY projects.
We have added their names and the year they were born to the stones too. They are now decorating a fence in Gardens4me as they are much too beautiful to step on. These colourful masterpieces will brighten up the area I refer to as my ICU where plants or cuttings I remove from clients’ gardens get rejuvenated.
My oldest granddaughter painted hers and I painted her baby brother’s right after Christmas when she was still coming here for her online school lessons.
My youngest granddaughter painted hers this past week as I painted her baby brother’s while the latter was napping.
I also painted my eldest grandson’s as he had no interest in painting indoors, was keener to go on an outdoor adventure. Appropriately, I had reserved the turtle for him…
My granddaughter is going back to school in five more sleeps. For real, in class school. She has been learning online since last March, almost a year now. Since September she has been coming here for school on the days her Mom goes to work.
She is very excited to be heading back, over the moon in fact. Grandma, not so much. Of course, I am happy she is happy, but I will miss her and the quality time we have spent together these past months. It has been a bright spot for me throughout our pandemic restrictions.
We have settled into a comfortable daily routine before, during, between, and after her online lessons. Classes start at 9am with her school day ending around 330pm. That’s a long day for a seven year old, and an over sixty year old, but we manage to sneak some fun into our day.
When she arrives around 630am, we start our day with several rounds of cards, while I sip from my first cup of coffee. She has learned, and is now quite proficient at, the games of Concentration, Go Fish and Crazy Eights. So proficient in fact that she beats me often, without me having to let her win. She is very competitive, so winning is important and losing results in a pout and a demanded rematch. I look at these games as exercise for my short term memory.
Stretches and Yoga
After she has won enough card games, we get into stretches and yoga poses. As a competitive gymnast, she knows and excels at all the warm up stretches. Grandma can keep up for a little while, until the planks last longer than a minute or she tries to shape me into a human pretzel.
We have been reading lots too. She reads Mia Mayhem to me, and I read Harry Potter to her.
Mia Mayhem is a series of books appropriate for her age and reading level, but even more special because she shares her name with the super hero star of the series. Santa was very clever to pick those books out for her.
Harry Potter, I would imagine, needs no explanation or introduction. She loves the Harry Potter saga so much that she dressed up as Hermoine for Hallowe’en.
Concocting treats in the kitchen has been popular too with an endless supply of cookies, muffins and even Daddy’s favourite candy for Grandma’s counter and freezer. With doggie bags for her to take some home too of course.
Fresh fruit smoothies and breakfast pancakes are other favourites too. Oh, and she doesn’t let me forget an ice cream treat after her last lesson of the day, before she starts the independent learning hour.
Today, in honour of her last day at Grandma’s school house, we went to Dairy Queen for their Blizzard BOGO event.
These past few months, since our gardens are covered in snow, our outdoor time has evolved to include walks in the snow, shoveling the snow or playing in it and with it.
Cultivating her Green Thumb
Even though we had to postpone our gardening adventures outside, we did spend time perusing garden catalogues, choosing new and interesting plants and seeds for spring planting. We also tend the seeds and cuttings we planted last fall, that now take up the entire counter area in my basement.
This week she has also been helping me repot my existing houseplants and find new homes for the new ones that have just arrived. (keep your eyes out for my next post about houseplants) We also rescued a forlorn and partially frozen large tropical corn plant from a neighbour’s snowbank today, hopefully it will survive.
All my grandchildren appear to love my piano, but this granddaughter, as the eldest grandchild, is really showing interest and talent. She has worked her way throughthe kids books, recently attempting a more complicated book of Christmas carols. We had planned to perform a mini concert of these songs at our family Christmas gathering, but neither the concert or the concert happened, thanks to the current rules of the pandemic.
She did let me record her playing a few tunes though…
As you can imagine, our days together have been jam packed with activities, and school lessons too. Her computer skills are now amazing for her age and she is thriving online, although she does miss her friends.
I do understand the importance of developing social skills at this age. Sitting at a computer for close to 5 hours every day is not healthy for any child. (or adult for that matter)
Grandma will miss the quality time. But not the 6am alarm.
Santa left my seven-year-old granddaughter a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle under our Christmas tree this year, in the form of a map of the world. Santa is a smart guy, he figured a geography lesson in the form of a puzzle would be right up her alley…
She brought the puzzle back to our home to work on between her online school lessons, but also to prevent her younger brothers from losing the pieces or destroying any progress made, a smart move on her part.
Our dining room table is now jigsaw central. I figured I might as well get some use of our dining room since we are not allowed to have large family gatherings these days. There is not much chance the puzzle will be disturbed there.
This puzzle is the largest my granddaughter has tackled, so far. I taught her to sort all the pieces into categories, in this case, different coloured countries, (the large orange pile will turn into Russia) as well as lots and lots of water in various shades of blue. Assembly then started with the outer edges. Patience is definitely the key here, it took us over an hour to sort the pieces, then form the border.
Her biggest problem will be keeping Grandpa from completing it for her while she is not here, as he is a jigsaw puzzle junkie too. I caught him working on it last evening after our granddaughter left for the day…