Storm Recovery

Six weeks later, there is still storm recovery activity ongoing in my neighbourhood. It is simply amazing, beyond words, how much damage the derecho caused in our region of Ontario. Everywhere you look there are uprooted or broken trees. A few days after the storm our two-year-old grandson walked through our neighorhood pointing out all the “broken trees.” After the first few, the novelty wore off. Obviously, he did not recognize the fact that this was not normal.

Hazeldean Woods, Post Storm

Hazeldean Woods is a portion of NCC (National Capital Commission) property we are fortunate to live near. We frequent this beautiful, wooded, parkland setting lots, especially with our grandchildren. On our first post-storm visit we were devastated by the damage; all four of the extensive trails were impassible….

Storm Recovery Efforts

We have been back there a few times since the storm. Each time we are able to navigate through more of the trails. Today’s trip was almost unrecognizable due to the recovery efforts, AKA lack of trees. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures, shocked at the changes. Although it is great the work is being done, (I did not expect it to happen this soon due to the low priority of the area) the changes made it almost surreal. The trails are now passable, but lots of work still needs to be done. Trees scheduled for future removal are all marked with a big red X. Others have been cut down, with logs neatly stacked.

Mother Nature’s Plan

When so many old trees are destroyed and removed, is this Mother Nature’s plan for renewal? The amount of sunlight currently pouring into my neighbourhood woodland trails makes me wonder if new trees will soon be growing in their ancestor’s former homes.

Derecho Aftermath

Derecho

Ten days later, residents of Ontario and Quebec are still dealing with the aftermath of the derecho that hit here recently. Originally no one knew what to call it; however experts soon weighed in to label it a derecho. Google says that’s pronounced dr·ay·chow.

What is a Derecho?

The dictionary describes the phenomena as follows:

a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.

Oxford Dictionary

My brother, currently living the good life in Mexico, pointed out that derecho means “straightforward” in Spanish. Both descriptions make sense as the distinct path spread across Ontario and Quebec from the Toronto region heading northeast, wreaking havoc on its way. Winds were clocked at up to 132 km (82 miles) per hour.

I am still shaking my head in awe at the fact that plastic chairs on our cottage deck were untouched while three trees crashed to the ground all around the same deck. Unbelievable! Big Bird didn’t even bat an eyelash, while we were hiding out in the basement in shock.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Downed hydro wires, poles, and transmission towers as well as magnificent, mature trees ripped out by their roots or split in two (or more) are still being repaired and cleaned up. We have now reached the first day of June on the calendar. Many people just regained their electricity within the past few days while others, including our cottage, are still out. Over 900,000 homes were without power at some point. We have been keeping an eye on the (very convenient) Hydro One Storm Centre site for updates in the rural areas of Ontario so we know when to head back to the cottage to begin the massive cleanup.

One of the advantages of our (Ottawa) suburb of Kanata is that most hydro wires are buried underground. So, while we lost lots of trees, the streets and neighbourhoods within the heart of Ottawa were strewn with hydro wires, poles (last count is 200), and transmission towers.

Insurance Coverage

The Insurance Bureau of Canada advises those policyholders affected to be sure to:

document storm damage to their homes, belongings and automobiles using video and pictures. It has also prescribed that policyholders should keep the receipts if they are having a crew help with the cleanup or remediation of their properties.

IBC

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Ten victims of the storm paid the ultimate price with their lives when they were unable to get out of the way of falling trees. Many of us were warned to take cover from severe thunderstorms just before the derecho hit. That was helpful if you were close to your cell phone or TV and close enough to a shelter from the storm.

Sadly, not everyone was. My heart aches for the victims as well as their families and friends.

Our cleanup pales in comparison. For that fact I am grateful!

Leashes for Cats, Should they be Mandatory?

leashes for cats

I vote yes, leashes for cats should be mandatory. Why are dogs not permitted to roam at will through neighbourhoods but cats are?

Last night we came home from a stressful day at the cottage spent cleaning up our property from the storm damage. We also spied a black cat prowling around at the side of our house. It took off when my husband chased it away. Why did he chase it away? Because last year he watched the same black cat kill a baby bunny in our (private) backyard. This morning, we discovered a dead chipmunk on our back deck. Coincidence? I think not! We’ve seen a few baby bunnies in our yard recently, so we’re hoping the cat did not get them too.

As you can probably tell, it annoys me to no end when I see cats in my yard. I believe it is irresponsible of cat owners to let their cats roam indiscriminately. Our backyard is an oasis for birds, rabbits, chipmunks and the like, so cats are not welcome. Our backyard, our choice, right?

I have a good reason for this opinion, besides the fact that cats prey on small animals just to torment and kill them for their amusement. I am not amused.

Cats and Toxoplasmosis

Years ago I suffered three stillbirths. We were told the most likely cause was toxoplasmosis contracted from cat feces. Well, we have never owned a cat. But, several cats used our front garden as a litter box back then as it was hot and dry, sandy soil. When we first moved into our home, this south-facing garden was newly planted, so cats could access the soil easily. We’ve since covered that area with a veranda and moved the garden out from the overhang of the house so it gets more moisture.

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). It is one of the most common parasitic diseases and infects nearly all warm-blooded animals, including pets and humans. Although cats are a necessary part of the life cycle of T. gondii, the parasite rarely causes clinical disease in them. While T. gondii seldomly causes significant symptoms in healthy adults either (see below for exceptions), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently identified toxoplasmosis as one of five neglected parasitic infections of people due to its high prevalence. 

Cornell Feline Health Center

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection that is usually harmless. But if you get toxoplasmosis for the first time while you’re pregnant, or a few months before you conceive, there’s a small risk the infection could cause:

miscarriage

stillbirth

birth defects or problems after the baby is born – this is very rare

NHS

Outdoor Cats

I belong to a neighbourhood Facebook group where posts often discuss missing or found cats. There also seems to be a large presence of “lost cat” signs pasted on any flat surface on our streets. Am I the only one that finds it hard to believe people let their cats wander around the neighbourhood, especially with the steady increase of coyote and fisher sightings in our neighbourhood? Perhaps if cat owners didn’t let their cats roam, these wild animals would stick to the wooded areas. Instead, they are enticed by a buffet-like selection of victims.

Leashes for Cats

Are leashes the answer? They certainly would be a start. If you want your cat to walk through the neighbourhood, take it for a walk on a leash. Just like the dog owners do.

And, while you’re at it, take along a bag to scoop up their poop.

photo credit

Retirement Woes: Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?

retirement woes

This quote is from a post written nine years ago already; wow, time does fly. At the time I was describing the changes in my lifestyle since my retirement from the healthcare industry:

Since retiring last April, it seems I never know what day of the week it is.  I rely on my fifteen-year-old son’s school and hockey schedule to keep me somewhat on track.  My other two sons are older, can drive themselves around and so keep track of their own schedules.  The rest of the side effects of retirement are all positive…

To start, I spent a lot more time doing the things I had previously called hobbies…

I have read more books in the past year (since retirement) than I did in the previous 25 years combined.  My favorite was the Millenium trilogy from  Stieg Larsson; the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Girl that Played with Fire, and the Girl that Stepped on the Hornet’s Nest.   I had a hard time putting these books down once I started reading them, the suspenseful storyline and believable characters were gripping, from the beginning of the first book to the last pages of the third book.   Yes, I did read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, but it didn’t rate nearly as high in my books (pun intended!), and by the third one, I found the plot to be quite predictable and boring.

My other (pre-retirement) hobby was gardening, which currently moved to the front burner in the form of a new business called Gardens4u.  This was a no-brainer for me as I had spent many previous gardening seasons volunteering my green thumbs to friends, family and neighbours.  I now do gardening on a full-time basis from April to October, depending only on Mother Nature for restrictions.

I was also able to spend more time at our family cottage, and what a summer it was for living lakeside.  The water temperature was the warmest it has ever been; I’m sure I spent more time in the lake than I have in the previous 10 years combined.

In the last half of 2011 and throughout 2012 I discovered firsthand the health benefits of a wheat-free diet.  Just recently I began to share my knowledge with friends and family concerned about the same health issues.  Please share your knowledge on this important subject by visiting my blog…

Retirement takes getting used to, but I am game!

Update:

Fast forward to 2022. My interests are still the same, just evolved over time. My husband has now joined the retirement club. This means neither of us knows what day of the week or month it is. His work schedule kept me (somewhat) organized chronologically since my retirement.

Compromises

Hubby’s retirement also means lots of adjustments and learning to choose my battles. Compromise is key. For example, I have learned to find the positive aspects in his need to re-organize the kitchen cupboards after almost forty years. As long as they are decluttered, something he is not known for, I am happy. Another example? Loading the dishwasher, something I have (predominantly) done over the same forty years. Knock yourself out, dear, I have other things to accomplish.

Extended Family

We are now empty nesters. Our three sons are grown up and long gone, graduated from post-secondary schools, and doing well in the workforce. Two have purchased homes of their own and the same two are parents themselves. The third son (almost 25) is finding it harder to break into the homeowners market with the current real estate conditions, rising inflation, and a struggling economy. But that’s a whole other post, and fortunately, he has time on his side.

We are currently blessed with six (!!) healthy, adorable grandchildren. I must admit that my life revolves around them. I figure in a few years when they are all registered in school and extracurricular activities, Grandma days will be few and far between.

Gardens4U

My beloved gardening business is winding down this year, with my current focus on design instead of maintenance. I’m okay with that as garden design was my original business dream. Several of my garden designs can be viewed on my YouTube channel in a time-lapsed format. Modern technology is wonderful!

Cottage Renovations

Cottage renovations have been in our conversations for several years now but unfortunately we have not accomplished much. My father-in-law’s declining health and subsequent passing created the first delay, then Covid and the resulting pandemic extended the delay. Hopefully this season we can get our renovation plans back on track instead of spinning our wheels.

Health Issues

My health issues from the last decade have been resolved, mainly by eliminating wheat from my diet. Of course, new ones have developed this decade, as I am not getting any younger. I am finding though that regular exercise and clean eating keep me relatively healthy.

Travel Plans

Something else that moved to the back burner thanks to the pandemic was our travel plans. We did squeak in a trip to Mexico last November between covid travel restrictions. My brother’s destination wedding was a great excuse to find a way to plan the (much needed) getaway. Hopefully, more travel is in our future.

We are counting on the next decade (at least) to be full of adventure and compromise.

photo credit

Rabbit Poop is Great for your Garden!

rabbit poop

I have noticed one thing in common in the gardens I have done spring cleanups in: lots of rabbit poop! There seems to have been an explosion in the rabbit population in my Kanata suburb of Ottawa. I see quite a few rabbits on my evening walks through our neighborhood so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the increased amount of their poop in the gardens.

The good news is that rabbit poop is great for your garden.

Hot vs Cold Manure

Cow, steer, sheep, or chicken manure is considered “hot” meaning it requires an aging or composting process before use. Otherwise, it will burn your plants. For that reason, be sure when you use this type that the label says “composted.” Rabbit poop, however, is “cold” manure requiring no such process before use. That’s because it is fermented and broken down in the rabbits’ gut before leaving its body.

The other advantage of rabbit manure is that it only has a mild smell to it.  The smell actually brings back childhood memories of the pet rabbits my father used to bring home each spring at Easter time.

How to Use Rabbit Poop

Simply dig the round pellets into the soil between the plants, providing a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your garden. You can also add a pile of poop to your composter as a nitrogen layer. Another option is to make compost tea by adding a pile of poop to a bucket of water. Stir it well and frequently for a few days, and then pour the “tea” onto your garden.

Any way you use it, rabbit poop is a free and convenient fertilizer for your garden!

rabbit poop
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

March Break Fun

This past week I spent many days enjoying the company of my grandchildren in some march break fun. As many pandemic restrictions have been lifted here, it was great to get out and enjoy the adventures offered in the Ottawa area. A few years back I complained that my own kids were past the march break years. Fast forward six years to a few school-aged grandchildren to share in the fun.

Sugar Bush

One of our adventures included a short drive to Fulton’s Maple Sugar Bush. Two years ago I planned to take some of my grandkids there, but Covid shut down that idea. Fast forward to 2022 where the sugar bush is now covid compliant as most activities are outdoors. The pancake house, previously a favourite for breakfasts and lunches, was permanently closed, assumed to be a covid casualty.

For those of you not familiar with this attraction, let my pictures show you the details. Activities included a horse-drawn wagon ride around the property and plenty of play structures to keep the kids intrigued.

Taffy on snow was a highlight for my granddaughter and me too! My grandson not so much. He wasn’t tempted by the gooey, sticky, sweet treat, created as we looked on.

march break fun

Educational posters around the site explained the process of making maple syrup well. From the tree to the buckets to the sugar camp, and finally to the products sold. We learned too that it takes 40 buckets of sap from the trees to make one bucket of syrup!

March Break Fun at the Experimental Farm

Our next adventure took place at the Agriculture and Food Museum within the experimental farm. Spring is the best time to visit here as the baby animals are on display. From cows, donkeys, and horses to goats, chickens, alpacas, pigs, ducks, and sheep.

Here too covid precautions were in place, with many indoor exhibits closed or modified to avoid possible contamination.

Outdoor Fun with Snow and Water

My eldest grandson loves to play in snow, ice, water, and mud. Most five-year-old boys do; I remember that well as his father enjoyed the same things as a kid. As well as walks through our neighbourhood trails, March break fun this week included a lesson on how to build a dam to block water when warm weather began the spring thaw.

After the outdoor fun, he dried off inside with a new dinosaur puzzle:

march break fun

Garden Renovation at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice

gardening business

Recently Gardens4u expanded the front garden at the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice (RSH) in Kanata. I have been volunteering my (gardening) services at RSH for several years now, shortly after it moved to my neighbourhood.

Only the Good Die Young

This project has been a vision in my brain for a while; I just had to wait until all parties were onboard and permission was granted. As a non-profit organization there are always lots of hoops to jump through.

A few existing shrubs were left in place, in particular the burning bush which is gorgeous this time of year. Two large spreading junipers were trimmed and shaped, but will remain in the garden, mainly because they would be much too difficult (for me) to remove. They also provide winter interest as they are evergreen in our climate.

The first step was to mark out the shape of the new garden using a garden hose and black spray paint. My granddaughter was on hand as the inspector for that job…

Next, to save time as well as my back, I enlisted the help of Tim Driscoll of TD Small Loads who scraped the sod and carted it away.

When that chore was complete, we spread the composted manure donated and delivered by Ritchies Feed & Seed on Carp Road in Stittsville.

After the soil amendment came the plants, many of which were donated by other members of the RSH garden team as well as some of my neighbours. The large shrubs were also selected from and donated by Ritchies. I placed the shrubs and perennials strategically in the garden, still in their pots, according to their bloom time and colour, foliage shape as well as their mature size. A few tweaks here and there are always the norm before holes are dug and actual planting takes place.

The final step is to fill any blank spots in with contributions from my own gardens. Then a layer of cedar mulch (also donated and delivered from Ritchies) finishes the garden off…

I can’t wait until this garden matures, it should look beautiful!!

Immune Systems: Keeping Them Healthy

Keeping Your Immune System Healthy

It is more important than ever to keep our immune systems as healthy as possible as we head into colder weather. Especially with a second wave of the Covid-19 virus leasing its germs upon us in this pandemic.

My gardening business keeps me (very) physically active during the summer months. I also soak up lots of vitamin D. Both are important requirements for keeping our immune systems functioning at their best.

However, during the (too) long winter months here in Canada I spend my days freelance writing This does absolutely nothing for my physical activity or vitamin D levels. Instead of working in the sunshine and fresh air, digging, lugging plants and soil, I am indoors, sitting in a comfortable chair with my laptop.

Netflix movies are also more tempting on cold winter evenings, accompanied by a glass of wine and snacks of course.

When I was sick last February, we were just coming off a miserably cold and icy winter. My immune system was probably at a low from lack of physical activity and vitamin D. My consumption of junk food was enjoying a winter high too.

Motivating ourselves during our winter months to get outside is tough, but I plan to keep reminding myself to do so this coming winter. Perhaps like minded neighbours can be convinced to go for morning walks.

I won’t pretend I will completely avoid the high carb comfort foods, but I can limit them. Continuing my healthy practice of a hydrating and nutrient-packed green smoothie every morning into my gardening off-season should help too.

Photography Lessons, It’s Never Too Early to Learn

photography lessons

As most of you know, I thoroughly enjoy the time I get to spend with my grandchildren, especially the one on one time. Each grandchild has their own unique personality and interests which are becoming quite evident in the oldest three. The two youngest are still babies; their turn will come.

Recently my two and a half year old granddaughter has shown an interest in photography. Since she has been the subject of the oh so many pictures her parents and grandparents have taken on our cell phones since her birth, it is no small wonder she wants to try it herself. She is very independent, and getting more so every day.

I thought I would let her “show me how” to take a picture on my cell phone, and I was amazed at how proficient she is at it. Sometimes. Eventually. When she remembers to keep her fingers off the lens. It is amusing and fascinating (and so cute) to hear her talk herself through the steps.

  • Find the red “camera” button
  • Hold up the phone
  • Look for Grandma (I was her subject)
  • Move my (her) fingers
  • Push the white button

These were her first few attempts at getting the fingers out of the way…

Practice makes perfect; she did get better as she kept trying…

She is definitely a quick learner…as well as very determined and perseverant, all wonderful personality traits.

October blooms in Gardens4me

October blooms

Who can believe that October is here already? Not me. Not Gardens4me either as they are still producing lots of blooms.

New this month is the silver lace vine I have adorning my garden shelves/work bench. What a mess this shelving unit is, another job for my fall to do list.

Another fall blooming perennial is the aster, a little soggy in this picture, cheerful none the less…

October blooms
aster

Also putting in a (late) appearance is my beautiful white and red hibiscus…

Roses are still blooming beautifully…

…as is tickseed. Did you know if you cut tickseed back immediately after it first blooms in the summer it will rebloom? This picture is my proof..

October blooms
tickseed

Also reblooming for the third (!!!) time this season is my weigela. It requires no maintenance to make it rebloom, just warm weather…

Annuals in containers are still eye catching, including a gorgeous pal blush pink hibiscus, even though we have had a few frosty nights.

One annual I was disappointed in this summer was the cardinal flower vine on my bamboo teepees. Although the foliage is unique, the blooms (other than a sporadic one mentioned earlier) have only just shown up in earnest….

The frosty nights have caused the leaves to start their colour transformation. From green to red with various shades in between. The vine on my back deck (or green room) is no exception…

We can’t complain about the advancing calendar too much though as our summer here in Eastern Ontario has been awesome. A tad too hot and dry for our lawns, but awesome for we humans. With one daughter-in-law on maternity leave, I was able to spend more time than usual at the lake with her and two of my grandchildren. With pandemic restrictions in place we were not allowed to do much else, so cottage life was the perfect answer.

The rain this week has been great for the fall lawn repair my yard so badly needs. The temperature has been warm too, so my Gardens4me blooms should last a while longer.