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

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Update on Wildflower Garden

update on wildflower garden

To start off this season I want to provide an update on a wildflower garden I started at the very end of last garden season. It was an experiment I convinced management at our local hospice to permit me to try.

I called it the lasagna method.

Surviving the Winter

Today I visited the site to see how it looked now that winter is (hopefully) behind us. The leaves are long gone as expected in such a windy area. Watering them down did not do the trick as hoped. Wildflower gardens in my future plans will be sure to include an additional layer of soil on top of the leaf layer. I thought of that for this one but the budget did not permit it as it is a huge area.

The good news is that the soil is all still in place with no cardboard peaking through.

update on wildflower garden
update on wildflower garden

There are no new green sprouts yet but it’s still a bit early to expect those. Especially considering we had a few snowfalls as recent as three days ago! There are a few dandelions, of course, something you have to expect from bulk orders of soil.

Winter Sowing Experiment

I do however have sprouts in the other half of this garden experiment. Remember my post on Winter Sowing of seeds? I was ambitious and started seeds in 22 clear plastic containers. They lived out in the elements on my back deck for the winter. We had lots of snow and extended stretches of cold temperatures, so I was leary on how successful this experiment would be.

update on wildflower garden

Permanent Markers not so Permanent

The biggest problem with the experience was that the permanent marker I used to label the containers with was not so permanent. Fortunately, I recorded the numbers in several spots on each container. With the help of my strongest reading glasses, I was (barely) able to decipher the numbers. Phew!

Sprouts!

I did discover a few sprouts in some of the containers, also with the help of my reading glasses. Amazing! I cannot wait until the sprouts are big enough to transplant into their new home. Sorry, these pics are so blurry, the condensation within each container prevented clearer shots. The white squiggly things are sprouts, the last two even have green leaves reaching for the sunlight at the top.

Starting Seeds Indoors

I also started seeds indoors. This I have done before, although I have never had much luck. To increase my chances of success, I purchased two warming mats to keep the seeds and seedlings warmer. Especially as I have them growing in my basement in front of a sunny window…

Designing the Wildflower Garden

In the meantime, I plan to create a design for the placement of the new plants within the sections of the wildflower garden created by the stepping stones. Each type of plant has been assigned a code (A2 or C4 etc) based on the plant’s height at maturity as well as flower colour and bloom time. This way the RSH garden team can simply follow a detailed diagram.

In the center of each section, I will plant tall yellow sunflowers, boneset, purple aster, cleome, and Joe Pye Weed. The next layer will consist of plants a bit shorter in stature. Think purple and grey coneflowers, red sunflowers, various colours of poppies, cosmos, milkweed, goldenrod, steeplebush, and bugbane. A bit shorter yet, black-eyed susans, penstemon, rudbeckia, and verbena will be planted. The final layer will consist of edging (short) plants such as lavender, heuchera, salvia, stonecrop, lamium, and more.

Can you picture it? I can!

I will post another update on this wildflower garden when planting is complete.

Stay tuned!

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Alternative Medicine

alternative medicine

Recently a friend asked my advice to help with a painful bout of constipation she was suffering from. On several new medications for multiple health issues, I believed these medications to be the culprit of her discomfort. She knows that I am a strong proponent of alternative medicine, so hoped I could suggest a home remedy that did not involve more medication.

She was right; home remedies are my thing. Here are just a few of my favourites.

Fresh Lemon Juice and Water

A glass of water with fresh lemon juice squeezed into it works wonders for constipation. I drink a glassful most mornings to keep bowel movements regular in frequency and consistency. In my friend’s case, a few glasses of lemon and water fixed her problem within a few hours. I suggested she drinks one glass of this concoction every day too.

Another benefit of lemon is the fact that the alkalinity it promotes within your body is useful to prevent and alleviate many other health issues. In fact, some people swear by this lemon and water trick for losing weight too.

alternative medicine
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Exercise and Fresh Air

Exercise is believed to be beneficial and therapeutic for many health issues including depression, weight management, and more. Exercising outdoors in fresh air is even better, especially if the sun is shining. The vitamin D your skin absorbs from the sunshine is beneficial for boosting immune systems too. The health of our immune systems has proven to be so important in our battle with Covid-19 throughout the pandemic.

Essential Oils

I love essential oils for so many reasons. In short, the multitude of scents available in these oils can be implemented for skincare, air fresheners, mood enhancers, perfume, hair conditioners, and more. The best part is that these scents are created from nature instead of from artificial chemicals. That’s why I include essential oils in my list of alternative medicine. I am such a fan of essential oils from Vitality Extracts that I have become an “influencer” with them. If you order from there, be sure to use my link.

Purchase the oils individually or in blends, in roller applicators, or bottles with droppers.

Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies are common in alternative medicine. I just purchased the book entitled The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies by herbalist, biologist, and MS defier Nicole Apelian, PhD. I am gradually working my way through the three hundred and some pages. In addition, this book is rated 5-star, so I am sure to learn lots of new remedies. Most importantly, many of these herbs are so common that you probably have them around your house. I know I do.

Modern Medicine vs Alternative Medicine

Not that I am against modern medicine. Science has come a long way in medical research, antibiotics, and vaccines, all of which are important and necessary advancements. I just feel that too often medication is over-prescribed. Consequently, popping pills is a band-aid fix, masking the problem instead of addressing or fixing it. For example, pain killers should be only be used as a temporary fix until the cause of the pain can be alleviated.

Many times the side effects of medication are as painful or dangerous as the condition they are treating. The problem intensifies when multiple medications are taken, making matters worse. Have you ever read the possible side effects of prescribed medications? The lists are extensive, the possible reactions scary.

Conclusions

Whenever possible I rely on alternative medicine to improve my health and treat symptoms. Part of that decision is because many chemical medications affect me adversely. In summary, I like the fact that alternative medicine relies on natural remedies as opposed to chemical cocktails.

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Sexual Abuse, the Reporting Dilemma

sexual abuse

Reconnecting with an old friend recently, she shared with me the fact that she believes she was a victim of sexual abuse. This happened over the span of several years, long ago when she was a pre-teen. The memories are vague, but still haunting. She believes the extent of the abuse involved inappropriate touching as well as exhibitionism but is not sure whether anything more happened.

Her dilemma was and still is, the fact that she never reported or addressed the abuse. In retrospect, she regrets not doing either. Her life has been adversely affected for years, especially her romantic relationships.

Why did she not report it at the time or over the years? There were many reasons. At least in her mind.

She Said, He Said

At the time, she didn’t think anyone would believe her, especially her parents. The abuser is a family member, an older sibling who could do no wrong in their parents’ eyes.

She Loves her Brother, Didn’t Want to get him in Trouble

As they both grew up, the chances to report the abuse just seemed to slip away. There was never a good time. When she was old enough to recognize the abuse for what it was and how it was affecting her life, she didn’t know how to proceed. First off, she didn’t want to upset her aging parents with the shocking allegations. Then she didn’t want to ruin the abuser’s marriage, then his children’s lives. The list goes on and on.

She Felt Guilty

As a preteen at the time of the sexual abuse, she really didn’t know any better. Although his actions made her uncomfortable, was this normal behaviour? If it was wrong, why did she permit it to happen over and over again without speaking up? Who could or should she tell? These were the days well before Google and the internet.

She Thought She Could Live With It

She figured if she didn’t talk about the abuse, eventually, she would forget about it. Unfortunately for her, the suppressed feelings never quite went away, remaining bottled up for years. She never confided in anyone. All of her memories from those years remain quite vague, a fact that makes her wonder what really happened. Is her lack of memory a defense mechanism where her brain has blocked out the details?

Fast Forward to Today

These days, sexual abuse cases are prevalent in the courts. The Me Too movement has arrived. Many are legitimate, albeit ancient cases. Others are not so believable, unprovable, sometimes merely vengeful cases. The latter are reported (created) for attention or defamation. It is great that legitimate victims have come forward and their abusers punished. However, we are living in a messed up world when the person accused of abuse turns out to be the victim.

We now know though that sexual abuse does not necessarily include intercourse. It is more about the power the abuser has over the victim. Is this surge in reported sexual abuse cases because women are braver today? Or because society has realized and accepted that abuse of any kind is unacceptable?

So, what should my friend do? Continue to keep quiet? Confront her abuser? Report the abuse even though fifty years have gone by? What would that accomplish after so many years, other than rip her very extended family apart? What is the statute of limitations on sexual abuse? Is there one? She had lots of questions that I could not answer.

I could only listen as she vented, realizing I don’t know how I would deal with such a traumatic dilemma. I suggested therapy with an expert on such cases to help her weigh her options.

sexual abuse
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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
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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
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Garden Creations by Gardens4u

garden creations

If you have not yet visited the before and after pictures posted to my business website, check out the videos posted here.  These are a few of my largest garden creations, from start to finish, in video format. Most of these gardens are approaching a decade of evolution. Watching the videos is like watching the gardens grow.

Neighbourhood Garden Creation

One of my very first garden creations is the star of this first video. It was a huge project, converting a grub-infested front lawn into a gorgeous grass-free yard. To conserve my time and back muscles, an independent contractor worked on the labor-intensive parts. Removing sod, adding soil and river rock are not in my wheelhouse. It took most of my first summer in business to get this project completed. The fact that this summer was one of our hottest on record did not help.

The best part is the fact that this masterpiece is located across the street from my home. I have literally watched it grow over the past nine years.

Moving Into This Century

Another big garden creation, also early on in my business, involved reshaping an existing garden. Removing foundation plantings from the 80s was the first step. Next up was removing boughs (limbing up) from an evergreen that blocked the view of the house from the street. This is another favourite amongst my projects, as I have been able to watch it evolve over the years. After the garden’s original design settled in, the clients asked to widen it. This sounds simple enough, but took a bit of work and planning. Plants chosen for the original edges had to be moved forward to create the new edging feature. Then new plants were selected for placement between the new edge and the largest shrubs and perennials in the center of the garden.

Adding Variety and Removing Weeds in Existing Garden

A third of my favourite garden creations involved modifying an existing garden. Although this garden had a wonderful stone retaining wall as an edging, it had lots of issues. To start with, there was proportionately a very small variety of plants. The garden was large, so the opportunity for variety was obvious and easy to achieve. Especially once all the weeds were removed, leaving plenty of space for new tenants. Tall shrubs and small trees were added to the back along the fence. Several layers of perennials were then planted in front of them. Bulbs were added too, for spring colour. This is another garden that has evolved over the years into a beautiful backyard feature.

Volunteer Gardening

In addition to working in clients’ gardens, I have been volunteering on the garden team of our local hospice here in Kanata. This next video is one of the largest garden creations (to date) on this property. In 2017, this courtyard garden and its surrounding stonework, water feature, and pathways were designed. The following spring I got involved when most of the original plantings had not survived the first winter. I do love a challenge! Four seasons later it has been transformed:

More Videos

More garden videos have been uploaded to my YouTube channel. Check them out and share your opinions.

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Imported Russian Oil Banned: Et Tu Trudeau?

imported Russian oil

U.S. President Joe Biden just announced a ban on imported Russian oil into his country. Is it the right thing to do? This latest sanction is to show support for Ukraine and disdain for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Will Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau follow suit?

Global Oil Reserves

Like it or not, crude oil is (currently) the main source of energy around the world. Until that changes (if it ever changes) oil reserves are a huge commodity. Which countries have the most oil reserves? This list from World Population Review shows the current (2022 data) facts…

Imported Russian Oil

These facts are deceiving, however. For example, Venezuela’s oil is predominantly offshore so fairly difficult to access. Saudi Arabia’s oil, on the other hand, is located inland and close to the land surface. Crude oil reserves are based not only on quantity but how readily accessible the reserves are with current technology. Regardless, you can see the general position of countries within this list of proven oil reserves. Canada is near the top, the USA is below number ten.

Oil Imports and Exports

So, from this I’m gathering Biden’s sanction banning imported Russian oil won’t have much of an impact on Russia. According to EIA the USA imports most of its oil from Canada:

Canada remained the largest exporter of total petroleum to the United States in December; exporting 4.8 million b/d. The second largest exporter of total petroleum was Mexico with 645,000 b/d.

EIA, December 2021

Canada also imports very little oil from Russia, so an imported oil sanction by Trudeau would be more symbolic (like Biden’s) than catastrophic for Putin and Russia. It might poke the bear though.

Canada sits at the top of the list of crude oil importers (predominantly from Saudi Arabia), according to the EIA:

Imported Russian Oil
EIA data, December 2021

While one of Canada’s biggest exports is, you guessed it, crude oil. This data is from Investopedia:

Are you confused yet? Canada is at the top of the list for its impressive oil reserves, something a cold-weather country should aim to be. We also sit at the top of the exporting of oil list, which economically is great. Isn’t it? But wait, we are also at the top of the imported oil list. How is that economical? Granted, I’m no economist, but I did excel in accounting 101. I am confused, not to mention annoyed and frustrated.

Using Canadian Oil Instead of Imported Oil?

This topic has come up before with Trudeau’s resistance to approving pipelines between the oil reserves in the west for use in the eastern provinces. (Most) Canadians would prefer to use the oil we have, rather than depend on foreign countries for their supply. The Russian invasion of Ukraine just emphasizes this opinion.

The National Post has a great but sad explanation:

So proud is the Trudeau government of its action on environmental stewardship and climate change that it essentially does the Saudis’ dirty work for them. By tightening the screws on domestic Canadian production while seeing an increase in Saudi-originating imports we are helping to accelerate the rate of our own energy-sector’s decline.

National Post

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Garden Consultations and Design by Gardens4u

gardening business

To cut back on the demands of my gardening business, I aim to concentrate on garden consultations and design services. I have enough garden maintenance to tend to within my own gardens at my home and cottage.

My knowledge and experience have grown (pun intended) considerably since the inception of Gardens4u in 2012. As an extrovert, I love meeting other garden enthusiasts to share knowledge in the form of advice and suggestions.

Although gardening is not an exact science, often based on trial and error, successful landscaping demands patience and perseverance. I believe I can help you avoid many of the costly pitfalls and errors, cutting both your time and expenses.

The fee for my services is twenty-five dollars per hour.

Location Limitations

My services for physical garden consultations are limited to the west end of Ottawa. This includes most neighbourhoods in the Kanata, Stittsville, and Nepean regions.

However, if you live elsewhere, I would be happy to provide you with a virtual consultation. This service is described below under the virtual design heading.

Initial Garden Consultations

As the British know (their “garden” is our “yard”) gardens and yards should complement each other. My initial consultation with you includes a “walkabout” of your property while discussing your short and long-term goals. In short, my goal is to help you achieve your goals, within your budget and both of our time limits.

I offer advice and suggestions based on extensive knowledge of what works and what will not work in our climate. I will also take pictures of your yard for a “before” view of your project.

After the Consultation

Virtual Design

I can provide visual proposals in the form of pictures. A computerized landscape program, uses JPEGs of the “before” pictures of a garden/yard to offer various suggestions virtually.

As mentioned above, modern technology permits me to offer this service for virtual garden design anywhere around the world! Although my knowledge base reflects plants hardy to my zone 4 to 5 climate, I would be happy to research what would work in your location, for your specific growing conditions.

Chronological To-Do List

If a decision is made to proceed with your project, I will provide you with a to-do list, in keeping with your allotted budget and time commitments. That way we can proceed at a pace comfortable to you.

Plant and Product Lists and Shopping

My services also include plant lists to provide you with guidance when shopping for plants for your project. I know which perennials, shrubs and trees are hardy to our gardening climate zones. Also important to know is which plants grow well in sun or shade conditions.

I will also share my recommendations on soil, mulch, and lawn products. These recommendations are based on my experiences (good and bad) with the many options available.

In some circumstances, I may be available to meet with you at a garden center to peruse options with you. As a landscape contractor, I get discounts at many of the local garden centers. In many cases, I can pass these savings onto you.

Planting Your Gardens

As my time permits, I will plant your gardens or help you plant your gardens. This will be based on your preference and budget, as well as your time and physical constraints.

Landscaping Limitations

I do not provide hardscaping services such as sidewalks, raised garden beds, patios, tree or large shrub removal etc. I do, however, have contact information for several reputable and well-referenced contractors for these types of projects.

Event Planning

I am also available to create unique plantings for summer events, within garden beds, portable containers, or both.

Conclusions on Garden Consultations

If my expertise in garden consultations, design services, or event planning appeal to you, please contact me for that initial consultation.

Spring is coming to my corner of the planet!

garden consultations and design services by Gardens4u
gardens4u logo
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