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

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

How to Build a Website or Blog

how to build a website or blog

The best way for an inexperienced person to build a website or blog is to find (hire) someone else’s website that is specifically designed to build websites.  Kind of like a website for dummies approach. These sites offer simple, straightforward advice and instructions that even the most computer illiterate people can follow. 

Keep in mind that Blogs are websites, so any reference here to a website will apply to building a blog too.

Find a Website Builder

Website builders or advisors can be found easily online and are great because they do most of the work. All that is required from you is the unique and specific information or items you wish to promote. And money, as these website building services are rarely free. Some sites do offer free advice and basic blog templates, often a great way to get your feet wet so to speak.

There are many such website builders designed and committed to building websites for others. Do your research to find one that suits your needs. Most have experienced employees that can offer valuable online support to advise and guide even the most inexperienced and novice person through the steps of building a website, regardless of what the website is to be used for.

Other things covered in the price of a website builder are spam filters, analytic tools, tutorials, templates, and troubleshooting. The support staff will also provide ongoing advice to help to keep the website running smoothly. These features make the process even simpler for you. Keep in mind that these extra services are the ones not usually included in the “free” offers.  

An online store is also usually available permitting your clients to purchase products you sell.  A free shopping cart for clients and use of PayPal is usually also available to enhance the shopping experience on the website.

Prices may vary depending on ongoing discounts and promotions offered as well as the length of the contract period selected.  When a contract is signed, rates are usually charged on a monthly basis. The good news here is that these charges can be claimed as expenses on your income tax if you claim your business income.

I chose WordPress (WP) for this blog, starting with a free site and domain, then purchasing a domain to lose the wordpress.com tag to my URL.

Finding a Domain

Finding and paying for an available domain name is a crucial thing to think about in the process of building a website. Your domain name will be the URL or address for your new website. When you register a domain name, no one else can use it for their website.  A unique, catchy URL is important since it will draw people to your website and help them remember the name to visit again or recommend it to others.

Some companies (the one you hired to build your website) provide a free domain name, if not they will show you how to find one that is available for use.  As mentioned under website builders, WP does provide a domain to use.

Advertising on Your Website

If advertising is desired on your new website, the website company you have hired will most likely provide some free credit through the services of Google, Yahoo, and Facebook.  This is beneficial if the website is to be used to make money, so if that is something you require, be sure the website company you choose offers that service.

Conclusions

The biggest tip I can offer is to research your options on all the offers available online. Some will boast they are free, but often just the basic start-up process is actually free. Most offer “packages” based on the services provided, starting at free and increasing in price. Keep in mind the adage “you get what you pay for.” Make a list of features you need on your website or blog and find someone to help you.

Regardless of whether you choose the free options or pay for help, your new website should be up and running in no time providing worldwide exposure.  Remember too that money paid to run your website is tax-deductible under business expenses.

It is so easy, even I managed to build a website for Gardens4u, my landscaping business, and this blog. When I started out (2012) I considered myself a website beginner. I have learned so much over the years that I have since promoted myself to someone with moderate knowledge of websites.

I use Yola for my business website and WordPress for my blog, both of which are listed in the top website builders for 2021.

photo credit

Last Garden Project of the Season for Gardens4u

gardening business

photo credit

I finished my last garden project of my Gardens4u season recently. The beautiful weather we have experienced lately has certainly helped in that I was able to extend the season a bit.

This latest garden project was for a neighbour. I had already designed a garden in her front yard a few years ago…

…but the condition of her lawn after the drought conditions of this past summer convinced her to extend the garden right to the road.

So, she dug up what little lawn was left, giving me a blank slate….my favourite design opportunity! I amended the existing soil with composted manure, then added stepping stones to divide the yard visually….and to provide access for maintenance as well as amusement for her grandchildren…

 Instead of one large garden, I treated the sections as individual gardens with taller plants in the center and lower ones around the perimeters. I think this will create added visual appeal. (this may be difficult to see now, but will be obvious when the plants mature) Several existing plants were moved to achieve this effect; those that were previously at the edges of the garden were moved to the fronts of each new bed, with taller ones planted behind them. A row of drought-tolerant, succulent groundcover now edges the curb where the lawn refused to thrive.

 After the plants settled into their new homes, mulch was added to finish off the project and protect the new plants over the winter. 

The neighbouring yard/garden visible in my pictures is the mature version of one of my very first Gardens4u projects, way back in 2012.

The challenge now is waiting until spring to see this latest design come alive!

Late October Blooms in Gardens4me

Late October Blooms

Due to the beautiful weather we have experienced so far this fall, (yesterday we hit 25 degrees C or 77 F) I still have blooms in late October in Gardens4me. Not many, but a few.

Still Blooming

Roses, in particular, are still pretty cheerful, one of the reasons I love and plant roses of all types in my gardens; many of the new varieties bloom from June until the ground freezes. One of my hardy hibiscus is still producing blossoms too, as are the daisies, sage, silver lace vine, and perennial geraniums.

Our Canadian winters are typically long (cold and icy) enough without an early freeze up, so hopefully, that won’t happen too soon. I do still have a few gardens to put to bed for the season.

Gorgeous Seed Heads

Even though the foliage on most perennials has yellowed (time to tidy it up), I love the look of the seed heads many produce. Especially the ornamental grasses; the cool season varieties are (still) gorgeous!

Fall Maintenance

Some grasses I leave as is over the winter, to let the seed heads blow in the wind. Others, particularly the ones I cannot see from my windows, I chop back to 6 inches from the ground. This gives me one less chore to get to in the spring.

Most of the annuals I have around Gardens4me have seen better days and need to be put out of their misery, but the colours in this coleus are still brilliantly beautiful. The sedge grass, heuchera and lamium around the coleus are all perennials whose foliage continues to look nice until covered in snow. I will leave the coleus there for a bit longer…

Late October Blooms
coleus top, sedge bottom left, heuchera bottom center, lamium bottom right

Looking Ahead

With the temperature much more fall-like today and in the forecast this coming week and next month, I am pretty sure this will be my last post about my Gardens4me. One of the best things about the restrictions surrounding the coronavirus is the increased amount of time I spent in my own gardens this 2020 season. I hope you enjoyed my pictures as much as I loved taking them. What did we ever do before cell phones and their ever-accessible cameras? Even my grandkids are getting proficient at using mine.

Early Morning Adventures

Early Morning Adventures

One thing I do not miss since I retired from my career as a medical laboratory technologist is the early morning wake-ups. Unless of course an early morning is the prelude to a vacation, something we are all just dreaming about these days. Although I have discovered since retiring that I am not a morning person, especially when it is cold and still dark outside, I have been up (literally) for some morning adventures lately.

As mentioned previously, I have been helping my seven year old granddaughter with her online school lessons. On the mornings her mother goes to work (outside the home) said granddaughter is dropped off around 6:20am. I roll out of bed around 6:05, although hubby is up at 5:50, so my last 15 minutes are quite unsatisfactory. Since the e-learning does not start until 9am, we have some time for some non-school related activities beforehand. After my morning coffee that is.

This morning, even before the sun was fully awake, we baked muffins and played the piano. Home Economics and Music classes: check. We are hoping to impress the family with a “concert” at Christmastime, but still need lots of practice.

When the sun was high enough in the morning sky to warm things up a bit, we ventured out for a skip (think “we’re off to see the wizard” skip/dance) around the block. Gym class: check!

On these walks I am always impressed with and inspired by the beauty Mother Nature has to offer. Sometimes I have to wait until my heart rate slows enough to snap some pictures. This morning it was dew drops and fog remnants that caught my fancy:

Tomorrow I will get back to my Gardens4u business as fall cleanups and lawn care are beckoning. As I reminded you last month, this time of year is the most effective time to improve the quality of your lawns. The heavy dew and fog like this morning’s are perfect for reseeding or fertilizing!

Gardens4me and Gardens4u

I am so excited!  Ontario’s premier Doug Ford has announced landscapers can start back to work starting today, May 4th.  That means Gardens4u is officially opened for the season.  While I was waiting for this to happen (the re-opening) I worked (with the help of my hubby) exclusively on my own gardens.  They are probably in the best shape they have ever been this early in the season, except maybe for the spring my son got married. When my gardens and pond were all cleaned up, ready for summer, I got extra creative and painted a Gardens4me sign on the gateway to my gardens.

Gardens4me

Check out pictures of the many perennials, trees, and shrubs in my gardens on the Gardens4u website under My Garden Pictures by Bloom Time.

It has been a long time coming, but I am grateful we landscapers are included in the first step of reopening the economy that is getting decimated by COVID-19. That means Gardens4me will have to step aside so I can now concentrate on Gardens4u.

At least one month later than usual, hopefully, I can breeze through spring maintenance and cleanup, moving on to planting and designing gardens and containers.

I have been keeping up with my planks in preparation for this day, now if Mother Nature would only cooperate, all would be good. At least in my relatively covid-free bubble.

A Real Job, What is Yours?

What does a real job mean to you?  I read this powerful message on Facebook the other day…

The other day, someone very dear to me said, “Charlotte, promise me this. Promise me you won’t go back to waiting tables, frothing coffees or tending bars. When you graduate uni, you’ll get a real job, won’t you?”
Hmmm. ‘Real’. What does ‘real’ look like? Does it wear a suit? Boast a briefcase? Does it drive a ute? Fly a plane? Is its hands dirty, or clean? Does it save lives, or suck the life right out? Does it do your dry cleaning? Keep our streets clean? Your coffee cravings at bay?
So many people chase ‘real’, the ‘real’ that seems to be etched into our skin by society’s blade, and find that they don’t belong to their own life.
The way we have been conditioned is a travesty. The pressure I am under, as a 25-year-old, to make decisions that will supposedly ‘make or break me’ is crushing. The truth is, there are no rules here. Success is highly subjective. It’s traumatising to measure your success against someone else’s, yet we do it to ourselves every day.
The person who said the above said it out of love, and I love them for that. I get it. They want to see me succeed, but under whose guidelines? They want me to move up in the world, but who sets the bar?
Whether you’re a barista or a barrister, university graduate or world traveller, business owner or garbage collector. It doesn’t matter! What matters is that you make the rules. It’s your life.
Take it back!

A Real Job can be Whatever you Want it to be

Charlotte May McLeod (@lottiemaymcleod) posted these words of wisdom in Australia in frustration for the situation she is in.  Well said Charlotte, good for you for recognizing that a real job can be anything we want it to be.  Students and parents alike today (over) focus on the pursuit of the perfect education in preparation for the equally perfect job upon graduation.  The problem is that a job deemed perfect for one person is often not even close to perfect for another.

Education is Important

Education is important, that will never change, but keep in mind that there are all kinds of education available to prepare you for your very own real job.  Remember that every job you take on is an education of sorts, even those that are not considered real jobs.  Many of these so-called, not real jobs open doors for exciting and lucrative opportunities.  By lucrative, I mean both financially and emotionally rewarding. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

As Charlotte so eloquently stated, a real job can be anything you like these days, don’t settle for something that will please or impress anyone except yourself.

Final garden chores

Well, our beautiful fall weather has come to an end here in Ottawa, so I am closing out my GARDENS4U season with some final garden chores:

  • cut back any perennials that get mushy or moldy (hostas, peonies, tall phlox)  Leave the rest for the birds, rabbits, squirrels etc.
  • mound clean soil (just plain, new soil,  no fertilizer) around the crowns of roses and any other less hardy plants.
  • mulch leaves and spread them around the plants in my gardens.  I will probably have to borrow some leaves from my neighbours or clients to do this as the trees in my yard are predominantly evergreens.
  • take any frost tender potted plants indoors (there are a few I overwinter)
  • put containers that are not cold hardy into the garage (those without drainage holes are especially susceptible to cracking) Store them on a shelf or other spot off the floor.
  • remove any cold sensitive decorations from the garden and store them (not on the floor) in the garage
  • pick any blooms still thriving; the frosty nights will kill them fast

That will probably end my garden posts for a while, I will have to look elsewhere for inspiration…